Wednesday, May 30, 2018

He was only 20 when the heavy concrete or marble slab was dropped from above, ending his life. Three stories up, a young Arab male flexed his hands. He’d held that slab for five full minutes, studying the situation, making sure his aim was true. He’d developed a cramp. But he’d completed his mission, born of hatred nursed for years. He’d dropped the slab. Seen it connect.
Everything that was bad in his life, he’d learned to blame it on the Jews. This is what his parents had taught him, because everyone whose life is hard needs a target for blame and fury. Everyone needs an outlet for the things that can’t be changed, doors that cannot be opened.
For this Arab youth, that outlet, that target, was an anonymous 20-year-old. He would do, this boy who’d never know hardship, who’d never known life as his murderer experienced it. For the Jew wore the uniform of the IDF. The uniform of the people the Arab youth had been taught to hate.
He didn’t know Ronen. Didn’t know if he loved fried chicken, or chocolate ice cream, his brother, his parents. He didn’t know that Ronen may have once had sensitive skin that reddened in the hot intensity of the Israeli sun as he stood guard over his people, a rite of Israeli passage. The Arab youth knew only that the pieces were laid out on the chessboard, had been laid out ages ago, perhaps before the players had been born. The Arab youth on the roof, holding a slab of white marble, three stories up. The Jew on the ground below, in clothes representing all that had ever gone wrong. A symbol. Something to hate.
Ronen, on the other hand, had no symbols of hate as he stood there in his IDF uniform. His energy was not directed that way, but to opening doors.
“You fought. Throughout your life you chose all of the closed doors and were better than everyone else. I’m sure you chose this moment too,” said his brother Arik at the funeral attended by hundreds, for a boy who lost his life too soon, because he’d worn a hated symbol.
Did Ronen see hate as a door closed against him? Something that must be opened?
We will never know. Because the slab came down, down, down, closing a door forever. A door that might have, could have been a bridge between peoples. But was not.
It was just a door slamming firmly shut, sealed by hate. Hatred of someone the Arab youth didn’t know, hadn’t met. He didn’t have to know Ronen to hate him. Didn’t have to know a thing about him. Clothes make the man, they say. The IDF uniform had marked Ronen for death, because of something the Arab youth had been told all his life.
Told at his mother’s breast, imbibed with her milk. Because everyone needs a focus for hate and blame. It helps to let out the fire in the wound, like lancing an abscess, the pus needs to out.
How do you hate someone enough to kill? How are you strong enough to end the life of someone you’ve never met? Only there on the ground beneath you in clothes you don’t like as you hold a heavy concrete or marble slab.
A symbol, that IDF uniform, like a red hot poker, poking you in the eye, nudging you from behind inexorably forward.
A symbol for all you’ve been taught to hate that uniform and the boy wearing it until it boils up, boils over, the hate. Red hot, touching everything you know, poisoning everything in reach.
Did the slab feel heavy in your hands as it waited for the moment you would anoint it killer? Or did it feel light as a feather? Could you have held it for hours until just the right moment when the Angel of Death whispered in your ear, saying, “Now.”
What did it feel like, the moment the slab left your hand? How did you feel watching it plummet from your high perch on a building, unseen and undetected, to watch your missive crash on the head of the unsuspecting Jew?
Or did you run away so you wouldn’t get caught?
No. I think you stood there. You wanted to see, needed to see. Vindication for all you’d ever suffered: poverty, unemployment, hard work, food insecurity. Like the murderer attending the funerals of his victims. Like collecting a trophy, you needed this moment to soothe and calm you, this visual picture, the culmination and full flowering of the hate you’d been raised on all your life. You would see the moment over and over again in your head, an instant replay of the moment Ronen’s young head was smashed like a sharp knife plunging into a ripe melon, splitting Kevlar and steel until you could see the soft, sweet meat that once directed hands to move turn the pages in a book, ears to hear birdsong, a throat to swallow the favorite dish his mama always made him when he came home on leave for Shabbat.
With that slab in your hand, from high above, you were all about ending things and the finality of hate. But Ronen was about possibility, a door-opener. His brother Arik said so at his funeral. He would have done great things, Ronen, opened many closed doors in his life. While you stood there, your mind seething with hate and contemplating evil, Ronen saw doors and challenges and ways to move forward.
Incurable cancer. Could that have been Ronen’s great challenge? The closed door that no one else could open?
Might Ronen have someday discovered the cure for the cancer that would one day take the life of his murderer, or perhaps the life of his murderer’s beloved mother? The one who taught him to hate? To throw heavy slabs of stone on the heads of people wearing a uniform she didn’t/he didn’t like?
Or maybe the great closed door in Ronen’s life would be ending the violence: The Arab war against the Jews. Perhaps that was the unbudgeable door that was closed to Ronen, the door he felt he must open, the door that challenged him above all others. Might he have come up with the plan that would open the door? The plan that would end all the violence forever and all the hate?

The plan that would mean no more marble slabs thrown from three stories up, to slam down on the head of a boy too young to die. A boy who would have opened doors, ended hate, cured cancer, loved well, fathered children. Who might have opened doors, ended the violence, stopped the people who target those in a uniform they don’t like with refrigerators, washing machines, furniture, and marble slabs, while telling all those who hate like them that they have no arms, no guns to defend themselves, as they stand on rooftops above the exposed heads of those they hate, holding things too heavy to fall on the heads of boys.

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