On Feb. 1, I awoke to the news that a bus full of “settlers” had careened into the valley near the settlement of Ma’ale Levona. The Palestinian news report that I heard reported the number of injured and dead, and my heart broke over the tragedy.
But in the midst of this awful accident, a compassionate Palestinian family, the Al-Azzeh’s, stepped out of their comfort zone to help rescue the injured on the cold, rainy night. Unreported by the Palestinian media, I didn’t hear about this family until I read the Jerusalem post article.
Tears welled up in my eyes as my grief for the victims of the bus crash turned into a sense of hope. I thought of all the political and social borders this family crossed to show humanity toward their neighbors whom are considered “enemies.” I thought, “These people are true heroes.”
A friend suggested that we go meet this family and so we drove all the way to the north of the West Bank and asked around for the Al-Azzeh home. When we found it, we were welcomed by smiling faces. I told them that we came because we heard about what they did to help the Israelis and that we admired their selflessness. The father thanked me and invited me into his humble home.
Then he related the events of that evening:
“It was the middle of night and it was raining outside. I was asleep when I heard a crash in the valley. My sons and I went out, following the voices in the midst of the rain. In the cold and darkness, we descended the mountain until we reached the bus. We saw injured girls stuck on the bus, so we immediately helped them out. We covered them with plastic because it was raining. But they were scared because we are Arabs, so we told them that we were there to help them. They started to feel safe as they watched us continue assisting the others.”
The father called the Israeli police and rescue services soon responded.
I told the father he was brave.
“I followed my conscience,” he responded. “I don’t care what the people are saying about me! Those who have a heart know what we should do in a situation like this — and that is to follow basic humanitarian steps. It doesn’t matter if they are Israeli.”
Even in a culture in which each side looks at the other as an enemy and dehumanizes them, many refuse to give in to hatred, but rather chose to follow the example of the Good Samaritan. What I saw in this family was the modern-day Good Samaritan.
“No one from the Palestinian media came or even cares” about what we did, the father told me.
The truth is, our media focuses on the negative, but that doesn’t mean that the positive doesn’t exist in our society. This family didn’t capture the eyes of the Palestinian media because they didn’t serve its political and national agenda. But they did capture the hearts of many who care for others as they do.
We can appreciate the courage it took for these family members to do what they did. Their humility and bravery teaches us all to look at others as, simply, human beings — because we are all created in God’s image.
The father told me that prior to this accident, Israelis from Ma’ale Levona had never entered their town. But since then, several residents of the settlement have come to the Al-Azzeh home to thank them for their help and compassion. The love that this Palestinian family showed drew the settlers to their town for the first time.
I thought about this: how much fear we have of the “other side” and how this fear rules us.
This family, by their actions, showed us how an act of love can conquer fear.
Yes, it can.