This week I read a story about a 3-year-old in Minnesota who became buddies with his 89-year-old neighbor. Cue the “aww!”
The preschooler’s name is Emmett Rychner, and his WWII veteran friend is Erling Kindem, according to the report from local news station, KARE11.
Emmett and Erling are next-door neighbors. One day, the little boy decided to pay a visit when he was tomatoes growing in Erling’s yard — Emmett loves tomatoes. Since that day they play together almost every day, Emmett’s mother said. They draw pictures, play catch, or race tractors (a toy one for Emmett).
It got me thinking about what local rabbi Neal Katz said about his recent trip to Israel.
“What we need are peace-builders; people who are in the schools, in the community, getting ordinary Palestinians and Israelis to meet one another,” he said. “Peace building is just as important as peacemaking.”
Emmett didn’t know anything about growing tomatoes, and he probably doesn’t know anything about WWII or the challenges that come with being an adult, let alone a senior citizen. The two friends are about as unlikely as two friends can be.
But, they both like tomatoes.
Maybe I’m naïve, but I still believe that everyone has at least one thing in common with each person they meet. It’s like they say: We’re not as different from one another as we think we are.
That’s why I believe in the idea of what Rabbi Katz calls peace building.
Look, I know it would be an understatement to say there are a lot of differences, animosities and wrongs on both sides between the Israelis and the Palestinians and that they can’t just bond over tomatoes tomorrow like the two aforementioned neighbors mentioned. And maybe I’ve seen too many movies with happily-ever-after endings.
But it gave me hope that someone who knows the struggles and the area much better than I think that peace building in the area is possible. It will take time — probably lots and lots of time — but maybe, just maybe, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel for the area.
On Tuesday, Katz and hundreds of peace activists in Israel paid their respects to the family of Mohammad Abu Khdeir, a Palestinian teenager who was beaten, burned and murdered last week by Jewish extremists.
Katz called it “a watershed moment in Israel.”
Let’s hope and pray that it was.