As someone who recently visited Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s grave, I was both amazed and sad that a rabbi would be “virtually lynched” because he considered visiting the site in Ramallah (“A Rabbi Is ‘Lynched,’” Sept. 9). Visiting someone’s grave does not imply complete agreement with what they did or stood for. A major reason for travel is to be exposed to new ideas, some not entirely comfortable.
While the rabbi’s visit to Arafat’s grave was canceled, I certainly hope that the group went into Ramallah and visited its bustling markets and established institutions. It would have opened their eyes in a way impossible from reading newspapers or going to lectures. We saw doting grandparents with their smiling grandchildren enjoying ice cream, young couples lugging TVs into their cars, businessmen with their attaché cases and women of all ages (in head scarves or not) out for the day. In short, we saw a thriving city whose daily life rarely makes the news.
Yes, there were Palestinian flags and “Free Palestine” posters. There were also posters for an annual children’s book fair and a Danish/Palestinian classical music concert. First Bank of Palestine ads featured teenagers in graduation caps and multigenerational families at dinner. Other ads were for soccer equipment and facial massages.
Since the museum is not yet open, Arafat’s grave is (at best) a 10-minute photo op. However, a visit to Ramallah is crucial for anyone who truly wants to understand the situation that Israelis and Palestinians are facing.