The New York Times is often maligned for its coverage of Israel, but too often it is taking the heat for telling stories no one wants to hear, on either side of the conflict. Last week its correspondent Ethan Bronner told a story everyone needs to hear.
Bronner visited Jerusalem’s Alyn Hospital, where eight-year-olds Orel Elizarov and Marya Aman are being treated. Orel, from Be’er Sheva, arrived at the hospital a year ago after a rocket fired from Gaza exploded in his hometown and took with it half his brain. Marya’s spinal cord was broken at the neck three years ago, when missiles fired from an Israeli jet on an assassination mission in Gaza struck its target as her family’s car passed by. Her brother, mother, and grandmother died in the explosion.
The Muslim girl in the wheelchair and the Jewish boy who is learning to walk and talk again have become fast friends, but, according to Bronner, “it is almost more powerful to observe their parents” who “have developed a kinship that defies national struggle.”
“The wounds of our children, their pain, our pain, have connected us,” said Angela Elizarov, Orel’s mother. “Does it matter that [Marya’s father Hamdi] is from Gaza and I am from Beersheba, that he is an Arab and I am a Jew? It has no meaning to me. He sees my child and I see his child.”
Marya’s father, meanwhile, has been on the receiving end of an extraordinary outpouring from Israeli Jews. At one point, the Israeli government, which brought the family to Alyn for emergency treatment, wanted to transfer Marya to Gaza or the West Bank. Israeli volunteers fought on his behalf, and the government now supports Hamdi and pays for Marya’s schooling.
Hamdi was asked why he wasn’t embittered by his experience.
“I have never felt there was a difference among people — Jews, Muslims, Christians — we are all human beings,” he said. “I worked in Israel for years and so did my father. We know that it is not about what you are but who you are.”
There are no easy lessons in the story of Orel and Marya, which reads almost like a parable. Perhaps all we can hope is that in this new year, politicians on all sides of this bitter conflict can detect in their story the possibility of peace and be inspired to pursue it.