Ma’an News Agency recently did a feature on Haim Bajayo, a 75 year-old Israeli who has family roots in Hevron. Bajayo recently met with Hevron Mayor Khalid Al-Useili, initiating what can only be described as a personal gesture of reconciliation.
Bajayo told Mayor Al-Useili that he was born in Hevron in 1935 and grew up in its Daboya neighborhood. His family held official property documents until 1977, at which time he offered up his home to the Palestinian municipality. He stated at the time that as long as there were settlers in Hevron, there would be no chance of a peace agreement.
As he told the mayor. “I don’t want any of my property or my house back as long as Palestinian homes and lands are not returned. The same day the Palestinians regain what was taken from them in 1948, I’ll come to you and say, ‘I have a house … registered in the real estate department.'”
Bajayo also shared his own family history with the mayor. He revealed that his own family witnessed the 1929 massacre of Hevron’s Jews, revealing that if a Palestinian family hadn’t protected his grandfather at the time, he himself “wouldn’t have been born.”
The article continues:
The meeting ended with Bajayo requesting that after death his body be buried in a Muslim cemetery in a show of respect to the history of his family which once lived in peace with its Arab neighbors in the city. “I want to be buried in Hebron. I won’t go to a Jewish cemetery at any rate, because it’s under the settlers’ control. I’m requesting a modest burial spot in a Muslim cemetery,” he explains.
For his part, the mayor welcomed Bajayo home. “Haim, you are always welcome,” Al-Useili says in the video. “Not as a guest, but as an authentic Hebron citizen. This is an honor for us.”
Pay particular attention to the end of the clip, when a visibly moved Al-Useili tells Bajayo, “I’m getting emotional hearing this…It’s the most important thing in the world for all of us to be humans with the same rights and duties and feelings.”
Just a simple human encounter. Might it offer us a model of a larger gesture of reconciliation between Jews and Palestinians?
Bimheyra beyameinu – May it come speedily in our own day.