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Deadly Inspiration

July 26, 2008

A few hours before presidential candidate Barack Obama’s first night in Israel, a city bus and three cars were rammed suddenly by a construction vehicle. The terror of fear and panic reigned in downtown Jerusalem a few hundred yards from the King David hotel where Obama was scheduled to sleep in just a few hours.

            Ghassan Abu Tir, a Palestinian man from east Jerusalem wearing a large, white skullcap, slammed into the side of the bus and then plowed the construction vehicle’s shovel into the bus windows, nearly killing the bus driver. According to witness Moshe Shimshi, the driver then sped away and “kept ramming into cars…and rammed them with all his might,” overturning one car and injuring sixteen people, including a mother and her baby.

            This vicious attack was very similar to one earlier in the month when another Palestinian from east Jerusalem plowed a large front-loading truck into a string of vehicles and pedestrians on a busy Jerusalem street about 3 miles away from the King David Hotel, killing three and injuring dozens of others before being killed by an off-duty soldier.

            This time, a civilian driving nearby saw what was happening, jumped out of his car, and shot the driver, before border policemen arrived on the scene. We are left to wonder how many people might have been saved by civilian Yaakov Asa-El, a father of nine. And we are left to gasp at another new method of terror.

Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski rushed over to the commotion and commented, “They keep on inventing ways to attack us. Every work tool has become a weapon.”
            The question becomes, how many Palestinians will become inspired by such atrocities? I have to wonder if this attack was inspired by the release of Samir Kuntar from Israel on July 16th. Kuntar, who received four life sentences in 1979 for murdering an Israeli policeman, a 31-year-old civilian, and his 4-year-old daughter, was greeted in Beirut to a hero’s welcome by the Hizballah leader and his huge crowd.

Kuntar was officially received by the Lebanese president and prime minister, members of the Lebanese parliament, as Hassan Nasrallah gave a welcoming speech to a thunderous ovation.

“Samir! Samir!” the crowd yelled, for this “man convicted of smashing a child’s head into pieces.” Mitch Albom writes in his excellent essay, (“Israel-Hizballah trade reveals much about both sides,” Detroit Free Press, July 20, 2008), “What God would have a child’s murder on anyone’s hands? How do people celebrate such a killer?”

Albom continues, “The total disregard for life of anyone who does not believe what Hizballah believes stands in stark contrast to the value of life—and even of its demise—that Israel demonstrated in bringing those two bodies (the two captured and killed soldiers, Goldwasser and Regev) back.”

“To men like Kuntar,” Albom simply concedes, “Israel does not exist and should never exist.”

So in a part of the world that desperately wants “a world in which Israel has no place,” the constant killing makes logical sense. In a perpetual war to destroy Israel, all murder is justified. Everyone who kills any Israeli of any age is a hero. Even if that means destroying an innocent child by smashing her head against a rifle butt. Even if that means taking a construction vehicle and ramming its shovel against a bus driver’s window.

In this honorary culture of horror, every blood-stained act is condoned and praised by thousands. Every murder is another deadly inspiration.

What must keep Jews in Israel and in the United States from despair is the thought of prayers recited amidst the candles for Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. What must keep us hopeful is the simple and noble courage of a civilian ready to stop such madness.

We must never tolerate the deliberate destruction of the innocent. Instead, let’s celebrate the miraculous moments when an unsuspecting father of nine suddenly appears from the rubble and becomes a desperately needed hero.  




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