In the world of international politics, it seems like a little thing. In the world of international news, it barely made a blip. But to Israeli Yigal Cohen, it made the difference between life and death.
Yigal had been in the hospital for four months, waiting for a heart transplant. The issue was finding a donor, and time was not on Yigal's side. Only 36 years old, he suffered from hereditary heart disease, and his condition was critical.
When it seemed things could only get worse, a donor was found. Doctors rushed Yigal into surgery and performed a successful heart transplant. It was only when he woke up that Yigal found out to whom he owed the gift of life.
His donor was Mazen Djulani, a Palestinian pharmacist, husband, and father. Only 32, Mazen had been killed as he sat playing cards at a neighborhood club: A burst of gunfire from a passing car took his life.
Mazen's family and friends knew of no reason for his murder, but in the daily violence that is a fact of life in Israel and Palestine, Mazen may quite literally have been caught up in the crossfire of revenge. Only a day earlier, Arab terrorists had ignited a suicide bomb in a seaside disco, killing 17 young Jewish people and wounding many more. It's possible that Mazen was killed in an act of blind revenge.
In the hospital, the fathers of the murdered Mazen and the saved Yigal embraced. Tears were shed.
Outside the hospital, the event was already being used for political purposes: Many of the major Israeli media ignored the story, while Palestinian sources accused Mazen's murderer of being a Jewish settler, and described how Israeli police harassed mourners at Mazen's funeral.
David Cohen, Yigal's father, hoped that someday Lutfi and Mazen might help teach both sides a greater lesson. Speaking to reporters, David said that the decision that helped save his son's life was "really touching, especially in these days when relations are so tense. This noble family comes and teaches us that it is possible to do things in a different way."
For now, at least, it's a small thing to know that individuals can create peace where governments cannot. A small thing to us, perhaps, but a big thing to Yigal Cohen.
--contributed to by Wire Service Stories