We reached the gates of Kfar Blum in an hour as promised. Hana and the children gave me hugs and kisses goodbye before I got out of the car. Rashad stayed in his seat as well, turning to look at me with a friendly smile and wish me well. Yusef walked me to the gate. I think he wanted to see me walk in. I knew he wanted to give me his lecture one more time. He did. Before going in I grasped his hand and squeezed. I repeated the word Shukran, over and over. Rashad had taught me how to say thank you in Arabic. Yusef nodded as if he had done nothing remarkable and turned back toward the running car. I watched them drive away.
I’m not sure I could find the village or if its even still there. I don’t know if Yusuf or Hana are alive. I have often wondered did they get to raise their children into adulthood? Did they get to see them married and have children of their own? I hope so. What I do know with absolute certainty is in the middle of one of the most long lasting and violent conflicts between two groups of people, this man did not give into the hate must have been born into from birth. He saw a human being who needed help. He chose to risk his own life and that of his family to do the right thing. Those five men could have been armed. I’m certain they could have easily found out where Yusef lived and taken retribution for his interference. I’m not sure they didn’t. Seeing me on the road, Yusuf had to know from his first look at me, I was not a Muslim woman. He probably thought from my dark, Mediterranean complexion, and dress I was Israeli. He still intervened. For me it was a lesson in the importance of seeing people as individuals, not as one homogenous group whom all feel and think the same way. Fanatics screaming their hate and call to violence are not all the people in any group. There is in the end very little in this world that is black in white,, most times all you have is varying shades of gray.
So many people are born into hate without even knowing why they hate. We are taught to see certain groups of people in a certain ways. We are taught to fear what’s different. We are taught to fear the others and to expect the worst from them. I have to wonder what would happen if we dumped our learned preconceptions of each other and simply began to talk, one person to another.
Too simple, I am sure they would tell me. Neither side would do it, I’m certain they would say. Maybe the answer is we all need to stop listening to the fear the “theys” running our governments work so hard to instill in us and begin seeing each other as individual human beings, some good, some bad, all of us unique.
Bobbi Lerman is a writer of historical romance, memoir and travel essay and founder of www.scribblersink.com, an online prompt writing community.