Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Loss of Hope

When I lived in Israel I would skip over Gideon Levy's articles. Curling up with Haaretz weekend magazine, his "Twilight Zone" column - weekly reports from the West Bank and the other harsher sides of Israel  - was more reality than I needed on my weekends. It's only since leaving Israel that I have taken to reading him. He reads like a Biblical prophet; unflinchingly looking at the facts with a clear, courageous, moral voice.
                                                  Khalil Givati-Rapp
                                                                      Khalil Givati-Rapp

The story Gideon Levy published on Friday brought me to tears. Khalil Givati-Rapp was a sensitive, articulate, popular young man who was a leader volunteered for an elite combat unit. His name embodies the Israel-Palestine conflict: Givati is the name of one of the Israeli army combat brigades. Khalil mean a flute in Hebrew but, as a name, is better known as an Arabic name. It is also the Arabic name for the West Bank town that we know as Hebron. Khalil's parents are academics in the arts. They live in an eco-village and spent seven years in the States.  These are educated, progressive Israeli. And yet there was no place for young Khalil to speak his truth about his military service.
He was popular, successful, engaged and he was about to be deployed to his namesake, the Israeli-occupied West Bank town of Hebron. Khalil could have chosen to opt out of military service. Did he not want to be marginalized in Israeli's macho culture? Was he not willing to compromise his full engagement in public life by running away from military duty? Was he  - as he put it - a coward? We'll never know the answers.

Khalil tried to have a conversation about his concerns that he was about to be called upon to fire upon civilians. His comrades-in-arms were deaf to his appeal. His unit memorialized the Holocaust. The Holocaust is part of their moral imperative for serving  in the military. Khalil understood that the Holocaust can never justify killing Palestinian civilians. He tried to engage his military buddies in that conversation. They turned a deaf ear. and he left them at the lunch table in the mess hall, took his military-issue gun and shot himself to death.

The sadness I feel for this tragic loss is met with the challenge - how can we save our young people, in the US and Israel, finding themselves in Khalil's situation?

No comments:

Post a Comment