11/19/15 Terror Returns to Tel Aviv- Paris Remains in our Minds
How quickly life perspectives can change. I was putting the finishing touches on an article (most of which follows), as I listen to passing ambulances bringing the wounded from the latest terror attack in Tel Aviv to the Icholov Hospital, which is right near my home. It’s been two months since there was an attack in Tel Aviv. A short while ago, a terrorist entered a makeshift synagogue located in a large commercial complex in Southern Tel Aviv in the middle of afternoon service and started stabbing people. Two men are dead and one is seriously wounded. Reality has returned to Israel and Tel Aviv. The terrorist is a 36 year old from the West Bank comes from the Village of Dura near Hebron with no past known ties to terror organizations. Two hours later another terror attack this time in the West Bank around the settlements in Gush Etzion, 9 Israeli were wounded and two haves died in a combined shooting and ramming attack, one of those wounded is reportedly an American tourist.
For the past week our minds and hearts have been facing westward towards Paris, doing our best to forget our problems at home. Reality changes so rapidly. Last week I was writing about Israeli anger toward Europe, and especially toward France, for approving the labeling of products produced in the West Bank and the Golan Heights. Yesterday, Prime Minister Netanyahu appeared at an event together with the French Ambassador to express his solidarity with France and the French people.
For Israelis, most of whom share in the sorrow of the French people (and many of whom were utterly shocked by the tragedy,) it has been a strange feeling not to be in the center of these events. These horrific incidents put our own fight against terrorism into perspective. In many ways, the Paris attacks are similar to the attack on 9/11. In the moments after the first plane crashed into the World Trade Center tower, I remember sitting in New York e-mailing my best friend in Israel sharing my disbelief that more people had probably died in the last few minutes in lower Manhattan than had been killed cumulatively in all of the terror attacks in Israel these last few years.
9/11 took place in the midst of the second intifada (a series of terrorist attacks which peaked in 2002, during which 452 Israelis were murdered.) The wave of terror in Paris is taking place in the midst of our latest bout of terror attacks. Our most recent round of terror has been much more limited than its predecessors. After a few weeks of adjustment, the daily lives of most Israelis have not changed greatly – except for the personal tragedies of those victims who have been killed or wounded (along with their families). In Tel Aviv these past few weeks you would have no idea that there was anything out of the ordinary happening. Of course, that may change after today.
Some Israelis have been tone deaf this week – complaining and questioning why the world has shown such compassion towards Paris, while not condemning continued terror attacks in Israel. Most Israelis do understand the difference. In Israel, we have been dealing with terror attacks since the early 1950’s, soon after the state was established. The Palestinians, in fact, are the fathers of modern terrorism – carrying out many spectacular attacks (including the multiple murders at the 1972 Munich Olympics.)
There have been both larger and smaller waves of terror attacks in Israel over the several decades. However, Israel has never suffered an attack as deadly as the massacre in Paris last Friday night. Additionally, most Israelis understand that regardless of how despicable the tactics used by some Palestinians may be, our struggle with them is a national struggle; a struggle that could potentially be settled. The attacks in Paris are not based on any national conflicts. Rather, the recent Paris bloodbath represents an assault on Western civilization, as we know it. Therefore, the only solution is a complete victory over the terrorists.
Israelis are by-and-large not worried about ISIS terrorists striking here in Israel. That said, yesterday’s announcement, that an ISIS cell made up of six Israeli-Arabs was recently discovered in the town of Jaljulia (less than 20 miles from Tel Aviv) has certainly caused some concern amongst Israelis. Moreover, the presence of ISIS elements on two of our borders (Syrian and Sinai) is rather troubling.
Despite this afternoon’s stabbings, most Tel Aviv residents would say, without hesitation, that they feel safer in Tel Aviv than they would in any major city in Europe. As a young owner of a neighborhood cafe told me after today’s attack, “I have friends in Paris at the moment and they are too afraid to really go out and tour. Here, the streets remain packed and busy”. There is an old Chinese curse that says: “May you live in ‘interesting' times.” I am afraid both the residents of Tel Aviv and Paris share that curse these days.