The Jewish Report Editorial

Can we do better?

  • JNF - Tu B'shvat
The shooting spree at the upscale Sarona Market in central Tel Aviv last week Wednesday night that killed four Israelis and wounded six others, adds to the tally of 33 Israelis and 200 Palestinians who have been killed in the Israeli Palestinian conflict just since October.
by VANESSA VALKIN | Jun 15, 2016

Then over the weekend Omar Mateen opened fire at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, killing 49 people and injuring 53. This week in our own country, we remember the Soweto Uprising of 1976 and all the people who were shot in the ensuing violence. And 40 years later, violence is still our “mother’s milk”: a rape occurs every half hour (although the statistics are difficult to verify) and a policeman dies every four days. 

Where are the solutions for the seemingly unsolvable rage, hatred and violence around? What do we do?

As Israel mourned the terror of Sarona and various Israeli Cabinet members with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the helm called for a series of punishments, one man’s sentiments might offer the beginnings of some answers. 

The speech of the father of Ido Ben Ari (one of the victims) at his son’s funeral, have stuck with me. Their profundity is almost hard to believe, given the pain and despair he must be experiencing.

The bereft father (who was not named in the press) decried the rhetoric that came from Netanyahu and his ministers in reaction to the tragedy and called for a new approach. 

“Last night, 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

“Already 49 years you’ve been trying to solve things tactically and you haven’t succeeded. The time has come for a strategic solution,” he added.

A friend of mine gave a speech recently where she spoke about two kinds of leaders: those who build bridges and those who build walls. My guess is that leadership and conflict resolution through bridge building is far more effective. 

We just have to remember the great South Africans who sat down at the negotiating tables and steered us through the seemingly unsolvable apartheid vortex as an example. They were individuals who broke down walls and really started listening to one another. 

Thus the ability to build bridges when there are contentious issues to resolve, requires a deep understanding of the other party’s needs, feelings and motives. It requires empathy. 

Interdisciplinary artist Sue Pam Grant who runs workshops in Johannesburg on empathy based on long-held psychological evidence that empathy can really shift the game and build change, said: “People are realising that we have to see with different eyes, hear with different ears. Everything has to be turned on its head if we are to understand the different worlds that others live in.”

Grant and her colleagues are teaching people to hone their listening skills and recognise their own hurts, strengths and triggers which she says opens doors to empathy for others. “We are dealing with so much conflict and rage all around us,” Grant says. “We have to awaken creative, intuitive ways to find solutions to deal with these complex scenarios.” 

Leaders like Netanyahu and Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump tend to use language of barrier building, playing to peoples’ fears, not their hopes. Indeed, since the Orlando shooting, Trump has reiterated his call for a freeze on Muslim immigration to the US. 

But it is unlikely that freezing Palestinian visas and upping security at the checkpoints as Netanyahu’s Cabinet is threatening, or stopping Muslim immigrants from coming into the US, as Trump suggests, are going to do away with the accumulating anger that leads to violence. 

Meting out punishment and greater restrictions may work in the short term in the Palestinian conflict, but the anger just goes underground, seethes and erupts later, more dangerously.  

I think we have to step away from our computers, our e-mails and Facebook posts and make ourselves available for real human connection. Let’s support leaders who don’t only appeal to our fears but rather to our braver and nobler selves and let’s really listen to what our “enemies” are saying. 

The Cape Times for all its faults sent its harshest Israel critic, foreign editor Shannon Ebrahim, to visit the death camps of Europe earlier this year. 

I too am wondering what steps I can take. Let’s all examine moves we could make towards standing in the other’s shoes. Call me “pie in the sky” idealistic, but it starts with each one of us.




  1. 3 Choni 17 Jun
    There is a fundamental difference between good and evil, light and darkness. There can be no compromise.
    One can only love good, and hate evil.
  2. 2 Judy Yacov 18 Jun
    I think I could only move myself to the point you are suggesting of putting myself in the shoes of the other if I had some real, personal one on one contact with a Palestinian around issues of mutual interest that aren't political. You make me want to try, so that could be the first step.
  3. 1 Choni 19 Jun
    Your sentimentality towards Israel's enemies borders on the sickening. I agree the present government's methods of punishment are not working, but not because of their 'strictness'. they are not working because they are far removed as what should be done to the arab enemy. The Torah explicity states that all hostile arabs must be driven from the Land. 
    For every parent like Ido ben Ari who wishes to negotiate with the enemy, there are hundreds who have lost loved ones. [Last sentence removed for legal reasons -Moderator]


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