Lessons from Rami Levy

Life teaches us so many things…but only if we are willing to learn them.

Today, my 14 year old daughter once again learned fear. She was on her way back from a school trip when a terrorist attacked the Rami Levy branch in Mishor Adumim. As the bus passed the industrial area just to the east of our home, she heard sirens and someone with an Internet connection announced that there had been a terror attack. In those confusing first minutes, it was reported that two people had been shot…she called me right away, afraid that I had decided to do our weekly shopping this afternoon.

In the last Intifada, I gave my children strict instructions – if something blows up in Israel, I don’t care where or when, you call me. Immediately. Now, they call me not to tell me they are fine, but to see where I am.

“Where are you?” she asked. Thirty minutes later, my 18-year-old son did the same.

For the first I answered, “at home.” For the second, I simply said, “not at Rami Levy.”

When my daughter got home, she looked at me and said, “it’s getting closer.” Her “it” consists of so many things – evil, terror, violence.

“First it was Jerusalem, now Mishor Adumim. Next it will be Maale Adumim.” Such sadness in a child, such resignation.

I found myself wanting to reassure her and so I responded with some silly thinks like “Mishor Adumim has hundreds of Arabs working there” was one approach – where Arabs don’t work, they can’t stab and shoot innocent people. But of course, hundreds of Arabs come into Maale Adumim daily to work here as well.

Then I said, “and there’s no light rail here. They just jump on the train in Shuafat and go wherever they want.” But even without a light rail, they can kill in Jerusalem…and in Maale Adumim, Tel Aviv, Netanya, Ofra, Kfar Sava, Eilat…it really doesn’t matter where.

I shop at Rami Levy every week, sometimes on Wednesdays, usually on Thursdays, sometimes on Fridays. I made a decision long ago. I can never afford to give the kind of charity that Rami Levy can afford to give. I can never do the amazing things he has done and so I do what I can – which is shop there and show my support that way.

Most of the bag packers in the Mishor Adumim store are Arabs, and they work beside one who is Jewish and wears a kippah. Most of the stockers are Arab. One of the managers is an Arab and he works beside a Jewish assistant manager.

I know some of the workers by name, others simply by face. One lived in America for a few years and speaks English very well. “Hey there,” he says each time he sees me and then asks how I’m doing. I know the guys behind the meat counter, behind the cheese counter, in the vegetable aisles. I know the Arab assistant manager and some of the Arab cashiers.

I can tell the difference between those Arabs that tolerate us so that they can have work and those who care only about having good lives and being decent. There is one Arab there who looks so sad after each attack and I wonder if he too feels the angry vibrations that fill the store in the hours and days that follow the terror.

Over the 20+ years that I have lived here, I have met many Arabs who just want to live in peace, just want to give their children the best chances in life – good education, good medical care. They want…they just want to live. “With this one,” I’ll often say, “with this one we could have peace.”

I once had an Arab contractor bring an Arab worker into my home. The worker was wearing a t-shirt with a map of Israel on the front and blood dripping from a wound (in a Jewish star) around where Jerusalem would be, and somewhere in the mess of the shirt was the Palestinian flag. I asked the contractor to go outside so I could “show him something” and then I told him to get that worker out of my house immediately and if he brought him back, he and the rest of the workers could pack their bags as well.

With that one, we can’t make peace, I thought as I watched him leave my home and yes, I called security and reported him as well. If someone says he is going to kill you, Elie Wiesel once said, believe him. The message on that worker’s shirt was that Jewish blood would flow.

Jewish blood flowed today in a store where I shop every week. I thought about going there today and decided I’d go tomorrow. My daughter thought of going there today, but didn’t. Two Jews did go today, and they are in the hospital now.

This was a disgusting attack and personally, after all that Rami Levy has done to offer equality in employment – there are many who would demand that he fire all the Arab workers. Of course, he won’t but this attack targeted a place and a man who is at the forefront of attempting to mend the problems between Israelis and Palestinians. There isn’t a single time I shop there that I don’t interact with the Arabs there.

In these hours after the attack, there are two lessons we can come away with. Which one rises to the top will depend more on the Arabs than us.

The first message that we could take is the one we’ve been trying to accept for so long we’re beginning to wonder why we ever thought it was the right one. We thought it was the extremists, not the main. We thought there might be, somewhere buried deep below, a path to peace, a way to live together.

The second message is to surrender – if you are bent on attacking us, our homes, our stores, our buses and trains, we surrender. Perhaps it is time to build the very apartheid state you accuse us of having. You know it is a lie – and yet you continue to tell the world that Israel is a segregationist society…and yet you shop where we do, work where we do. You travel on the same buses and trains, go to the same hospitals. Maybe the lesson of today’s attack is that there is a fundamental flaw in the Rami Levi way of thinking.

In the last month or so, a Rabbi was gunned down and critically injured, an infant was murdered, two Druze policemen killed for attempting to stop terror attacks in progress. A young woman who came across the world to align her life and beliefs with Israel was murdered, another beautiful young woman was run over and then stabbed on the same day that a young soldier was killed in Tel Aviv. Thousands of rock attacks, buses have been shot at and firebombed.

Perhaps the time has come to explain to the Arabs that we will walk away with one lesson. The first would encourage us to give them a bit more time while they readjust a society that has incorrectly glorified violence, death and martyrdom.

The second option would be to embrace the very society they accuse us of having; to become the very society they are forcing us to be. We can separate ourselves to protect our children, fire all the workers, restrict all the shoppers. Go build your own roads, your own hospitals. Shop in your stores, not ours and be healed by your doctors, not ours. Run your own buses and get off our trains.

All these lies you tell the world – we have the power to make them come true, to be your worst nightmare. Time is running short. Choose the lesson you want us to take from today’s attack. Choose…or we will.


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