Whenever a murder or even an accidental death occurs, we take a collective deep breath and sigh, “I hope it wasn’t a Jew.”

This week a terrible traffic accident occurred near the southern Israeli city of Beersheva. A truck carrying a trailer collided with a busload of Bedouin women returning home from a day of prayer at the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. Eight women died, and dozens more were injured. According to news reports, all of the fatalities were grandmothers in their 50s and 60s.

People across the country were sad to hear this news. Jews always regard the death of innocents, Jews and non-Jews, as a tragedy.

What may be surprising was the secondary reaction of Jews in Israel – not in the Diaspora – immediately following the news: “I hope the driver was not a Jew.”

This was not the first time in recent months that Jews uttered those words in response to the death of an Arab, and it likely will not be the last.

In July, the day after three kidnapped boys – Naftali Frankel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach – were found dead, buried in a shallow grave outside the Arab village of Halhul, the news broke that Mohammed Abu Khdeir, an Arab teenage boy was found in the woods, burned to death – a cruel and gruesome act of murder. We all gasped, “I hope it wasn’t a Jew.”

The most common initial reaction was that it could not have been a Jew, that Jews do not do such things. At least, we would like to think so.  But of course, the reality is that Israel, like any country, has its own criminals.

Riots in Israel, or Much Worse

We also knew that if a Jew were to perpetrate such a crime, it would mean that one of us had descended to the level of the monsters who had killed the three boys. On top of that, it would also mean that riots in Israel, or much worse, would occur.

In November, an Arab driver was found hanged in a bus in Jerusalem. Another tragedy – a person whose life was so hopeless that he felt the only way out was death. The Arab community was up in arms, and called for an investigation in order to determine whether it was a nationalistically motivated murder. And we all said, “I hope it wasn’t a Jew.”

The tragic event resulted in several days of rioting in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria. The international community was silent over the violence, even after it was proved beyond a doubt that the driver’s death was indeed a suicide.

Unfortunately, this is the reality in Israel. Whenever something happens, we take a collective deep breath and sigh, “I hope it’s not a Jew.”

By Penina Taylor, United with Israel


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