Issawiya Mukhtar Darwish Darwish with his 7 year old grandson Mohammed: hope for the future?
Sometimes life imitates art and in doing so our faith in humanity can at least be temporarily renewed, and we can still have a sliver of hope for a peaceful future between Israelis and Palestinians.
In the midst of all the troubling news from Israel today of flotillas and missiles and terror cells, comes the uplifting story of the Mukhtar of the Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya, Darwish Darwish.
Do you remember the movie Exodus–based on Leon Uris’ novel? Specifically, do you remember the heroic subplot of Taha, the Mukhtar of the Arab village of Abu Yesha, which (in the movie) shares a valley with the Jewish kibbutz of Gan Dafna, home to Taha’s lifelong friend Ari Ben Canaan (Paul Newman)?
Think back to how Ari is badly wounded attempting to rescue his uncle Akiva from the British prison in Akko. Akiva dies, but Ari makes his way to Abu Yesha. With no thought of his personal safety, Taha immediately takes his friend into his house and gives Ari’s girlfriend Kitty time enough to treat his wound. Taha then has his men whisk Ari away by car to the relative safety of Gan Dafna.
As the movie nears its climax, Taha learns that the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, now operating in concert with Nazis, intends to attack Gan Dafna and kill all of its residents–mainly children. Taha warns Ari who organizes a nighttime march that secrets all of the children to safety. The next morning, when Ari returns to Abu Yesha, he finds his friend Taha lynched by Arab terrorists, his body hanging in the center of the village with a Star of David carved into his body.
What does any of this have to do with current events in Israel?
Fast forward to this past Sunday evening. Nir Nachson, a driver for the Israeli package delivery company Cheetah, followed his GPS and tried to take a shortcut to his home in Maaleh Adumin through the Arab neighborhood of Issawiya.
Suddenly his vehicle was surrounded by an Arab mob, pounding on his car and yelling ‘Al-Yahud’ (Jew!). Nachson described what happened: “Dozens of people were throwing blocks and stones and pounding on the car, from what I remember, from all directions.” The mob broke through the windows of the car, grabbed Nachson out of the car, started beating him, and attempted to lynch him.
But then something remarkable happened.
In the words of Nachson: “I didn’t have a lot of options until one of the residents there–a really righteous person, which I prayed for–decided to stop them and told me to come with him. . . if I had stayed there two more minutes [I] wouldn’t be talking now.”
Who was this righteous man? Darwish Darwish, Mukhtar of Issawiya. Darwish, along with his sons, rescued Nachson, took him to his house, gave him water, and washed the blood off of his face. When he was satisfied that Nachson was all right, Darwish then had a car brought to the house to drive him safely to the entrance of the neighborhood where the car was met by Border Police who took Nachson to Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital.
The next evening, Mukhtar Darwish went to Maale Adumin to visit Nachson and made these comments to Israeli TV (in perfect Hebrew): “We are against violence between peoples, not just on the Arab side. As a nation we need to stand up and say ‘enough violence’.” He went on to tell Nachson: “I’m sure if we hadn’t been there, someone else would have come to your rescue.”
For his part, Nachson wasn’t so sure that someone else would have intervened to save him, but his thanks to Darwish were straightforward and sincere: “Without going into politics, I know that I owe you my life. If you hadn’t been there, I don’t know what would have happened.”