I read the news one morning and found out my friend was shot.
I met Nadim Shatiwi a month ago, under unfortunate circumstances. The kids I lead in the Hanoar Haoved VeHalomed youth movement in Hadera heard that an Arab man was assaulted at the beach, by a group of ten Hadera residents. They cursed at him and stabbed him, just because he sat at the beach after work.
The kids decided to write him a letter of support and encouragement, and I wanted to go to Jaljulia to meet with him, and pass along their words. I managed to get his phone number and hesitantly called him, not knowing what to expect.
Nadim was excited from the first moment, and instantly invited me to his home, later writing that he was eager to meet me. I was nervous to go. I've never been to Jaljulia, and I tried looking up articles to understand if it would be dangerous for me.
When I arrived, I met a warm man, friendly and optimistic, in spite of the trauma he's been through.
We fell into a long conversation about his work in delivery, about Jewish friends; about this past year and whether Jews and Arabs can even live together. A conversation that warms the heart and leaves room for hope.
I asked Nadim about how things were in Jaljulia, if Jews kept coming there after Operation Protective Edge, if things feel stressful. He dismissed everything with a smile, said that nobody would hurt Jews here, that in the last operation he went to protest alongside Jewish friends, that they have good relations as neighbors. I was amazed to meet a man that, despite not leaving the house out of fear after the lynch he's been through, still talks about coexistence and living here in peace.
This week I read the news and found out that Nadim was shot while leaving a funeral, and was gravely injured. Another passerby, Mahmoud Ibrahim Ude, a father of three, was murdered.
The heartbreaking words of his son, Yazen (10), made my stomach ache and my throat close up.
“We want to surprise you, we’ll play and smile. I have to see you. I’ve grown used to life with you. I know that you’ll come back in the next hours because you love us very much. If you're angry with me, I'm sorry. The important thing is for you to be happy, and be with us.”
A ten year old child, who cannot understand that his father won’t be coming back. One personal tragedy, out of hundreds of children, parents, uncles and nephews, whose life will never be the same.
114 people have been murdered since the start of the year in the Arab Israeli community. It’s hard to wrap our heads around it. How did Stalin put it? One death is a tragedy, a hundred is a statistic.
Overall, I’m a pretty normal guy living life. I get up in the morning, smoke a cigarette, drink a cup of coffee, read the news, and go to work. The bottom line is that I live feeling safe, as much as I can in our country. I don’t fear for my life most of the time, I’m not frightened of leaving the house.
I don’t know what to do with the fact that tomorrow I’ll wake up again, feeling safe, with my cigarette and my coffee, while a 15-minute drive away, the world is totally different. A world where citizens are abandoned to their fate, a world where being in the wrong place at the wrong time can be a death sentence. A world where little kids grow up as orphans in this reality.
But this isn’t a different world. It’s here. Nearby. The illusion that unrestrained violence can exist parallel to the quiet life of Jewish towns is shattered over and over and over again. In Akko, in Jaffa, in Be’er Sheva, in Kfar Saba. Outside hospitals and at intersections, at the port and at the heart of town.
I don’t know if I’ll get to see Nadim again. I pray that I will. But Ibrahim (16), Yazen (10) and Naya (8), Mahmoud’s children, will never see their father again. And that is a tragedy, for all of us.