If history is any guide, in the coming weeks, the horrifying murder of Dvir Sorek in a West Bank terror attack will be weaponized by right-wing Israeli politicians. His death will be used as ammunition for those seeking to demonize the Palestinian people and to yet again quash any movement toward peace.
Make no mistake: Using his death in this way would be nothing short of a desecration of his memory.
Opinion | Please Don’t Politicize Dvir Sorek’s Murder. His Final Act Was One Of Peace.
For the Israeli teenager killed in a West Bank settlement yesterday was found clutching a book under his arm when he died. It was “Life Plays with Me,” the latest novel by left-wing, pro-peace writer David Grossman. Sorek was not one of Grossman’s average readers. The boy was Orthodox and a settler, educated in the heart of the contested Gush Etzion bloc. Yet the day he was killed, he had traveled to Jerusalem to buy end-of-year gifts for his yeshiva teachers, and he came back with Grossman’s book in hand.
Grossman made a tribute to Sorek yesterday, while speaking at a memorial for President Reuven Rivlin’s late wife. It made for something of a remarkable scene: a lifelong advocate for peace eulogizing a young settler. He reached out to Sorek’s mother and father, with whom he shares a bond just as crushing as it is common in Israel — that of parents whose children are lost to the endless conflict. Grossman’s son Uri was killed in the last battle of the Second Lebanon War, two days after the author had joined his fellow literary icons Amos Oz and A.B. Yehoshua to issue a plea for peace.
Grossman did his best to offer Sorek’s parents words of comfort. He said their son seemed to be “a kind, sensitive, youth who loved others and loved peace, with the soul of an artist.”
Indeed, Grossman’s tribute rings like a demand for nuance, for humanity: This was a settler, but also a lover of peace. This was someone killed as he was bringing his teachers a book from across the partisan divide.
It’s a gift, painful but vital, when the dead leave words in their wake.
Twenty-four years ago Yitzhak Rabin was killed. It was two years after Rabin had met Yasir Arafat, leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization, to draw up an agreement for Palestinian self-rule in the occupied territories. With his death, the peace prospects he’d fought for died too; within months, Benjamin Netanyahu became the new prime minister and the Oslo Accords collapsed. The New Yorker called Rabin’s assassination “one of history’s most effective political murders.”
The bullet that tore through Rabin’s chest also bloodied the sheet of paper in his pocket. On that page were the lyrics to “Shir LaShalom,” which translates directly to “A Song of Peace.”
“Don’t say the day will come,” the paper read. “Bring on the day, because it is not a dream.”
In the decades since Rabin’s death, the prospect of peace has seemed to recede further by the year. Every act of violence is tallied and cited by the other side as justification for obstinance and more attacks. Still, there are these moments in the midst of the conflict when a flash of humanity shines through.
Sorek’s death seems tragically familiar. And like so many others, he seems poised to be a pawn in an already toxic political debate. The story might lose nuance as it travels, the boy reduced to a symbol and the death to a talking point.
But the teenager had a message he wanted his teachers to read. He was carrying progressive words into foreign territory. He leaves us with a call for nuance. If there is anything his death shows, it’s that people still yearn to understand one another, more than we know.
Emma Goldberg is a journalist published in the New York Times, Washington Post, the Economist and the Forward, among other places.