JCRC Column: A terror all too familiar
The terror that recently struck in Orlando and at all freedom loving peoples shook Americans to the core. An affront to all decent people this attack – and those claimed by other extremists – reveal the threat of attacks on civilian targets. In a gut-wrenching way, Israelis can identify with this most awful of feelings.
Since its creation in 1948, Israel faced an inordinate and frankly hard to believe level of violence. The successive major wars of 1948, 1967 and 1973 sought to destroy Israel – to literally wipe its existence off the map. Scores of interspersed attack waves and lesser wars, which continue today, sought to terrorize; to break Israel’s spirit and drive Jews away. They claimed thousands of lives, caused tens of thousands of civilian casualties and led to increased suffering both for Jews and Arabs throughout the region. (Full disclosure: the author is a proud duel US-Israel citizen and Israel Defense Force combat veteran who fought in the defensive war of 2014.)
The enemies of freedom do not differentiate between us. We must not either.
The LGBTQ community thrives in Israel. Tel Aviv regularly ranks as one of the most gay friendly cities in the world. Just earlier this month that city’s 18th annual Gay Pride Parade, with 200,000 participants, opened with a moment of silence in commemoration of the victims of violence against the LGBTQ community. No one could fathom the devastation that would be wrought weeks later, across the world.
Thousands of tragic examples of violence against Israelis, simply for being Israeli, abound.
During the Second Intifada (2000-2005), Palestinian terror escalated. On November 2, 2000, terrorists exploded the Jerusalem open air market. Ayelet Shahar Levy (28), Hanan Levy (33) were killed and 10 others were wounded. 20 days later another bomb, in the coastal town of Hadera, Richmond’s sister-city in Israel, killed Shoshana Reis (21), Meir Bahrame (35) and wounded 60 others. On the warm Tel Aviv night of June 1, 2001, the Dolphinarium discotheque was exploded by a suicide bomber. 21 young Israelis were murdered and 120 were wounded. On August 9, 2001, a suicide bomber attacked the Sbarro restaurant in downtown Jerusalem; 15 killed, 130 wounded. On March 27, 2002, a Hamas terrorist struck families sitting for a celebratory Passover meal in a hotel dining hall. Thirty civilians were brutally killed and 140 were wounded. Horrifically, there are hundreds of examples.
Thanks to herculean efforts by the Israeli Police, military and intelligence services, that Intifada waned. Yet, in the last year, over 200 attacks caused nearly 500 casualties in what’s become known as the Knife Intifada. In one case, to protect her children, a bare-handed mother drove a knife-wielding terrorist from her home in Raanana, just north of Tel Aviv. In another case, a US Citizen, West Point graduate and Army veteran Taylor Force was murdered on the boardwalk on the Jaffa beach. Indeed, nearly every Israeli knows someone whose life was touched directly by war or terror and all too often, both. Israelis do not relish this one bit.
ISIS is doing all it can both to support that Intifada and to bring it to the US. We must all unite against hatred, bigotry and xenophobia; the very ideals being propagated by extremists.
Today, we look back at Orlando, at San Bernardino and as a nation grappling with homegrown terror, we begin to ask serious, challenging questions. How do we protect ourselves and our civil liberties and do so without compromising our liberal-democratic values? What is the moral, physical or economic cost of securing a work-place, transportation hub or dance club? How can we condemn and forcefully fight radical, Islamic extremism – and all extremism – and do so without betraying our cherished values? Regrettably, America is being forced to come to terms with the same challenges faced by Israel on a daily basis.
One tragedy does not detract from another. The extreme grief of the families here is not lessened by the grief felt in Israel or elsewhere. Yet for years, Israel has enjoyed American support both for its right to exist and its fight against terror. Today, Israel, with rallies of support across that small nation and the Tel Aviv City Hall lit with the Pride Flag along with Jewish communities across the United States stand with all Americans during this dark hour.
Daniel Fogel is the director of Jewish Community Relations and Israel & Overseas Programming for the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond. Reach him at DFogel@JewishRichmond.org.