June 27, 2005
What can I say? The last few days have been very difficult. Friday afternoon Yechiel and Chava Levi were in Ashdod, paying a condolence call to friends in mourning. At first, when they received word of a terror attack outside Beit Hagai, the community where they live, Chava started saying Psalms. A little while later they received word that their seventeen year old son had been injured and that they should drive to Sha’ari Tzedek hospital in Jerusalem. But their first-born son, AviChai, wasn’t there. There was no need to take him to the hospital. Shot in the head, AviChai Levi was killed almost instantly. Yechiel, who works as a treasurer for the Hebron Municipal Council, and Chava, had no choice but to return home and inform their other four children that their oldest brother was no longer. The kids all sat in AviChai’s room when their parents returned home, looking around but not seeing, not believing.
On AviChai’s desk is a clock with a picture of him in the middle, a picture taken four years ago at his Bar Mitzvah. A beautiful, smiling youth, full of life, full of energy, full of happiness. One of AviChai’s brothers, parting from him at the funeral, said that when he received word of his brother’s death he stopped the clock. It was as if time had stopped. Later, he dusted the clock and started it again. Life must go on.
AviChai was on his way to Beer Sheva, where he was a counselor for a religious youth group, Bnei Akiva. He had, in his pocket, a piece of paper with the words “We have love and it will be victorious” printed on it. He also had, on his wrist, an orange band with the words, “Yehudi lo megaresh Yehudi” – “Jews don’t expel Jews,” embedded on it. His father, Yechiel told me that AviChai was buried with the band still on his arm. “He’ll be the first one in heaven with an orange arm band,” Yechiel said.
Thousands escorted AviChai, and his friend Aviad Montzur, also killed by the terrorist’s bullets, to their final resting place on the Mount of Olives. The funeral processions passed the Prime Minister’s house in Jerusalem, demanding an end to the madness.
Signs of the times: Last week an Israeli newspaper, citing high-level security sources, revealed that during the first weeks of the ‘expulsion,’ Ma’arat HaMachpela would be closed to all visitors. Why? Because this holy site is a ‘source of friction’ between Jews and Arabs and leaving it open would only exasperate the situation. My guess is that this is not the real reason. ‘Big Brother’ is aware of the power of prayer and especially worship at such a sacred site. (‘Big Brother’ probably also knows that the Patriarchs and Matriarchs are against the expulsion-abandonment plan.) That’s why they don’t want Jews there. They’re afraid our prayer might actually take hold. ( I wonder what they’ll do about the ‘Kotel’ – the Western Wall. Will they close that to Jewish worshipers too?)
There’s probably another reason, as well. They’ll need the border police, who usually provide security at the Ma’ara, in Gush Katif or the northern Shomron.
Another sign: A few days ago a journalist called me for a reaction to the IDF’s closing of a base here in Hebron. I didn’t know what he was talking about. After a quick check, I understood, only too well. The eastern side of Hebron is bordered by a hill called ‘Jabal Jaawar,’ which overlooks the entire city. A number of years ago, following a major deterioration of security and deadly terror, the army opened a base on that hill, one of the most strategic points in Hebron. Last week they closed the base and pulled out. Well, not entirely. They’re leaving a guard tower and a few soldiers there, a token Israeli presence. There is no doubt that the closing of the Jabal Jaawar army base, together with an ‘easing’ of travel restrictions and the lifting of roadblocks, are a direct result of Sharon’s meetings with Rice and Abu Mazen. They also, without a doubt, facilitated Friday afternoon’s terror attack.
We have numerous meetings with IDF officers, dealing with security, and other matters. The lowest high-level officer we usually meet with is the “Mahat,” commander of the Judea division, which includes Hebron. This officer always holds the rank of colonel.
The present Mahat, Colonel Motti Baruch, has told us (and others) that he believes in ‘normalization’ of life in Hebron. The ‘normalization’ he speaks of, of course, is ‘normalization’ for the Arabs, not for the Jews. Lifting roadblocks, allowing Arabs to renovate and move into buildings vacant for decades, easing travel restrictions, closing down strategic bases – all pieces in the puzzle of ‘normalization.’ Actually, it’s not fair to place all the blame on Col. Baruch. It’s true, he may be actualizing his own political outlook via an IDF uniform, but this is the true face of today’s Israeli army. Everyone’s doing it, so why not him too. The fact that Jewish blood is spilled doesn’t really bother them. To the contrary, they hope the killing will expedite our exit from these areas. In fact, there was not any official government reaction to Friday’s killings. When suggested that the Israeli retreat from Bethlehem be postponed as a result of the killing, another minister exclaimed: “What, and let the terrorists decide what we do?”
On the other hand, INN reported: “The Defense Minister that decided to take down lookouts and checkpoints now wants to hand over Bethlehem and Kalkilya to the Palestinian Authority – this will lead, within a short time, to a terror attack in Jerusalem,” predicted IDF Colonel (Res.) Moshe Hagar.”
At sixteen year old Aviad Mantzur’s funeral, his father Neryia told the mourners, ‘Aviad called me on his cell phone and said, “Dad, they’re shooting at me. SAVE US!”‘ Those where Aviad’s last words. The terrifying sounds that were then broadcast from his cell phone included shooting, screams, and…. Nothing. Aviad’s legs were literally blown off his body. Four tourniquets didn’t help. The bleeding didn’t stop. Neryia Montzur listened to his son dying.
Last week Israel suffered the worst train accident in its history. Hundreds were wounded, in addition to those killed. The accident occurred when a speeding train plunged into a truck stopped on the tracks. The engineer saw the truck and sounded his horn several times, in a futile attempt to warn the truck driver of the impending crash. To no avail. It’s difficult to fathom that the truck driver wasn’t aware of the train. But it seems that he didn’t make any attempt to move. The engineer made one last-minute attempt to prevent the inevitable. He braked, hard. He also hit a switch immediately shutting down all the train’s engines. And then, BOOM!
The fact that he braked softened the blow a little – maybe that saved several lives. The fact that he shut down the train’s engines saved many lives – that act prevented fire and explosion.
During those last few moments he saw, all too vividly, the collision course, but there wasn’t too much he could do about it. Impact was only seconds away. He did what he could, but was unable to prevent the crash.
Israel too is on a collision course. Ariel Sharon, Shaul Mufaz and others are recklessly engineering Israel down a one-way track, the wrong way. Not into a truck parked on the tracks, rather into a train speeding in the other direction. Attempts to ‘achieve peace’ by chopping up and abandoning our land, while expelling our citizens is a sure recipe for disaster, the likes of which we have not yet begun to experience. And no, I haven’t forgotten the years of the ‘Oslo War.’ That was nothing compared to what we are about to experience. The explosion, when the two engines plow into each other, will be earth shattering. And we’re getting very close to the point of ‘no return.’
At yesterday’s funeral, I asked some of the journalists whether they’ve reorganized ‘funeral squads’ to take turns going to such funerals. It’s clear that this is just the beginning. And I’m more than a little concerned. Sitting and waiting for terror to strike, when you know it’s right around the corner, it’s not a pleasant sensation. However, the problem is multiplied when you realize that the terror is multifaceted. From one side, the Arabs have no intentions of letting up – why should they? On the other side, the Israeli government, using the police, prosecution and courts, will use ‘legal’ terror against all those trying to brake the train running amuck. We are going to get hit from all sides. And I’m not one hundred percent sure that someone, (singular or plural) isn’t going to strike back. The frustration level may reach such intolerable levels that some kind of reactive detonation is unavoidable. It would be preferable to brake the train and change direction before it’s too late.
With blessings from Hebron.