The first thing Itzhak Frankenthal did after his son’s murder was exact threepromises from his wife. First, he said, the couple would not blameGod. Second, they would thank God for at least allowing them to havetheir son’s remains to bury. Many Israeli families never receive thebodies of their loved ones killed by war or, in Arik Frankenthal’scase, by terrorists. Lastly, Frankenthal made his wife promise thattheir life without Arik would go on. After sitting
, Frankenthal walked intohis children’s room, turned on the TV, and told them that they mustgo back to doing normal things.
But Frankenthal is the first to acknowledge thathis life has never been the same since July 7, 1994, when Arik’s bodywas found dumped in a village near Ramallah, riddled with bulletholes and stab wounds. The soldier had been hitchhiking home on leavewhen he was kidnapped and murdered by Hamas terrorists. He was19.
Before his murder, Arik, an Orthodox Jew, had beendrawn to the nascent religious Zionist peace movement. He had spokento his father about Oz V’Shalom/Netivot Shalom, a group thatmaintains that Jewish law, or halacha, requires Israel tocompromise with the Palestinians. One month after his son’s death,Frankenthal dissolved his business interests and threw hisconsiderable energies behind Oz V’Shalom — eventually becomingexecutive director.
He also organized 50 families who have lost lovedones to terror to speak out for compromise. “We are suffering,” hesays of the family group. “We know what it means to lose ourchildren. Eventually, we will have to give the Palestinians a state,but, in the meantime, we will lose more children. Why wait?”
If you want to sway public opinion in Israel’sskeptical society, you better come armed with the right credentials.Frankenthal, the Orthodox father who lost a son to terrorism, knowshe has, if nothing else, instant credibility.
He can understand those unwilling to concede anypart of the Land of Israel, which they believe God granted the Jewishpeople. “I know it belongs to us,” he says, “but we realize we can’thold on to all of Greater Israel without paying a very high price,losing our morale and losing our children.” The Jewish law of savinglife, pikuach nefesh, clearly overrides the value of expanding Jewishterritory. “There is nothing in all of Jewish values about lettingchildren die for a bigger Israel,” he says. “Why hold on to the Tombof the Fathers [near Hebron] to create graves for ourchildren?”
Oz V’Shalom’s message has resonated in a worldwhere Orthodoxy more often than not connotes fundamentalism. “Thepeople who are credible are religious people talking peace andcompromise,” says Frankenthal.
The organization has grown from 450 to 4,500members. The next step is to market the group’s peace plan, whichcalls for Israel to annex about 7 percent of the West Bank and Gaza,and along with it about 100,000 of the 130,000 settlers. The rest ofthose areas would become a Palestinian state, devoid of heavyarmaments.
The group devised the plan after Frankenthal heldmeetings with Israelis of all political leanings, generals andPalestinians. A just peace, he concluded, is impossible. How can heever exact justice for the murder of his son? “Don’t look for a justpeace,” he says, “look for a wise peace.”
Frankenthal is in Los Angeles as part of afund-raising drive to help Oz V’Shalom distribute its “Wise Peace”plan in Israel and to educate settlers and religious students on thehalacha of peace.
Because of his background, Frankenthal has beenable to take his message where other peace activists rarely tread. Hewill speak on Saturday morning at the Orthodox B’nai David-JudeaCongregation on Pico Boulevard and on Sunday at Temple Israel ofHollywood. Both events are open to the public.
In his pursuit of peace, Frankenthal is fearlessand focused. “Since Arik’s murder, nothing upsets me. When I wonderif what I’m doing is right, Arik reaches out to me and says, ‘Thankyou, Dad.'”
For more information, write Oz V’Shalom, P.O.B.4433, Jerusalem, Israel, 91043. Tel. (02) -566-4711. E-mail:email@example.com. — Robert Eshman,Managing Editor
A Women’s Peace
Perhaps it was only coincidence, but just as ElNiño made a last swirl through Los Angeles, two of Israel’smost outspoken feminists/peace activists, Naomi Chazan and GaliaGolan, swept through town with their gusty critiques of the Jewishstate’s political and social progress.
At a lecture last month organized by Friends ofGivat Haviva, Chazan spoke of her sadness, anger and disappointmentover the stagnation of the peace process.
“Nothing is moving in the peace process. Nothing,”she said.
According to Chazan, the stalled peace process hascontributed to Israel’s economic recession, a sharp division amongcitizens, and an unpleasant mood in Israel. One of the most upsettingresults of the frozen negotiations with Arab countries are the sourrelations that Israel now suffers with other countries. Some, shesaid, are even considering applying economic sanctions onIsrael.
“Three years ago, we were flying high in theinternational arena, and now people don’t even want to talk to us,”said Chazan.
Galia Golan, in an interview with The JewishJournal, expressed similar sentiments.
“With Rabin, tourism was up, investments were up,morale was up. We were beginning to be part of the region,” saidGolan, professor of Soviet East European Studies at Hebrew Universityand founding member and spokesperson for Peace Now.
In contrast to the hope and excitement thatIsraelis felt during the Rabin years, many now feel isolated,disillusioned and disappointed. Many had hoped that the Netanyahugovernment would support the Oslo accords and witness thecontinuation of Israel’s political and economic successes, Golansaid.
“This [Netanyahu] government was democraticallyelected, but I don’t think this is what they were elected to do,” shesaid.
Golan and Chazan may have rained some on Israel’s50th-birthday parades, but their criticism of government policy wasmitigated by news of headway the two women were making in improvingthe status of women in Israel. One purpose of Golan’s visit to theUnited States was to raise funds for the Lafer Center for Women’sStudies at Hebrew University, the only program of its kind at anIsraeli University. In early June, scholars will meet in Jerusalemfor the Lafer Center Conference on Women in the Yishuv and the EarlyState, which will be held jointly with Brandeis University.
As chair of the Knesset’s Committee on thePersonal Status of Women, Chazan helped push through the legislativebody a bill that defines and prohibits sexual harassment ingovernment offices and institutions.
Despite their recent achievements, Golan andChazan note two major obstacles that Israeli women still face: thepolitical influence of the religious parties, who have limitednotions of women’s roles, and sexism in the army. The message manywomen receive in the army is that they are not needed. But Golanmaintains that peace will improve the situation of women.
“The army is sexist. It is a patriarchalsituation. With peace, the social importance of the army will recede.This will be good for women,” said Golan.
“We’re not looking for peace because peace is anobjective,” said Chazan. “We’re looking for peace as a vehicle for ajust society in Israel.” — OritArfa, Contributing Writer