A remarkable tale of human decency

Opinion: Columns

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F. Dean Lueking

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Anan Tabu-Taleb's account [Coming home, Viewpoints, Feb. 8] of his experience at an Israeli military checkpoint is so instructive for all sides in the Israeli-Palestinian agony that never seems to end.

Though angered by the refusal of an Israeli soldier to accept his impeccable credentials to visit his aged, ailing father, whose Gaza residence was just 15 minutes from the checkpoint, he did something more than return Israeli insolence with Palestinian hate. "I looked straight into his dark brown eyes," he recalled, which struck me as an action of one human in search of the humanity in the other at a moment when all things human were up for grabs.

That eye-to-eye encounter, he recalled, evoked emotions that so many Palestinians live with daily — fear, defenselessness, helplessness — but more than that. It also called up his awareness of "utterly corrupt Palestinian leaders, their incompetent political agendas, their inability to motivate Palestinians toward a peaceful resolution despite incessant Israeli maneuvers."

This is a Palestinian, remember, speaking to Palestinian failures — and doing so in the aftermath of being deeply hurt as a son longing to see his father one more time.

Then Mr. Taleb tells how his thoughts turned to his mother, waiting in vain at the household door to welcome her son for a cherished visit. While thinking of her and what must have filled her mind, he thought of the decency of the Israeli woman traveling in his group to visit her aged mother and her apologies for her country's policy, embodied in the soldier at the checkpoint. He recalled being overwhelmed by the empathy of an American he met in Tel Aviv. He thought of the Israeli travel agent who did everything possible to help his trip achieve its goal of a family reunion.

He brought to remembrance the countless Israelis who live in constant fear for their security. He expressed his sense of understanding as a Palestinian how real those fears are.

Finally, this Palestinian, who lives and does business in our midst as an Oak Parker, refuses to be dismissed or explained away as an enemy of Israel He is an ally, a friend, not only of Israel but of human beings everywhere. He has earned the right to be taken seriously as an exemplar of how peacemakers think and act. He does not present himself as a diplomat. Yet he speaks and acts as one who holds the essential keys to diplomatic peacemaking at every level

I hope that his aged parents, though deprived of embracing him in their home, can be proud to know that their son is admired and emulated by those of us who live far from Gaza.

His long journey, seemingly defeated at a military checkpoint, was not in vain. It is a triumph of the spirit that, finally, overcomes, heals, and reconciles.

F. Dean Lueking, a River Forest resident, is the pastor emeritus of Grace Lutheran Church in River Forest.

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