Can Israelis and Palestinians unite after tragic teen deaths?

Some families of the slain teenagers are trying to show people on both sides of the conflict how it's done.

Mohamad Torokman/AP
The mother of murdered Palestinian teenager Muhammed Abu Khudeir weeps as she meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday.

Through street demonstrations and social media outbursts, some Israelis and Palestinians – including bereaved parents – are calling for coexistence in the wake of the recent murders of teens. Their remarks and gestures stand in stark contrast to the widespread anger and calls for revenge, amplified by the media over the past week.

In early June, three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped. Their bodies were discovered last week. The following day, a Palestinian teenager, Muhammed Abu Khudeir, was murdered by a group of Jewish extremists. 

Today, the grieving mother of one of the three kidnapped Israeli teens, Rachel Fraenkel, reached out to Muhammed's parents.

“No mother or father should ever have to go through what we are going through, and we share the pain of Muhammed's parents,” Ms. Fraenkel said in remarks outside her home, reflecting widespread condemnation in Israel for the reprisal murder.

Muhammed’s father, Hussein Abu Khudeir, also spoke with the uncle of one of the killed Israeli boys.

Hundreds of Israelis have expressed interest in visiting Abu Khudeir's mourning tent tomorrow and paying condolences to his grieving family.

The pro-peace group Tag Meir – a play on the far-right price tag movement – organized a visit, with prospective attendees filling out an online Google form to reserve a bus seat for Tuesday afternoon.

Two Palestinian guests from Hebron visited the grieving Fraenkel household, according to freelance journalist Dimi Reider. "They were warmly welcomed and had a long conversation with the parents of the teen," he wrote on Facebook.

The Palestinian visitors are planning a “hunger strike against violence” next week, the Times of Israel reports. It is planned to coincide with both a Jewish fast day and Muslim Ramadan. 

But not all voices reacting to the recent murders are optimistic. Popular Palestinian columnist Sayed Kashua, creator of the hit television series “Arab Labor,” said that efforts to coexist have already “failed."

Mr. Kashua, who resides in west Jerusalem and sends his children to a bilingual Hebrew and Arabic school, wrote in a Haaretz op-ed that he planned to leave the country. “The lie I’d told my children about a future in which Arabs and Jews share the country equally was over," Kashua wrote.

Other Palestinians remain hopeful but say conciliatory initiatives must come from the Israeli side. Munib Al-Masri, a Palestinian billionaire close to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, maintains a pro-peace conviction, reports The Media Line. “We are destined to live together,” said Mr. Masri. “But they have to show that they want to do it. The Palestinians have done everything in their part."

In the Israeli blogosphere, anti-violence and pro-peace meme campaigns are proliferating. One Twitter campaign depicts the four dead boys, with Muhammed’s father and Naftali Fraenkel's uncle speaking out against murder.

Lahav Halevy, an instructor at the Bezalel School of Design, created a caption that superimposes a Hebrew-Arabic pun over the face of Tariq Abu Khdeir, a Florida teenager who was beaten by Israeli police.

It reads, “Shufu banim,” which combines the Arabic word for "look," shufu, and the Hebrew word for "return," shuvu. Banim means “my sons,” and the term refers to the Old Testament passage of God urging his wayward children to return to righteousness and repent.

Many right-leaning, religious Israelis have spoken out against the retribution killing as well, highlighting the breadth of Israeli condemnation. Rabbi Eliyakim Levenon of Elon Moreh, a  settlement in the West Bank, issued a “religious ruling” that the perpetrators behind Muhammed’s murder should receive capital punishment, Tablet Magazine reports.

Israeli Chief Rabbis Yitzhak Yosef and David Lau also condemned the murder on Monday, and reiterated calls to tamp down the renewed bout of violence.

On Saturday, a few hundred Israelis and Palestinians demonstrated for coexistence in the northern city of Haifa. The marchers chanted, “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies,” reports Yediot Ahronoth. The binational communist party, Hadash, helped organize the protest.

In Jerusalem last week, nearly 700 Israelis demonstrated against violence and racism.

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