Staff Sgt. Noam Apter was a handsome 23-year-old officer in the Israeli Defense Force. A scholar and warrior, Apter studied for his rabbinic degree at the yeshiva in Otniel, a Jewish settlement in the south hills of Hebron. On Dec. 27, 2002, Apter was learning at the yeshiva with his friends and comrades while on unpaid leave from the IDF. That night, as the Jewish Sabbath began, the entire yeshiva sat down to the traditional Friday night meal, a joyous meal of song and dancing. Apter was on kitchen duty and brought out the food to over a hundred assembled students in the dining hall. Three other students, Zvi Ziman, 18, Gabriel Hoter, 17, and Yehuda Bamberger, 20, were also on kitchen duty.
There was a knock at the back door of the kitchen. Two men in IDF uniforms and bulletproof vests, their faces obscured by shadow, asked for a bit of food. The yeshiva students often gave meals to hungry IDF soldiers guarding the settlement, so the request was nothing unusual. When the students assented and opened the back door, the two men, armed with M16s, burst in and began firing -- they were Palestinian terrorists, disguised in IDF uniforms. Apter, Bamberger, Ziman and Hoter were immediately struck by bullets.
Noam Apter saw that the door to the dining room was unlocked; if the terrorists made it to the door, dozens of yeshiva students would be murdered. With his last burst of strength, Apter sprinted to the door, locked it and threw the key into a dark corner. The terrorists shot him in the back. Dying, he fell to the ground and blocked the door with his body. As Gideon Shaviv, a visiting student from another yeshiva, stated: "The terrorists murdered four people who were unable to defend themselves. Apter's actions saved our lives."
Zvi Ziman, Gabriel Hoter and Yehuda Bamberger were buried the day of Dec. 29. Noam Apter was laid to rest at midnight on Dec. 29 in his hometown of Shiloh.
On Nov. 21, 2002, Nael Abu Hilail, a 23-year-old Palestinian, approached an Israeli bus in Bethlehem. Hilail, a member of the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas and a man with ties to Islamic Jihad, boarded the bus at a little after 7 a.m. Hilail wore a belt, packed with explosives, as well as nuts and bolts to aggravate the injuries of the soon-to-be victims. At 7:10 a.m., Hilail detonated, blowing out the bus. Blood and body parts splattered the bus and the surrounding area; a disemboweled torso lay in front of the bus -- in all, 11 people died on the spot, and 50 were severely wounded. Seven of the dead were adults, three were teenagers, and one was an 8-year-old boy on his way to school.
The bomber's father, Azmi, ecstatically proclaimed pride at his son's "achievement." His 10-year-old daughter stood next to him as he expressed his joy. "Our religion says we are proud of him until the day of resurrection," said the terrorist's father. "This is a challenge to the Zionist enemies." Azmi Abu Hilail expresses the opinion of a vast majority of the Palestinians. According to the most recent poll, from the Jerusalem Media and Communication Center, 62.7 percent of Palestinians advocate suicide bombings, 63.5 percent advocate "military operations" inside pre-1967 Israel, 75.3 percent agree with armed struggle against Israel, and 47 percent, a plurality, believe the end goal of the intifada is the complete destruction of the state of Israel.
The contrast between Noam Apter and Nael Abu Hilail is a stark one. Apter sacrificed his life because he loved life and wanted to preserve it for others; Abu Hilail murdered 11 people and crippled dozens more because the Palestinian culture loves death and slaughter.
Israeli settlements are points of light in a vast sea of darkness. In Hebron, Noam Apter studied in order to teach about God, and died in sanctification of His Name. In Jenin, Nael Abu Hilail and thousands like him plan the murder of innocents. Who is the liberator, and who the occupier?
The accommodationist left, which does not believe in evil even while it continues to perpetuate it, feels that light must be restricted because darkness must be appeased. And so, The New York Times writes in its New Year's editorial:"Given a magic lamp, we might wish for stable, responsible democratic regimes in Iraq and North Korea for the new year. But for an idea that's doable, our foreign policy choice is dismantling Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip."France refuses to recognize marriages conducted by rabbis who live in Judea and Samaria.
The battle over Israeli settlements, and the Arab-Israeli conflict in general, is about those who love and value life, and those who worship death. Noam Apter and Nael Abu Hilail personify that struggle. The rest of the world must choose sides.
©2003 - Creators Syndicate, Inc.