Eye on the Middle East Aug/Sep 1999

There is a Muslim family living on a kibbutz in Israel today. How they arrived at their new home is a story that defies virtually all conventional wisdom about the ability of Jewish people and Muslims to coexist.

The family is from Albania. They were forced to flee when a wave of violence swept through their town. During the attack, the young mother’s father was slain. As she hurriedly went through his clothing, she found a slip of paper in one of his pockets. When she had time to read it, she discovered that it was a certificate of appreciation. The Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem had issued the document. It expressed the gratitude of the Jewish people for something her father had done more than fifty years ago.

It was during the Holocaust, when Adolf Hitler’s legions were scouring Europe in search of Jews marked for annihilation. This man had courageously turned his home into a safe haven for Jewish people and did what he could to save at least some of them. His kindness was not forgotten after the war. Thus, the certificate was issued.

Half a century later, his actions were rewarded by a nation that has a very long memory. That he was a Muslim was inconsequential. Now Israel could do for his family what he had done for Jewish children of Abraham years ago.

The lessons are compelling and much too obvious to attempt to detail here. I will say that mercy does have its rewards. Ask a young Muslim mother living on a kibbutz in Israel.

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