The soldier was blind to the world, but not to his hurt. He had been an Israeli fighter, one of many who had engaged Arabs in battle. His theater of conflict was the Sinai. That was an earlier day; one in which warriors on both sides had:
Today, he stood in a recreation hall, fighting his own conflicting emotions of reconciliation and revenge.
The occasion for this unlikely reunion was the historic Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty of 1979. Veterans of Arab/Israeli conflicts from the 1948 war, the 1956 Sinai War, the 1967 Six-Day War, the 1970 Attrition War, and the 1973 Yom Kippur War had gathered in symbolic reconciliation to mark the event.
At that moment, the meeting was only symbolic. Tensions on both sides were high . . . until the blind man took a step. He was guided by his son, no more than eight or nine, with "eyes as black as his curly hair" but just as tentative as the opposing soldiers who stood on opposite sides of the room.
"Kach oti eleihem" [Take me to them], whispered the father, but the child looked up at his father pleadingly. "Ani m'fached mihem," [I'm scared of them], he sniveled. Gently , the father nudged the child forward and, timidly, the boy led the father into the no-man's land. At his very first step, an Egyptian officer in a wheelchair, legless, began rolling himself toward them. They met in the middle and the officer placed the blind man's palm into his own, and shook it. Instantly, the tension eased. A Jew began to clap; he was joined by an Arab. The sprinkling of claps quickly swelled into a burst of boisterous applause as the two groups moved toward each other, melting into a huddle of embraces, handshakes, and backslapping.
The blind soldier's step was in step with the heart of God.
God is a reconciler, a peace maker. It is no surprise he calls his children to be the same. The road to peace always begins with the most important step -- the first one.
Will you take it?
- The incident I shared today comes from Chapter 42, "The Child in El Arish" in The Prime Ministers: An Intimate Narrative of Israeli Leadership by Yehuda Avner. New Milford, CT: The Toby Press. 2012. Pages 499-501.
- "Kach oti eleihem" from The Prime Ministers: An Intimate Narrative of Israeli Leadership by Yehuda Avner. New Milford, CT: The Toby Press. 2012. Pages 500-501.