Terror All Too Familiar
An Israeli father and the Haifa bus bombing.
"I love you Daddy." These are the words that melt every father's heart.
Especially when told to you by your teenage boy. These were the last words
told yesterday by 13-year-old Yuval Mendelevitch, to his father. Yuval was
speaking to his dad on his cell phone, before the line went dead -- cut off in
mid-sentence by the suicide bomber that destroyed the boy and his phone on
Bus 37 in Haifa.
Nine school kids were among the 15 Israelis killed yesterday. Schools all
over Haifa suspended studies so that high school students could attend
their classmates' funerals. A couple of kids died from each school. On TV
tonight you saw dazed kids sitting on the ground, building memorials,
lighting yahrzeit memorial candles and talking about how they just saw so
and so a few minutes before they got on the fateful bus. Other kids telling
the stories about how lucky they were that they stayed behind to ask a
teacher a question. Most kids sharing the stories about the departed, and
how much they loved life, played soccer so well, wanted to be a pilot.
The stories of the victims are almost too painful to bear. The Hershko
family, where Moti, 41, the father and Tom, 16, the son, were both killed
as they came back from a "special day" together in order to buy mom a
Abigail Litle,14, was an American Christian girl active in Arab-Jewish co-existence projects. Daniel Harush,16, who stayed behind while his class was on a field trip to the death camps of Poland. Tal Kehrmann, 17, and Liz Katzman,16, close friends who died on their way to pick up costumes for the school play they were preparing, "The Best of Friends."
The IDF thwarted over 120 terror attacks in the month of February alone. The odds were bound to catch up with us.
The unspeakable pain of this all too familiar Israeli drama was somewhat
forgotten for much of the past two months. We were amazed and superstitious
about the respite from the bestial Palestinian terror. The fact that there
were no suicide/homicide bombings for the two-month period was not for lack
of trying by the terrorists. The IDF thwarted over 120 terror attacks in the
month of February alone. The odds were bound to catch up with us. We all
knew this. Our young soldiers were busy every day arresting and eliminating
scores of terrorists who were desperately trying to get through and kill
Jews. Such prevention is effective, but never completely effective against
implacable blood lust
I was speaking to a friend in America by phone, on the afternoon of the
bombing and he asked, "How is the situation in Israel?"
I hesitated, fearful to jinx what good fortune I felt, and ultimately answered, "Well, it's been actually pretty good lately. Believe it or not business is picking up, we
have a new government, and it's been relatively quiet, thank God."
Just as I said this, my friend went silent on the phone and then told me that an
email alert had flashed across his computer screen about a bus bombing in
Haifa. The idyll was over, cut off, and I was yanked abruptly back to the
"reality" of our Israeli situation.
We all know the drill. You first call your family and friends. Make sure
everyone you know is all right. Then you hit the web, flip on the radio, go
to the TV and get your dose of pain. A truly bolus dose. And only then can
you force yourself to go back to work.
You still start every phone conversation, every meeting with a reference to the "pigua" (attack) but somehow you go on, you must go on. It helps me to visualize myself at work as a soldier, on the economic front lines, fighting to save jobs. Doing my part albeit in a vastly inferior and wimpy way relative to our unbelievably
heroic and unassuming young IDF guys and girls crawling through the scum of
the Nablus casbah or driving tanks in and out the infernos of Gaza City.
When the day finally winds down before I go home, that is when I get my own
special helping of Jewish angst. I visit leading websites of the media elite
(The NY Times, The Washington Post, The LA Times, etc) to see how the
bombing is being portrayed. How is our story being told?
I feel like I have to scream because the story being told in this coverage is not our story. It is science fiction.
It is then that I feel like I have to scream or slam a fist in my screen because the story being told in this coverage is not my story, it is not our story. It is science fiction. It is a bad horror film.
The bombing they describe is a "retaliation" coinciding with an Israeli
"offensive" (since when does killing terrorists classify as anything but a
good defense?). They don't describe the kids, the heartbreaking stories, the
father and son killed together in each other's arms. In the NY Times, the
headline says the "Bomb Shreds Israeli Bus" as though there was no bomber,
and the bomb just came down from the heavens by itself. They don't tell you
that the bomber left a note praising the terrorists who brought down the
Twin Towers. They don't tell you of the unmitigated joy in Palestinian
cities when the bombing was announced, where people stopped their cars in
the middle of the streets and honked for joy and passed out sweets.
What they do is fill their stories with ersatz "balance," detailed reports
of the battles and casualties in Gaza to offset the horror of the bus.
They give you the famous score card of dead; how many Palestinians and how
many Israelis died in the period -- almost like it's a weather report. As if there is a moral equivalence between kids targeted on their way home from
school, and terrorists brought down on their way to kill the kids.
Sure there have been tragic and innocent Palestinian victims during the
battles against terror. You have to be inhuman not to share the pain of a
Palestinian family loosing its pregnant mother under a fallen wall. Yet to
fail to establish context, to explain why these battles are happening in
crowded civilian areas because the terrorists have deliberately set up shop
there, is to miss the story, to fabricate a false equivalence where none
This is not an "uprising" for Palestinian independence, as simplistic
reporters would have you believe. Palestinian independence has been
supported by Prime Minister Sharon and by a majority of Israelis and was
offered to them at Camp David, which is exactly when they chose to begin
their war. This is a struggle for our existence. The Palestinian terrorists
don't want independence; they want us gone. And they want us dead, especially our children. The "resistance" of the Hamas and the Al Aksa Martyrs is the genocide we Jews know all too well.
Later that night after the bombing, when I went home and hung out with my
family and gave my kids more hugs than usual, I realized that our reality
here in Israel is really pretty hard to explain. My kids told me about their
days at school, and how much fun they had, before the bombing was announced.
It was, after all, Rosh Hodesh Adar Bet, the new moon holiday, the beginning
of the "happiest" month of the year where the kids go wild in school. They
dance on tables, and play pranks, and in general let loose. Each child
competed with the other to tell me the most outrageous hi-jinx that happened
in his class.
When one of my kids reflected that some families would have a tough time celebrating Purim this year, we turned off the TV coverage and tucked the kids in. As I scratched his back, my 13-year-old said, " I love you Daddy."
It melted my heart.