Sunday, February 27, 2011

When The Shark And The Fish First Met

I really love the evenings when getting the kids to bed is going smoothly, while our 9 year-old Revital is reading to herself in bed, I’m reading a book to our 6 year-old Limor.

Tonight was such a night. And when Revital was settled in with her book, Limor brought out for me a book entitled (in Hebrew) “When the Shark and The Fish First Met”. The story was very cute – about a shark and a small fish that met, and the shark wanted to eat the fish. The fish swam away as fast as he could, with the shark chasing him. When the shark was just about to eat the fish, the fish yelled “Wait! Why do you want to eat me? Why don’t we play together instead?” and the shark agreed.

They spent the entire day playing together, and when the shark went home that night, his mother asked “How many fish did you eat today?”, and he answered “None. I made friends with a fish and we played.” Of course, mother shark was very upset, and told her son that fish are for eating – not playing with.

The little fish had a similar reaction at home. When he told mother fish that he spent the day playing with a shark, she was very angry and told him that sharks are not friends – they ate your father and your brother, and you are never to play with one again.

Neither of them went out to play the next day, and several months passed before they saw one another again. When they did, they both swam away as fast as they could.

After several more months, they met for the third time, the shark said “You’re my enemy, but maybe can make up?” so they did.

After several months of playing together, one day they went together to speak with the mother fish and then with the mother shark. The book ends with “And from that day, sharks and fish live in peace. The end”.

It’s a very sweet book – nothing too heavy, deep or sophisticated. Perfect for a 6 year old to hear about the dream of two very different species deciding that it’s nicer to live together in peace than in fear and hatred of one another. And I was all ready to send Limor on to bed with that nice message of hope, when she asked me, as she occasionally does, to read what’s written on the back cover of the book.

I often don't pay attention to the name of the author when I read to Limor. This time, I wouldn’t have noticed who it was had I not read the back cover. The book was written by Gilad Shalit.

For those who don’t know, Gilad Shalit is an Israeli soldier who was captured by Hamas terrorists in June 2006, 2 months before his twentieth birthday. He has spent the past 56 months - nearly 6 years - in captivity, despite all efforts and calls to secure his release.

Gilad wrote the story “When the Shark and The Fish First Met” when he was in the fifth grade, 9 years before his abduction. While I was reading the book, I had no idea that he wrote this. Afterwards, reading the back cover to Limor, I was almost too choked up to finish it.

The significance about what is written in the back cover was not lost on Limor, even if she didn’t understand all of it. She looked at me and asked if Gilad is still alive. I told her that none of us really know, but we hope so. She asked what happened to him, and I told her that he was kidnapped by very bad people who won’t let him go.

Most of my Israeli friends whose political views are left of center make every effort to empathize with the plight and the situation of the Palestinians. They express understanding, and extend a hand in friendship, a willingness to let the past be in the past and to look ahead, together, to a brighter future. Part of me truly respects this approach and outlook. It is a beautiful thought.

Yet another part of me cannot help but to see the irony of it all. For those in Hamas dedicated to the destruction of Israel, any Israelis whom they are able to kill or capture represent a victory. It makes no difference if that Israeli is a right-wing settler who hates any and all Arabs sight unseen, or if he is a left-winger who "feels the pain" of the Palestinian people.

I should emphasize here what I have also mentioned in previous blogs – on the Palestinian side of the conflict, I hold the leadership (or what passes for such) responsible, and not the average “joe in the street”.
I know the counter argument to that view only too well. Many people look at the polls taken of the Palestinian populace which show an overwhelming support for the terrorist actions, the mass rallies and celebrations when Israeli civilians are killed (very much like what we also saw after the 9-11 attacks).

I have my own take on what we see from those rallies and polls. I wrote in this blog that I personally believe that the Palestinian has spent the last 40 years brainwashing the average "man in the street" by providing very limited (and directed) access to news, and a very skewed view of the complexity of the current situation. I honestly believe that the Palestinian leadership has broken the hopes and dreams of their own people while depicting Israel as responsible for their reality. With that happening, it's no wonder that the average Palestinian who doesn’t really know the bigger picture of the regional geo-politics will express views against Israel, and of course he’ll rally and celebrate victories over those who he has been convinced are the source of his hopeless existence.

Which brings me back to Gilad Shalit. Here is a young man who grew up believing, as is shown by the book he wrote at the age of about 10, that people can put aside their differences, and what they have been taught is supposed to be in their “nature” and find a common ground – no matter how different they are on the outside. If the story he wrote as a child was any indication, he would have been more than happy to sit down with the Palestinian people and say “Why do we have to kill one another? Why can’t we just play?”

Whether he was right or wrong, how can anybody not love, and even wish for the sentiment?

Yet, his five and a half years of captivity have been a period in which we have seen not only celebrations but even re-enactments of the “victorious” abduction of this supposed “enemy” of the Palestinian people.

We have been given “conditions” for his release – over 1,000 Palestinian terrorists with blood on their hands in exchange for this one Israeli soldier.

This is an extremely sensitive issue for all Israelis. On the one hand, the idea of negotiating with terrorists and giving in to their demands turns the stomach of every one of us. We know without any doubt that each time Israel agrees to a deal such as these (and we have done so in the past), it sends the message that we will do so again and guarantees that more Israelis will be taken in the future.

On the other hand, for all of the mistakes and shortcomings of current and previous Israeli governments, I love the fact that each and every Israeli life is so valuable to us that we have made such concessions in the past. This is a testament to how we deeply cherish our soldiers and our civilians – as individuals, as people.

The one justification that I can see in exchanging Gilad Shalit for 1,000 murderers is that this one soldier of ours, who wrote in the 5th grade about peace and understanding, is easily worth 1,000 terrorists who celebrate in killing civilians solely because they are Jews and Israelis.

Let me hear the so-called Palestinian "leadership" publically acknowledge that, and maybe the price will have been worth paying.

Here’s to praying that we can all see Gilad return safely to his family. And soon.


  1. I'd like to make your observations on Gilad Shalit required reading for everybody I know. There's such irony that a young man could write at age 10 a story, simple but touching, that illustrates the noble desire for traditional enemies to make their peace with other--and that the 10-year-old would grow up to experience captivity from people who want nothing to do with such a sentiment. I hope you will put this posting in any eventual collection of your essays. Pat Fulton

  2. my friend, I truly feel for you, and more for Gilad who we won't forget,stradeling between the left and right is the human, in which we see suffering and so much only not right and wrong...I think that transends alot ...Gilad is a hostage that is inhuman