Despite the 17 months of terrorism we Israelis have endured, we are shocked today even as we are grieving. Eleven innocent people were killed by a Palestinian suicide bomber in Jerusalem last night. Three innocent people were killed by Palestinian terrorists shooting and throwing grenades in Netanya. Fourteen innocent people slaughtered in a two hour period. More than 100 were injured. We are angry, we are frustrated, but we are not rampaging through the streets shooting weapons in the air. We are not attacking Arabs who walk freely through our streets. We are not sending suicidal killers with bombs filled with nails, bolts and ball bearings dipped in rat poison, and gunmen with automatic weapons into Palestinian streets to kill as many innocent people as possible. We have not let hate dominate us. We are civilized people, unlike those Palestinians who take to their streets to celebrate when their evil brothers and sisters commit crimes against humanity.
I used to live a few hundred meters from the cafe where the suicide bomber attacked in Jerusalem on Saturday night, March 9th. At times when I have looked out of my window in the cottage that is now my home, I have thought it might not have been wise to move from there. I lived in a very secure area, on the same street as the Prime Minister's residence. Last night proved that even that street is not safe – the cafe was about 100 meters from the Prime Minister's residence.
I now live on the border of an Arab neighborhood of Jerusalem. It has been quiet for most of the time since Yasser Arafat unleashed his terrorists in September, 2000. In the first days there were stone throwing incidents at homes on our street. Later there were some fire bombs launched which caused damage but did not hurt anyone. Nothing provoked these attacks except the hatred of the attackers. Since then the people of Jebel Mukaber, that Arab neighborhood, have not taken up arms against us, their neighbors. On two occasions terrorists infiltrated and were shooting automatic weapons very close to my home. No one was hurt, and the gunmen were not local people. This past week my street was targeted with fire bombs. No one was hurt, no damage was done, no thanks to the terrorists. The next night a suicide bomber hid out in the basement of a house in Jebel Mukaber. He was captured as were two armed gunmen that were found during the search for the terrorist. No matter where I have lived, shopped, met friends at cafes, there are scars ingrained from terrorist strikes. There is no escaping the fact that I am living on the frontline of the latest battles in the Arab war to destroy Israel. Each day it feels like the war comes closer, and it takes more and more effort to keep the light of hope for a peaceful life shining.
On Friday night I had Shabbat dinner with my neighbors. Their oldest son is serving in the IDF and he had been uppermost in my thoughts these last few days. When Nataniel last called home a few days ago, he told his family he was stationed at Har Gilo. He could say no more than that. Judging by the location, he has probably been involved in some way with the recent events in Bethlehem, Beit Jalla, and the surrounding small villages to halt the attacks on the Gilo neighborhood of Jerusalem, to confiscate the weapons, bombs and missiles and dismantle the weapons factories, to round up terrorists. Some insist on calling those villages "refugee camps" but that is patently wrong, since those villages are under Palestinian Autonomy control, and thus the Palestinian inhabitants are not refugees.
I worry about Nataniel, and about the other young soldiers I know who graduated from high school and entered the armed forces. I pray for them and all the young soldiers, and hope they will be safe as they encounter danger from Palestinians who revel in violence and hatred. Yes, they revel, as they did in Ramallah when they lynched innocent people, as they did when babies were slaughtered in Jerusalem, dancing in celebration in the streets. Nataniel's brother, Noam, was with us as his father chanted the Kiddush prayer over the wine, as his mother lit the Shabbat candles. Noam will enter the IDF in a few weeks. These neighbors have been activists in the left wing movement. The mother of Nataniel and Noam said to me on Friday night, "When Yitzak Rabin signed the agreement on the White House lawn, I knew we would have to pay a heavy price. But I never dreamed it would come to this…" One of their sons is in the paratroopers, the other is entering an intelligence unit, they are not refusing to serve and defend Israel.
Yoav, the son of another of my neighbors is a photographer for the IDF. Before he entered the army he would show his work to me, since I am a photographer, and I helped him put his portfolio together. He was wounded by large stones thrown at him by Palestinians. Stones are weapons, and they can, and have, killed.
Israel's army is called the Israel Defense Force, and the emphasis is on the word Defense. The IDF has successfully defended the people of Israel in numerous wars waged against us by the Arabs. And they are defending us now against the terrorism launched by the Palestinian Authority under the leadership of Yasser Arafat. Defense against terrorism is why the IDF enters Palestinian cities and villages. We are not trying to dominate their lives. We are defending ourselves so that we can live! The terrorist cowards who attack and kill civilians and babies are members of various terror organizations from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, through the Tanzim, and Fatah factions. Those groups conduct their evil actions undeterred by the Palestinian Authority and with their behind the scenes approval. Since the Palestinian leadership approves by consent, incitement, and refusal, to disarm and imprison the terrorists, Israel must do so with all the means at our disposal. Let us be clear, the majority of the Palestinian dead have either been active terrorists, or engaged in violent activities against Israel and Israelis. Few, very few, were innocent bystanders. And the responsibility for the deaths of those bystanders lies with the Palestinian Authority who unleashed the violence and does nothing to stop it. It is a tragedy of war that bystanders are killed and injured. There would be no such tragedies if Yasser Arafat and his gangs would cease and desist.
These days I am trying to concentrate on preparing for a new, group exhibition, and creating new work for a series of images, photographs and digital paintings, that reflect on the relationship of Creation and creativity. Some ask how I can focus now, in such terrible times of death and destruction. My answer is simply that creativity must continue now, perhaps especially now, in defiance of the forces of destruction that keep attacking us. It is our heritage. Through all our generations, Jews have continued to create, despite wars, pogroms, and even in the death camps of the Nazis. I follow in the footsteps of my people.
The Palestinians have declared and enacted war against Israel. They try to escape responsibility by suggesting these violent incidents are the actions of frustrated Palestinians, and rogue organizations. The Palestinian Authority has enough armed forces to end the violence if it wishes, but it does not wish to. And if they claim they cannot, they are not a valid leadership and should be overthrown.
In eight years, why have the Palestinians done almost nothing to create jobs, build businesses, and lay the infrastructure for a stable society for their people? Arafat's presidential palaces, airports, weapons purchases have done nothing to help his people. He has not built new neighborhoods for the people in slum areas, but he has created a corrupt leadership of his cronies who pocket and bank the funds donated to them by sympathetic nations of the world.
Why, when the media and governments of the world want to evaluate conditions in countries around the world do they speak of public opinion, and when they speak of the Palestinians and other Arabs, they refer to the "Palestinian Street" or the "Arab Street?" Is this not a way to condone the riots, and the vicious rumors that infect their streets? Why not expect them to express themselves in the same way other civilized people do, not by rioting or incitement in the streets, but by legitimate expressions of public opinion? Why do the same media and governments warn that if the Arabs do not get what they want, bloodshed and violence will follow, and accept this as a norm?
It is tragic that because of Arab pressure Colin Powell has once again tried to equate Arab terrorism with just defensive actions by the Israel government. After Ariel Sharon made a public declaration to negotiate a cease-fire, he was answered with horrific terrorist attacks. The United States should stand strong in the face of Arab pressure and support Israel as it fights the battle against terrorism. It is the same battle the United States has undertaken, and Arafat and his legions are no different in their crimes than Al Qaeda and all terrorists worldwide.
I just returned from a short trip to New York. A few days before I left to go abroad, 25-year-old law student Moran Amit was brutally stabbed to death in the Jerusalem Peace Forest, by a gang of teen-aged terrorists from the Jerusalem neighborhood of Abu Tor. I have dug the earth in that forest, and planted trees there with my own hands. I have a daughter and a daughter-in-law who are lawyers. My heart breaks for Moran whose life was viciously taken, and for her family. A friend and I passed close to the Peace Forest the day Moran was killed. We saw the police cars and the ambulances speeding to the scene of her murder, their siren ringing through the streets. We knew there had been another attack, but we did not know where, we did not know the details. Later that evening I learned what had happened. I wept, then lit a memorial candle for Doran.
Now there is another candle burning, for all those who lives were destroyed by Yasser Arafat's terrorists on Motze Shabbat, Saturday night. I cannot count how many I have lit during the past 17 months. As the memorial candle burns lower in my kitchen, the names of the murdered are published. The candle is burning for all of them, all of those innocents, including nine month old Avia Malka, from South Africa, a visitor to Israel, whose parents are now in mourning.
Just a short time ago two Palestinian terrorists were on their way to carry out another suicide terror attack in Jerusalem. The car was blown up, the terrorists the only ones who were killed. They were traveling between Bethlehem and Jebel Mukaber when a missile reportedly stopped them. It is beginning to look like the Palestinian terrorists believe Jebel Mukaber, is a safe haven for terrorists.
At the beginning of each new week it is the custom in Israel for people to greet each other with the phrase, Shevuah Tov, a wish that the coming week will be good. These days, all of us now add the phrase in hushed voices, Be Safe.
Also by Reva Sharon;
©2002 - Reva Sharon