Israel Report

December 2001         

We Shall Overcome

by Reva Sharon - December 5, 2001
A suicide bomber blew himself up on King David Street in front of David's Citadel Hotel. There is severe damage to the front of the hotel, windows have been blasted out and there was damage to cars parked on the street. Five people at a nearby bus stop were lightly injured. Only the bomber was killed. As I hear this news my mind races back to the last, terrible bombings in Jerusalem just a few days ago…

It was almost 1:00 a.m., December 2, 2001, when the phone rang and startled me. I heard my son's voice – he was calling from the United States and said something about bombs in Jerusalem. That is how I learned about the bombing in downtown Jerusalem. I turned on the television and saw the images – Zion Square, Jaffa Road, Ben Yehuda Street – people running and screaming, wounded and dead on the ground, blood staining the streets, stores destroyed and ambulances arriving. Young people were leaning over the injured, tearing their shirts into makeshift bandages, others were using cellular phones to call families at home. There had been two Palestinian suicide bombers a television reporter announces, and then, as the camera panned the street, a third explosion, fire and smoke billowing upwards – this time a car bomb. Oceans apart, my son and I watched in horror. I was choked up with tears, knowing that most of the victims must be youngsters who come into the heart of Jerusalem, to the pedestrian mall, on Saturday evenings, after Shabbat. And then the reports came in: ten killed in Jerusalem, all youngsters, aged 14 to 20.

I live in a quiet neighborhood on the ridge of a Jerusalem hillside, away from the streets the ambulances travel, and so I did not hear the sirens screaming as they traveled to the disaster area. My windows overlook the hills that lead to the Judean Desert in one direction, towards Herodian in another. On clear days I can see the mountains of Moab across the Dead Sea. In recent years hundreds of new homes have been built in the Arab neighborhood immediately adjacent to mine in Jerusalem. But just beyond there are only a few scattered buildings in the hills. It looks so Biblical; it looks so peaceful. But two nights ago I again heard gunfire coming those from hills, from the direction of Rachel's Tomb and Bethlehem, and I wondered if the Tanzim were also shooting from there into the Gilo neighborhood of Jerusalem. The gunfire once more was counterpoint to the music I had been listening to. I shuddered and worried. Until my son called, a few nights ago, I did not hear the blasts, or the shrill sirens piercing the night, and I did not have a clue about the attacks that took place only ten minutes away.

Once again Ben Yehuda Street was targeted, as it has been so many times before. Just a few years ago there had been another terrorist bombing of this outdoor pedestrian mall filled with cafes and shops. Innocent people drinking coffee and tea, shopping, or strolling with friends were the victims. I walked there in the aftermath, shattered glass and blood still on the pavement; there were wounded suffering in hospitals, the families of the murdered were preparing to bury their dead. And as I walked, I recall wondering if the crunch under my feet was glass shards alone, or if they were mixed with fragments of bone. This was not morbid speculation; there were still bits of flesh clinging to awnings over store windows.

We Israelis have devised ways to survive. With each act of terrorism against us we find ourselves burying our dead, comforting the bereaved families even as all of us are grieving, nurturing the wounded as they recover. We relegate our memories to some deep cavern of the mind so that we can go on. But with each new terror attack the memories flood back. Past and present tragedies become one – we weep for all those lost and injured; and we realize the pain is always with us.

Suicide bombers whose bombs are filled with nails, bolts, screws and ball bearings to cause the most brutal damage, worship death and believe they will immediately be welcomed into Paradise, with 70 virgins awaiting them for their use. They murder and maim innocent people and their bodies are paraded through the Palestinian streets. They are hailed as martyrs. Martyrs? No. Cowards – yes! Their fellow terrorists and future suicide bombers cloak themselves in white robes and shroud their faces in white cloth with slits cut for their eyes. They practice a racist evil and are brethren to the notorious Ku Klux Klan whose robes are so similar. Bigotry is the root cause of their terrorism. It begins in a belief system which brands all who are not Muslims as infidels, those who are unfaithful to God – only Muslims, they believe, are the faithful. This bigotry, and the concept of Jihad – holy war, are the infrastructure underlying their terrorism and are the foundations stones of their barbarism.

A mistake Israel makes is the return of the blown apart bodies of the bombers to the Palestinians. We should not return them – they believe their dead must be buried according to Muslim tradition in order to enter Paradise. Israel should deny the terrorists those burial parades through Palestinian streets where the Palestinians shoot off automatic weapons and scream threats of death to Israel. Israel should keep those remains so that future suicide bombers will not have the incentive of entering their paradise as a reward for brutality and murder.

Some media pundits claim Yasser Arafat does not have the power to arrest the terrorists of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, PFLP, Fatah, Tanzim, and even Hizbullah cells in the territories the P.A. controls. These pundits believe they will topple him if he tries. Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt and other Arab countries try to persuade the United States not to freeze the funds of Hamas and other terrorist organizations. Professors speculate that the coalition will fall apart if the U.S. does not bend to Arab demands. All of this is false. Those same experts were sure that if the U.S. became involved in Afghanistan the outcome would be what happened to Russia. How wrong they were! Despite the lip service the Arabs have given to the coalition against terrorism, they have done almost nothing. And they continue to try to hamper future action against Arab states that give safe haven to terrorists. America is stronger than the Arabs. Israel is stronger than the Palestinians. And America and Israel have the moral high ground in the war to destroy terrorism. Finally America has given up the so-called even handed approach and rightly proclaims Israel's right to defend herself against Palestinian terrorism. Finally America has frozen the assets of organizations that support Hamas. Just one of them raised 13 million dollars for Hamas last year in the United States, tax free.

Twelve hours after the bombings in Jerusalem, 15 people were blown up by another suicide bomber in Haifa. Many among the murdered were immigrants from the former Soviet Union. In this attack elderly people were slaughtered. In a separate incident, a scientist was shot dead as he traveled in his car. There are hundred of injured people, most in hospitals from the bombings in Jerusalem and Haifa. What can we say to the families of the victims? How can we comfort them?

We grieve, our tears flow, and in defiance of the terrorists we go on. We build, we advance our culture, we create music, and art, and literature, even as our enemies scheme to destroy us. We have a long history of surviving – and so we defy the current terrorism by Palestinian barbarians today as we defied the Nazis before them. With one step following another we go on – and we remember. Every day new babies are born. Fathers bless them every Friday night as Shabbat enters. Mothers try to kiss away the fears of the youngest among us. Our roots in the earth of our ancient homeland grow deeper. We are the living Children of Israel. We shall overcome.

© Reva Sharon

Also by Reva Sharon;

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