It was announced this week that Wafa Idris is being honored again by Palestinian society–this time by having a Palestinian youth soccer tournament being held south of Ramallah named for her. The announcement was made under the rubric of UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) the agency that directly supervises the Center.
Who was Wafa Idris, this special woman that the Palestinians so revere? Ms. Idris was a Palestinian who was divorced by her husband after nine years of marriage because of her supposed inability to become pregnant. Ostracized by Palestinian society to the degree that she was unable to remarry and condemned forever to the lowest level of that society, Ms. Idris had moved back into an apartment near Ramallah with her mother, brother, and sister-in law. So how did Wafa Idris go from this position of having no life and no future to being one of the most admired of Palestinians?
Before I answer this question, I would like to tell you about Pinhas Tokatli. Mr. Tokatli, an 81 year old, fifth generation Jerusalemite, had lived a full life since being beaten mercilessly by British soldiers in the 1940s and losing part of his vision. He was the father of four, grandfather of 13, a founder of the Jerusalem Bicycling Club, and an accomplished artist–which was what brought him to Jerusalem’s Jaffa Road on January 27, 2002 to buy paint for a portrait he was working on.
What is the connection between Wafa Idris and Pinhas Tokatli? Just after noon on that January day nine years ago, Ms. Idris walked out of a shoe store on Jerusalem’s Jaffa Road with a bomb in her backpack, stood beside Pinhas Tokatli, and blew herself and Mr. Tokatli to bits. By murdering Pinhas Tokatli and crititically injuring more than 100 others on the street, Wafa Idris–a woman whose life had no value in Palestinian society while she was alive–became the first female Palestinian suicide bomber and endeared herself to generations of Palestinians.
Why is peace between Israelis and Palestinians so difficult to obtain? It was famously said by Golda Meir that there would never be peace between Israelis and Palestinians until Palestinians value life more than death. No story better illustrates Meir’s point than the story of Pinhas Tokatli and Wafa Idris–a story that continues to resonate today as the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to teach their children to value death more than life.