Though it does so with increasingly regularity in order to facilitate peace talks, Israel has a strong aversion to releasing jailed Palestinian terrorists, knowing that a good many of them will resume their violent ways. And an even larger number of those who won’t necessarily return to violence will still be held aloft as heroes to encourage others to follow in their footsteps.
While this formula usually holds true, it is certainly not always the case.
Esmat Mansour, who was freed in the first prisoner release accompanying the current US-brokered peace talks, has proved the exception to the rule by going out of his way to build bridges with his former enemies.
Mansour was jailed in 1993 when, as a 16-year-old caught up in the frenzy of anti-Israel hatred fomented by the Palestinian leadership, he and three other Palestinian youths stabbed to death an Israeli man.
Mansour told the Associated Press that while he doesn’t necessarily regret any of his past actions, the time has come to move beyond violent conflict. The former killer insists he would never take another life, and wants to instill that quality in a Palestinian society that has become steeped in murderous intent.
“The most important thing is to … value all human life and to learn tolerance,” he said.
Today, Mansour teaches Hebrew to Palestinian high school students to enable them to confront what he still calls the “Israeli occupation” with words, rather than weapons. But, he says, learning Hebrew is also a means to facilitating the building of bridges between Arabs and Jews.