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Terrorism Won't Break Israeli Will

May 9, 2009 | by Yossi Klein Halevi

This fight is for the world's future.

Wednesday it was a university cafeteria next door to the art school where our son's baby-sitter is exhibiting her graduation project. Two days ago it was our family's favorite falafel place downtown, where the owner gives you a falafel ball to stimulate your appetite while you wait for your order to be filled.

Gradually, over the last two years of terrorist war, the landmarks of daily life have been turned into scenes of atrocity. Yet we've stopped marking those scenes with memorials or plaques listing the victims. Partly that's because there are now too many sites to commemorate. But partly too it's because Israeli society knows it can't afford to dwell on its losses in the midst of war. Just as soldiers don't pause to eulogize a fallen friend during battle, we too must continue fighting this war in which civilians are the front-line soldiers and persistence is our most powerful weapon.

This terrible summer is defined not only by terrorism but also by a stubborn Israeli refusal to be terrorized. Last week, thousands attended the Jerusalem Film Festival, enjoying live jazz and the latest foreign films. In the lulls between terrorist attacks, we return to cafes and restaurants and shopping malls, defying those who seek to destroy our public spaces.

We've become expert in finding safe corners where we can steal some moments of normalcy. Last week, my wife and I drove 20 minutes out of Jerusalem to a kibbutz in the Judean hills that offers a famous Friday brunch. When we got there, we found hundreds of other Jerusalemites who had the same idea of finding a respite in the countryside.

One example of our ability to endure the unendurable was provided by a recent restaurant review in a local Jerusalem newspaper. "A moment before an emergency army call-up notice whisked away my partner to an unknown destination and for unknown length of time," wrote the reviewer, "we went out with our young daughter to celebrate a year of our becoming parents. At the entrance [to the restaurant] we rang the bell, and only after they saw that we were lovers of peace and seekers of life did they open the locked door." That kind of irreverent humor helps us get through the day. Most of all, we persist, thanks to our national unity. This notoriously fractious society has rediscovered its commonality.

Ariel Sharon, once unelectable, now enjoys 70% support. Even many of us who once opposed occupying the territories now agree that we have no choice but to destroy the terrorist state-in-the-making nurtured by Yasser Arafat.

We draw strength from the realization that we are the front line in a global war against a new barbarity.

Rather than undermine our morale, the terrorist attacks only strengthen our resolve. Most Israelis realize that this isn't a war of Palestinian desperation but part of a long pattern of Palestinian self-destructiveness. Just as there would have been no Palestinian refugee problem had the Palestinians not rejected the U.N. partition in 1947 and tried to destroy the newborn Jewish state, and just as there would have been no Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza had the Arab world not tried again to destroy Israel in 1967, so too would there be no reoccupation today had the Palestinians accepted Israel's offer of statehood two years ago.

Finally, we draw strength from the realization that we are the front line in a global war against a new barbarity. Humanity is poised between breakthrough and breakdown, between unimagined scientific and medical advances and the forces of terrorist dissipation and religious reaction that would send us back to the Middle Ages.

Not surprisingly, the Jews once again find themselves the primary targets of those intent on world domination. As history has repeatedly proved, what begins as a threat to the Jews ends with a threat to civilization. In clinging to a semblance of normal life and refusing to be terrorized, we are fighting a war whose implications extend far beyond Israel. Terrorists around the world are watching this conflict to see whether terrorism breaks Israeli will. Whether or not the world recognizes it, we know we're holding the line for its future as well as ours.

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