Following our "Israel Refocused" newsletter yesterday, terrible news came through of a further escalation of violence. At this sad moment in the life of Israel, our thoughts have been encapsulated by this letter from NIF CEO Daniel Sokatch.
I know you are worried about what's going on in Israel. I am too.
Yesterday, Israel buried three teenagers who were kidnapped and murdered. It was a devastating act perpetuated by extremists determined to shed innocent blood and to provoke further conflict.
Even while the funeral was going on, riots broke out in Jerusalem in which Knesset Members calling for "revenge" took advantage of a national moment of pain to incite violence. Mobs chanted "Death to Arabs" and roamed the streets of Jerusalem looking for Arabs to attack.
Israeli police acted to prevent revenge attacks, but it appears they could not stop them all. This morning we awoke to reports of a potential revenge killing. An Arab teenager -- Muhammad Hussein Abu Khdeir -- was reportedly kidnapped from Jerusalem and murdered. We are still waiting for police to confirm the press accounts.
Most Israelis are horrified by these breaking developments.
Yishai Fraenkel, the uncle of one of the three murdered Israeli teenagers, said it plainly: “Murder is murder. Whatever the nationality or age are, there is no justification. There is no forgiveness or penance for any murder.”
He could not be more right.
Sadly, expressions of empathy for Palestinian suffering were rare in the mainstream Israeli media before news broke of the dead Palestinian teenager. Too few of Israel’s leaders were speaking out. Too much of the public discourse was -- and still is -- dominated by extremists.
NIF is committed to amplifying the voices of Israelis committed to equality and to democracy, of Israelis willing to confront those who preach hatred, exclusion, and violence -- of Israelis who work toward a vision of a better Israel.
Earlier today a large rally was held in Jerusalem to give expression to the voices of sanity. Israelis gathered under the banner: "We mourn. We don't avenge." Thousands attended.
It was an important moment in which Israeli citizens gathered to make clear that the extremists don't speak for them. The rally was organized by the Tag Meir coalition, which was seed-funded by NIF.
Much is uncertain right now. I'm bombarded by breaking reports of more confrontations, more hate-filled rallies, more rockets, and more air strikes. All of us hope the worst is over; all of us fear for the future.
What I do know -- and what I believe you know too -- is that there are many Israelis working toward a vision of an Israel in which every voice and every life is respected. They need our support now.
Thanks for your partnership and for all that you do.
Daniel Sokatch, CEO
New Israel Fund