Late in the evening on August 16th, 2012, three Palestinian teenagers were attacked in Zion Square, in the heart of West Jerusalem. One of them, 17 year old Jumal Julani, was nearly beaten to death. According to police, hundreds apparently watched as those who attacked Jamal screamed phrases like “Death to Arabs.”
When we read reports of this incident, we were deeply disturbed that such violence had unfolded on a street many of us knew so well. Yet many of us were not surprised. While our Jewish community regularly speaks out against incitement against Jews within Palestinian society – as we should – when it comes to Palestinians, we often hear rhetoric of broad generalizations and even prejudice, racism, and dehumanization. We hear this language on the streets of Jerusalem. And we hear it too often in our day schools and synagogues.
The Sunday following the attack, nearly 75 J Street U student leaders from 40 schools met outside Washington DC. We decided that while there was little solace we could bring to the victims, we could express a sense of collective responsibility for a conversation and culture that can allow such violence to unfold.
And so each wrote a letter to Jamal Julani. These letters are a simple and small gesture, miniscule next to the violence endured, but a way for us to reach out across the oceans to express our concern for the victims and our commitment to work on behalf of an a two-state resolution to the conflict, and an Israel where both we and our families and Jamal and his family can walk in peace. You can read some of our letters here, and we invite you to write your own. We’ll deliver the letters to the Julani family in late October.