One of the most riveting -- and controversial --
photographs to have emerged from the recent weeks of
violence in Israel was that of a bloodied and dazed young
man with an angry Israeli policeman standing behind him
shouting. While the young man was first identified by the
Associated Press, the photo's source, as a Palestinian, it
soon became clear that he was an American studying in an
Israeli yeshiva -- a victim of Palestinians, who had dragged
him from a car, beaten and stabbed him. The New York Times,
which ran the photo and mistaken caption, published a
subsequent correction and follow-up article. Mr. Grossman,
who is recuperating and undergoing physical therapy for his
wounds, penned the piece below for Am Echad.
As the violence in the Middle East continues,
we all have our opinions about the Arab uprising, the peace
process and what might be done to halt the bloodshed. There
are many lessons we might learn from the events of the past
weeks but an important one is the one I personally learned
in a rather unwelcome way.
Shortly after the violence first broke out, I happened to be
traveling in a taxi in Jerusalem with two friends when our
car was attacked by a mob of Arabs who stoned it, forcing us
to stop. The crazed mob then dragged us out of the vehicle
and proceeded to severely beat and stab us. Somehow --
miraculously is the only way I can understand it -- we were
able to break away and escape to an Israeli Army position
down the road.
As a Jewish American student studying in a Jerusalem
yeshiva, I had little experience with the hatred that so
many Arabs seem to have for Jews. Indeed, I had conflicted
feelings about the Arab-Israeli conflict. But none of that
would have made any difference to those who assaulted me and
my friends. They wanted, to put it simply, to kill Jews.
What they ended up doing, though, was to put me on the path
to a lesson I will never forget.
The first indication of the lesson came as I lay in my
hospital bed, recovering from a stab wound in my thigh,
multiple gashes to my head, and a broken nose. I started
receiving phone calls from Jews all over the world, each
offering support and compassion. Total strangers showed up
at the hospital to visit me and asked what they could do to
help me. What I began to realize then is what it is that
characterizes us Jews as a nation. The Hebrew word is
achdut, which translates as "unity": a connection
that binds us all. As I learned in yeshiva, the sages of the
Talmud teach that kol Yisrael areivim zeh lozeh --
all Jews are "intertwined" each with every other.
That concept includes not only all Jews alive today, but all
who ever lived, a thought central to the holidays we Jews
celebrate. On Passover we are required to imagine ourselves
as redeemed from Egypt along with our forefathers; the
matzos and bitter herbs we eat connect us -- and have
connected every Jewish generation -- to the Jews who
actually labored in and escaped ancient Egypt. On Shavuos,
which commemorates the giving of the Torah, we rejoice with
the same happiness as if we ourselves were standing at Mt.
Sinai receiving the Torah today.
When my picture was published in The New York Times
and countless other newspapers and magazines with the
distorted caption identifying me as a Palestinian being
beaten by the soldier who had actually saved my life, a
powerful outpouring of complaints from Jews around the world
compelled many of those papers, including The Times,
to republish the photograph with a corrected caption and
I feel that the overwhelming response to the photo that led
to that correction was born of the very aspect of
achdut that I first realized in my hospital bed. Jews
around the world felt that the bond holding us together had
been somehow violated by the misidentification of one of our
people, and simply refused to allow it to go unchallenged.
It was as if the misrepresentation of any Jew was the
misrepresentation of every Jew.
That is the lesson I learned, the lesson I am still
learning, the lesson all we Jews so need to learn. Even if
we feel somewhat removed from the situation in Israel, we
must all realize that the suffering of any Jew is the
suffering of us all. The whole Jewish nation felt assaulted
by my assault, and all of us must feel that we, not just our
brothers and sisters in Israel, are under siege, threatened
and despised. It is not, in other words, "what goes on in
Israel"; it is what goes on in all of our hearts.
And as we share in each other's suffering, may we merit to
share in common rejoicing as well.
Tuvia Grossman lives in Chicago and is planning to return
to his studies in a Jerusalem yeshiva shortly.