I tzik dashed down the stairs as fast as he could carry his large build, and in forty seconds he was out in the front yard, standing between the two jeering Levi boys and Joe, self-appointed champion of human rights.

“What’s the matter with you guys?” he asked. “Can’t you keep yourselves out of trouble?”

“Force is the only language the Arabs understand,” came a new voice. It was a friend of the Levis who must have magically smelled trouble and made his way over. He was smirking — apparently he thought he’d come up with a very clever line.

“There wouldn’t have been any trouble, if your kushi friend hadn’t come along,” said the older brother, trying to calm Itzik down. “Next time we’ll have to make sure he isn’t around.”

“And that old Arab woman should be grateful that we only kicked her crate of figs, and didn’t include her in the bargain, too,” said the younger Levi.

“All the Arabs should be killed off,” said their friend. “That’s the only way they’ll learn.”

“I think you ought to report these young men to the police for violence, property damage, and incitement,” Joe said to Itzik in English as they climbed the stairs.

“If people called the police every time a teenager did some crazy, thoughtless thing, their phone system would crash,” Itzik replied. “And besides, if human rights are so important to you, why don’t you try taking the light rail to Pisgat Ze’ev? Chances are your train will get hit by a few nice, big stones on the way, and then you’ll have some more acts of violence to report. And if you go on from there to the Mount of Olives — you know, what we call Har HaZeitim — you’ll have enough incidents of Arab violence to fill a whole police file.”

“It’s not the same. The Palestinians are an occupied nation. Your people are the occupiers.”

Itzik looked at the dark, resolute face before him. He was seized with a childish desire to answer Joe the way his nieces and nephews had expressed themselves on Shabbos — something along the lines of “Go back to the jungle, Sambo.” But it wasn’t just Joe standing there facing him — it was millions of people with similar opinions.

A crowd of retorts was milling around in his head, each fighting its way to the tip of his tongue. He wanted to say that the so-called occupation was not an occupation at all, that it didn’t give anyone a right to harm civilians in any case; he wanted to argue that many conquered nations would be glad to be treated the way Israel treats the Palestinians. He wanted to compare, explain, and enlighten. But something stopped him. A sense of isolation — that feeling that it makes no difference what you say, because no one will understand you anyway.

Without meaning to, Itzik suddenly heard himself asking Joe a shockingly tactless question: “In your tribe, did they eat people?”

Joe met his eyes for a moment. “Yes,” he said. “Up until about a hundred years ago. It was a sign of victory in war to eat the flesh of the enemy. They believed it gave the warriors strength for the battles to come.”

“And that is… worse than kicking an old peddler woman’s crate of fruit.”

“Of course it is,” said Joe, looking at Itzik as if he were slow on the uptake. “That’s why they don’t do it anymore.”

“But you can’t go around lecturing people about human rights, when your great-grandparents were cannibals.”

“Why not? If they were here, I would lecture them, too.”

(Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 678)