Life has a way of bringing people down from the perches and providing valuable lessons in humility. One of the discussions we are having right now relates to the brutal headline in the NY Times, that without providing any explication, shouts that a Palestinian boy was shot in the head by the IDF. We’ve discussed why it happened, and the discussion went into other areas of the politics involved.
I think many, like me, who defend the violence by the IDF that sometimes affects Palestinian children, have become somewhat desensitized to the fact that after all, they are merely children. Yes, sometimes a terror group might send them on a bombing or arms smuggling mission. Sometimes the children are used for demonstrations and propaganda purposes – a lesson not lost on the Gaza settlers during the periods before and during the disengagement. Sometimes the children are brainwashed by the adults who surround them, whether through the media or leaders who make no bones about the violence and hatred which they advocate.
And yet, they are merely children. They cannot and do not have a full palette of experiences from which to draw life lessons. They haven’t had opportunities to make mistakes and learn from them. Life has not taught them the differences between foolishness and bravery, or even the meaning of death and injury. They are children. They like to play and can create games in any situation. They like to imagine and dream, and usually do not bear the burdens of earning income that might intrude on such fanciful activities. They tend to be more fragile than their adult counterparts who have learned to develop tough outer shells, and for the same reason they are usually more open and direct.
Usually adults seek to protect their children, and sometimes go to extraordinary lengths to do so. But life is funny in that way. You cannot always be there. Even when you are, you cannot always prevent the accident or injury because it happens too quickly or unexpectedly. Sometimes a parent might simply miss the obvious danger of a situation until the child is hurt. We watch them but cannot always stand in the way of their independence or assertiveness.
So what was Ahmed al-Khatib – the 12 year old boy who was shot in Jenin by IDF troops after brandishing a realistic looking toy gun in the midst of an aggressive and violent protest – doing out there that day? Playing a hero? Expressing hate? Seeking to belong? Mimicking adults? Simply playing a game in the wrong place? Nobody has reported that part of the story, and it is unlikely that we will ever know what he was thinking just before the shots felled him.
But his parents? His parents, who must be grieving desperately as they realize their son and his laughter will never light their lives with joy again, swallowed hard and made sure that his death would not be in vain. They contributed Ahmed’s organs. His injury was such that once his life ebbed away, his healthy organs would survive him. And indeed they have, inside no fewer than 6 individuals including Jewish and Druze Israelis.
Jamal al-Khatib said he hoped to meet the recipients of his son’s organs to ensure that they were healthy, and added: “The most important thing is that I see the person who received the organs, to see him alive.”
The boy’s liver was divided in two and given to a 6-month-old baby and a 56-year-old woman; his kidneys were given to a 5-year-old boy; and his lungs were given to a 5-year-old boy and a 4-year-old girl, the radio said.
Dr. Tzvi Ben-Yishai, spokesman for Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, where Al-Khatib had been treated, said the boy’s parents decided to donate his organs “to bring hearts closer and bring peace closer.”
“I don’t mind seeing the organs in an Israeli or a Palestinian. In our religion, God allows us to give organs to another person and it doesn’t matter who the person is,” said Jamal al-Khatib, the boy’s father, who added that he hoped the donations would send a message of peace to Israelis and Palestinians.
A heart. Lungs. Kidneys. A liver divided to save more than one life. And these organs are especially precious in a land where the prevailing religion, Judaism, has many advocates who believe that it is impermissible for a Jew to donate organs if a proper burial is to take place. So Ahmed’s organs were precious like rare rubies or precious stones. Precious like his parents’ love. Precious like the example and lesson his parents have given us all; that we should never forget the humanity of those who may be opposed to us or Israel.
May their grief be tempered by the precious gifts they have given.