By Ron Salpeter
Exclusive for Shalom Magazine (www.ShalomMA.com)
It is far from an unfounded suspicion that the Palestinian individuals I employed as CEO of a food tech company (its main production facility is in Kibbutz Beeri) played a role in drawing the maps Hamas terrorists used when going from one home to another to butcher more families.
These Gazan workers - I am still able to recall some of the names and faces - were welcomed by us at “Hinoman,” where they could earn a decent living, enough to take good care of their families.
I recall in particular a meeting we had when I visited them in their residential quarters inside our 25-acre production compound during COVID. I heard from them that when faced with the dilemma of contracting COVID, being confined to Gaza, or staying for the duration of the pandemic in Israel, they preferred to stay with us, thereby giving up visiting their families who lived no more than four miles away on the other side of the fence.
For about two years, Gazan workers lived in our kibbutz. The Hinoman premises, by the way, are now burned to the ground.
How naïve we Israelis have been
This was an enterprise set to bring to the world a high protein, high-B12 natural source to treat, amongst other conditions, malnutrition.
But what are burned offices when over 200 bodies of civilians remain unidentifiable for weeks, given the atrocious disfiguration, the chopping off of limbs, and the burning of entire families?
Aside from the black holes in our chests over the brutal massacre in which thousands of Palestinians, Hamas terrorists and also supporters took part, this barbaric attack casts a fatally despairing effect on me (and on most Israelis). We now realize how our coexistence-driven acceptance of these workers at Hinoman, along with many other workplaces across the 22 villages and Kibbutzim adjacent to the Gaza Strip (the “OTEF AZA” villages belt) was reciprocated by the rejoicing of so many in Gaza over the killing of babies, kidnapping of the elderly, raping of young women to cheering crowds, and the sadistic chopping off of hands and other body members of parents and children in the same living room. This reaction in Gaza, as in many other places in the Arab world, is a sight that tells us that we have nothing in common with the societies that breed these barbarians and cheer them on.
We should probably not really be that shocked, as this reaction is commensurate with those seen in Syria over the killings of former neighbors during the long years of the civil war there. Or the samin the face of the slaughtering of Christians by Muslims in Lebanon, mass rape and murders of young girls by Buka Haram in Africa, and other atrocities.
How naïve we Israelis have been: our “wishful thinking” to finally be accepted by the Arab world deafened us from listening to recurring declarations in Hamas manifestos and gatherings stating loudly and clearly that eventually the Muslims would obliterate the Jewish presence in the Middle East, as part of carrying out Allah’s war over all "“infidels” in ferocious jihads.
We kept “filtering” this because it did not match our deeply-rooted desire to be accepted and integrated in the Middle East, better known a: the “New Middle East,” soon to include Saudi Arabia, as we had been informed.
The fatal blow to my belief in a joint flourishing future of collaboration and mutual respect was further enhanced when most Arab countries (with the exception of the UAE, Oman, Bahrain and Morocco) failed to denounce Hamas for their hideous assault on peaceful civilians. The fact that the Arab world is not alienating itself from a group that planned and carried out mass murder of over a thousand civilians at their homes and at a peaceful music festival is telling me and all of us in Israel what the core “values” are that create the fabric of these societies and their regimes.
The awakening this causes is all the more horrifying to the many Israelis and Jews in America who have been working to advance a joint future for Israelis and Palestinians in many ways, like driving sick Palestinian kids from the border posts to Israeli hospitals for care.
All this is now terminated due not only to security needs to close the borders, but no less so due to hearts closing out the other side’s pain in light of the rejoicing and the silent reactions alike.
The lack of condemnation of missile attacks by the Arab and Muslim world is not new to us. But its prevalence now in the face of a disaster that is 15 times larger than 9/11, that includes so many shootings in the backs of fleeing youngsters at a music festival, so many homes burned with families inside, so many tortures and rapes of young women, and the kidnapping of 20 elderly people in their 70s-90s - some suffering from Alzheimer’s, and of close to 30 children is unprecedented.
The abettance of this has made me, and so many others, lose any hope or desire to try to build a future with these people.
Ron Salpeter is an Israeli venture capitalist who moved to Boston 3 months ago and who is now, amongst other activities, helping raise funds to rebuild “Hinoman” as a symbol of the recovery of Beeri and its surroundings.