Israel’s approval of hundreds of new housing units in East Jerusalem is currently generating uproar in the international community, as it should. However, as the media has clamored to cover the government decision, many missed yesterday’s demolition of two Arab houses in the Jerusalem neighborhoods of Issawiyah and Silwan.
I was visiting my parents’ home in Issawiyah yesterday when the trouble started. I walked outside, only to encounter hundreds of Israeli police and soldiers on every corner and roof in the neighborhood. It didn’t take me long to realize that a house was about to be demolished.
The soldiers had closed the entrances to the neighborhood to prevent media and protesters from accessing the demolition. But I was most struck by the soldier’s facial expressions. No one would have guessed from their expressions that they were about to leave two families homeless. Some of the soldiers were joking, laughing and having the time of their lives. I was taken aback. How can a human-being enjoy such a thing? Regardless of your political views, ethnic background and religious beliefs, leaving two families homeless should never be a source of joy. At the least, one might expect some amount of sobriety in response to the gravity of the situation.
Most families in the neighborhood had turned out to watch the demolition. Children seemed especially interested in the presence of the soldiers. I can only imagine what these kids thought of the event. Perhaps, like me in my childhood, their minds were racing with anger, hatred, and a growing desire to pay back these soldiers. I can’t help but think these kids are the best candidates for future extremists. No one should be surprised if any of those children turn out to be the next “terrorist.”
The best terror prevention is not walls, guns, and oppression. No one will experience true peace, freedom or security by inflicting suffering on others. The soldiers at the demolition yesterday are part of a larger ethos in Israeli and Palestinian society that rejoices in the suffering of others. We must learn to rejoice together and cry together rather than rejoice when they suffer and cry when they rejoice. Why? Because when we rejoice in the suffering of the other, we lose the core of our humanity and further inhibit a solution founded on dignity, freedom, and human life.