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Two Fathers Grieving

When I made aliyah to Israel four years ago, several obvious experiences never crossed my mind. What it would feel like to run to a bomb shelter. How close friends might need support when their soldier children were sent to war. The number of people I’d meet who lost a relative to a terror attack.

I’m surprised by the number of terror families I know—families who’ve lost someone in this most grievous way—who are firm in their belief in peace and co-existence between Israel and Palestine. I suspect, as least in part, this is because my circle of friends is generally more liberal. And there are plenty of voices for the tough-on-terror approach.

I was struck by this diversity of responses to losing a loved one when I came across the following stories. Listen to the voices of two fathers in Israel—grieving for their sons—as they speak about justice and the path to peace.

At his son’s funeral, the father of Ido Ben Ari, killed in the Sarona Market Massacre in Tel Aviv, accused the government of relying on “tactical” moves to prevent terror, moves that only cause suffering to the Palestinians. “After the attack, the prime minister and two of his ministers arrived and yet another security cabinet issued decrees—not to return corpses, to put up barriers, to destroy houses, and to make lives harder. These solutions create suffering, hatred, despair and [lead] to more people joining the circle of terror,” he said.

Now listen to Simcha Goldin, whose son Lt. Hadar Goldin was killed in Gaza in 2014. The remains of Lt. Goldin and Staff Sergeant Oron Shaul are being held by Hamas, the terrorist organization ruling Gaza. “All humanitarian aid which will ease the suffering of the Gazan civilians and the treatment of all Hamas officials who are sitting in our prisons should be conditional upon our sons being brought to, and buried in, Israel,” Goldin said.

Listen to these two men, the father of a terror victim and the father of a war casualty. Put aside your politics and listen to the yearning to bury a son back home in Israel and the crushing futility of losing a son to terror. The frustration. The pain. The powerlessness. The sorrow.

It’s easy to understand Hadar’s dad: Israel has no alternative but hard line tactics. It’s also easy to understand Ido’s father: it’s time to put aside the old tactics to boldly strive for peace. In calling for the remains of his son to be returned, Hadar’s dad reminds us of the call to justice. In calling for an end to retribution, Ido’s dad reminds us of the work for peace. Of course, it isn’t that simple. Isn’t it also true that Ido’s dad is talking about the need for justice? Isn’t it also true that Hadar’s dad is talking about peace?

What would happen if, for just a moment, we all set aside political beliefs? What would happen if we simply allowed ourselves to feel each other’s grief? Israelis. Palestinians. Jews. Muslims. Christians. Druze. Bedouins. Religious. Secular.

What if we simply listened with all of our hearts? As I think about these two grieving fathers, I’m reminded of Isaac and Ishmael, who buried their father together. I am reminded that perhaps by being present to each other’s grief we can find some measure of peace.


For Peace in the Middle East

Sons of Abraham,
Sons of Hagar and Sarah,
Of Isaac and Ishmael:
Have you forgotten the day we buried our father?
Have you forgotten the day we carried his dead body into the cave near Hebron?
Have you forgotten the day we entered the darkness of Machpaelah
To lay our Patriarch to rest?

Sons of Esau and Jacob:
Have you forgotten the day we made peace?
The day we set aside past injustices and deep wounds to lay down our weapons and live?
Or the day we, too, buried our father?
Have you forgotten that we took Isaac’s corpse into that humble cave
To place him with his father for eternity?

Brother, I don’t remember crying with you.
Sister, I don’t remember mourning with you.
We should have cried the tears of generations.
We should have cried the tears of centuries,
The tears of fatherless sons
And motherless daughters,
So that we would remember in our flesh that we are one people,
From one father on earth and one Creator in heaven,
Divided only by time and history.

One G-d,
My brother calls you Allah.
My sister calls you Adonai.
You speak to some through Moses.
You speak to some through Mohammed.
We are one family, cousins and kin.

Holy One,
Light of truth,
Source of wisdom and strength,
In the name of our fathers and mothers,
In the name of justice and peace,
Help us to remember our history,
To mourn our losses together,
So that we may,
Once more,
Lay down our weapons and live.

G-d of All Being,
Bring peace and justice to the land,
And joy to our hearts.

This poem was originally published at To Bend Light: http://tobendlight.com/2010/04/peace/. Alden Solovy is a Jerusalem-based journalist, poet, liturgist, and teacher whose prayers have been used by people of all faiths around the world. A three-time winner of the Chicago Headline Club’s Peter Lisagor Award for Exemplary Journalism and author of Jewish Prayers of Hope and Healing, his nearly 600 new prayers appear in multiple anthologies, prayer books, and websites. His work can be found at ToBendLight. He can be reached at alden@tobendlight.com.

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