Friday, October 14, 2011

"Price tag" - Sale! Sale! Sale! (on violence)

The words price tag - תג מחיר - have taken on a whole new meaning here in Israel.

A price tag is usually just a bit of information that helps us decide whether or not to buy the dress or the purse or the computer. It's a universal symbol that means: "If you pay this amount of money, you get this thing".  Sometimes the price tag has an amount that seems like an extremely good deal, sometimes it seems fair enough, and other times we can't help but yell out "They can't be serious!"

So while the price tag may be within or outside our ability (or desire) to pay, it still seems innocent enough.

These days, in Israel and in the Occupied Territories, when you see the words 'price tag' - you know that it isn't good.

The new price tag means that if someone(s) do something(s) that the religious ultra-nationalistic Jewish settlers do not like, then they will take revenge. That is, the 'price' of doing something that goes against these extremists' values, carries with it a heavy punishment - violence and vandalism being the punishments of choice.

For example, Palestinians want to go pick their olives from their trees, that are near a Jewish-Israeli settlement - price tag! They can expect trees to be chopped down, terrorized, beaten up. Or, the Israeli government decides to negotiate with the Hamas and reach an agreement in order for Gilad Shalit to be brought home - price tag! A young man desecrates the Rabin memorial in Tel Aviv and calls for Yigal Amir's (Rabin's assassin) pardon (see the story here).

These price-taggers are not monsters or animals. They are human beings that have gone terribly terribly astray, led by hate and vengeance. They are people who have forgotten what compassion, understanding, acceptance, non-violence can bring. Many of them have themselves suffered traumas in their lives. For example, Shvuel Schijveschuurder, the man who desecrated Rabin's memorial, had his parents and his two sisters and brother  murdered in the Sbarro terror attack in Jerusalem 10 years ago. His reason for this 'price tag' - the terrorist who murdered his family is on the list of prisoners to be released in exchange for Gilad Shalit.

It is impossible to imagine what life has been like for Shvuel, since that tragic day. There is no doubt that he did not receive the support, help and love that he needed, and that we, as a society, further let him down, after his family was murdered.

We can set new price tags, non-violent ones, ones that cost no money, but bring wonderful rewards:
1. By loving our children, we can raise loving adults.
2. By being kind to one another, we can all own a kinder world.
3. By sharing, we can all have more.
4. By understanding the pain of others, are hearts can grow larger.
5. By helping one another, we can get more than we give.

These price tags are not 100% full-proof, but they are pretty close. My heart goes out to Shvuel, who lost his family 10 years ago, when they went to a restaurant for lunch. However, his deeds of today will not bring back his family, only deepen the pain. These price tags will not always bring us what we want, indeed need, but they will be a much, much better deal than the ones we have been paying lately.

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