A police officer clears the way for rescued Air France hostages arriving in Tel Aviv after returning from Entebbe.
(photo credit: MOSHE MILNER / GPO)
ENTEBBE – It was one of Israel’s most spectacular military feats, the Entebbe raid.
It buoyed the country’s spirits, rebuilt deterrence after the Yom Kippur War, served notice that Israel will defend its people wherever they may be. Those are the feats that were recalled at the ceremony at the Old Terminal building in Entebbe on Monday, marking 40 years to the daring raid.
But, four decades later, terrorism is no less a scourge than it was then.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the raid had a tremendous impact on putting an end to the wave of hijackings that plagued the world in the 1970s. From that moment on, terrorists were served notice that they were not immune, that countries bedeviled by hijackers would come after them.
Entebbe may indeed have been key to bringing hijacking to an end. But terrorism did not end. Rather, it just changed into more deadly stripes.
For that reason the ceremony in Uganda was bitter sweet. Sweet in the sense that more than 100 hostages were saved; sweet in the remembrance of one of Israel’s most daring moments.
But in that sweetness lays the bitterness of the event, because it served as a reminder that the terrorism that was on such painful display on that July 4, 1976, is still very much with us.
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Standing at Entebbe, hearing Netanyahu speak of that one great moment, one could not erase from mind the heart-breaking funerals of the last few days, and the thoughts that there seems no Entebbe for the type of terrorism plaguing us today. Israel could fly thousands of kilometers to rescue hostages 40 years ago, but can’t keep a murderer out of the bedroom of a 13-year old girl.
That is not meant as an indictment of Israel, just a sad acknowledgment of a very difficult reality – a reality we have not found an Entebbe- solution for.
Those jarred a bit by the celebration in Entebbe, might do well to change their frame of reference. The ceremony at the Ugandan airport was less celebration, more a commemoration.
It’s not a celebration, because the war is far from won. But that heroic event is, after all, worth commemorating. For in times when it looks so difficult to battle against terrorism, the raid deep in the heart of Africa 40 years ago shows that even the very difficult is – from time to time – possible.
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