Dear Innocent Arab,

I see you every day. You stock the shelves of my supermarket, sweep the leaves off my sidewalk, and hurl my garbage bags into the truck. You undertake my renovations, paint my community centers, and sanitize the bathrooms of the local clinic.

You are probably a father of children. You likely enjoy Turkish coffee and a daily dose of hookah. You labor long, hard hours to support your family, often doing thankless work. Surely you’d savor some recognition, some spark of humanity.

Growing up in New York, my parents trained us to treat both Gentile and Jewish workers with exquisite respect. We smiled, complimented, offered cold drinks. We adored our housekeepers and handymen, bought them Christmas gifts, helped send their kids to college.

When I pass you, Hardworking Arab, I want to do the same. I want to nod “hello,” say “thank you,” teach my children that every human being is made b’tzelem elokim – in the image of God – deserving of utmost respect. I want to express appreciation for my clean streets, my impeccable city infrastructure.

But with every stabbing, with every synagogue massacre, with every car “accident,” your people deny me this opportunity. You deny me the chance to show basic decency.

My young children are afraid and do not dare to greet you. Instead, when they make out your guttural Arabic and sight your neon municipal vests, they bury their heads in my skirt and quicken their pace, nudging me to veer in the opposite direction. I want to say “It’s okay, kids, these are nice Arabs! These are Arabs who just want to make a living.” But instead, I swallow hard and keep walking. Fast.

It’s not hard to conceal a knife.

“Are all Gentiles evil?” my four year old asks. “Do all Gentiles want to hurt, stab Jews?”

“No!” I practically scream. “There are wonderful, caring Gentiles out there! Millions of them!”

“Okay, but are there nice Gentiles in Israel?” my oldest wants to know.

What should I say?

Humane Arab, I’m sure you exist somewhere. I’m certain that somewhere in the backstreets of Bethlehem, Nazareth and Ramallah are many innocent Arabs who feel sick at the murder of mothers, fathers, and babies, who want to live peaceful, productive lives.

But when I see you in the street, how can I be sure you’re one of “them”?

Democracy asserts that the accused are innocent until proven guilty. But here in the ancient streets of Jerusalem, we cannot afford to take that liberty. When the construction worker your neighbor knew for a decade stabs him in the chest; when the teenager who piled your grocery tomatoes storms into your prayer hall wielding an axe, when the Bezeq technician who installed your telephone line slams his company vehicle into an elderly Jerusalem sage, we can no longer afford to give the benefit of the doubt.

There is too much at stake.

Hardworking Arab, show me your humanity. Distinguish yourself from bloodthirsty terrorists. Reject the revolting indoctrination that has achieved nothing for your people. Love your children more than you hate ours. Empower me to show my kids that you are moral and decent.

And next time we see you in the street, we will stop. We’ll offer a warm smile, a cold drink, and we’ll say “Thank you. You are valued.”