Coexistence in its purest sense
Many of the assumptions that we have made about a mutual willingness to find common ground for acceptance of the other are being challenged by recent events.
| May 25, 2021
As someone who has dedicated much of my adult and professional life to the belief that Jews and Arabs can live – and indeed thrive – alongside one another, I am deeply and painfully aware of how challenging the last couple of weeks have been.
Many of the assumptions that we have made about a mutual willingness to find common ground for acceptance of the other are being questioned by the recent events.
I admit that at times even I began to question some of those assumptions. But then I travelled to the shiva home of Yigal Yehoshua, a victim of anti-Jewish violence in the city of Lod.
As I looked at his picture, I saw the image of a man who reflected light and goodness. His brother Efraim recalled for me the remarkable decision his family made to donate his organs to save others. The underlying factor in the decision was what would Yigal have wanted. They knew that for his mother it wasn’t an easy decision but together they decided that one day they would be able to gather the five people whose lives had been saved with his organs and show their mother that her son was living inside of them and that that statement could give her some degree of comfort.
Efraim also recalled that Yigal had been a strong believer in coexistence and judged people on their humanity and not whether they were an Arab or a Jew. The deeply moving element of this entire story is that the woman who received his kidney is an Arab woman from east Jerusalem.
On the other end of the tragic events of the past couple of weeks is the story of Muhammad Mahameed Kiwan, whose family also chose to donate his organs. Muhammad was shot in the head during protests in Uhm al-Fahm. His organs were implanted in six patients, five of them Jews.
His uncle said, “We are a family that believes in coexistence and we wanted to help save life regardless of religion, ethnicity of gender and we were able to save six lives. …Our mother is convinced that her womb which brough Muhammad into the world has now given life to six other people, five of them Jews. We choose life. We want to live alongside one another, without discrimination. Our every hope is that this message will be passed on and we feel proud that five of the patients are Jews. For me this only strengthens that message.”
These statements by Yigal and Muhammad’s families provide me, and I know so many others, a sense of hope and confidence. Their decision is perhaps the ultimate reflection of the concept of coexistence. Organs from each man are literally now implanted within patients of another religion.
Their deaths need to serve as a reminder of the tragic price that we continue to pay because we have not effectively found that path to live in full peace together. But the actions taken following their deaths rise far above the violence and pain and instill within us the belief that there is room for mutual understanding that can defeat the tension and conflict. That is an understanding that might be difficult to firmly appreciate while wars are waging and we are forced to recognize that peace still remains far off.
But the sacrifices of the Yehoshua and Kiwan families demand of us that we don’t stop working towards that goal. To them, I express my deep condolences and at the same time, I am so proud of your bravery and selfless dedication to channel this tragedy for the welfare of others.