It has been a difficult time for everyone in Israel and the Palestinian territories. First the June 30 discovery of the bodies of three Israeli teenagers and their emotional funerals the next day. Then the calls for revenge and the rampage of hundreds of extremist Jewish youths in downtown Jerusalem, and attacks on several Palestinians. Then, on July 2, the kidnapping and brutal murder of a Palestinian teenager, followed by days of violent clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police in Jerusalem and elsewhere.
More than 40,000 Israelis, most of them young, signed a Facebook page calling for revenge attacks on Palestinians for the killing of the three Israelis.
But there are also Israeli youth who are looking for another way. On July 7, more than 2,000 of them converged on a square in downtown Jerusalem with signs calling for peace and reconciliation. Einat Gomel held a handmade sign with a quote from Mahatma Gandhi that said, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”
“I live in Jerusalem and I don’t want to see hatred in my city,” Gomel said. “Revenge and incitement will never end. We need to live together,” she said referring to Israelis and Palestinians.
The rally was organized by Tag Meir, a coalition of pro-peace groups that is a response to tag mechir (price tag), or anti-Arab attacks. In the last week there have been several new price-tag attacks, including graffiti calling for “death to the Arabs.”
In contrast, young people at the Tag Meir rally wore stickers that said “enough” in Hebrew and Arabic. Many said they came to the demonstration after watching news coverage of the extremist Jewish youths in downtown Jerusalem.
“I came because of the disgusting behavior of the hooligans,” said Rabbi Levi Weiman-Kelman of the Reform Kol Haneshama. “I also expected more from our government. I want to see them keep a cool head and protect the weakest parts of our society. There is a deep sense of desperation on both sides that the bad guys are taking over.”
The killings of the Israeli and Palestinian teenagers come at a sensitive time. It is summer vacation, meaning youth have time on their hands. It is also the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, meaning Palestinians are fasting during the hot days and many workplaces close early. Many Palestinians also turn to religion during these days, attending the mosque more than usual.
Some of the youth at the Tag Meir demonstration wore the skullcap of observant Jews.
“Young Israelis came here and yelled ‘death to the Arabs,’ ” said Tal Steiner. “We came here today in solidarity with the Palestinians in East Jerusalem. We want to show that there is a different kind of Judaism — one that is not full of hatred, but accepting and full of love.”