Conventional wisdom contends that neither Gaza nor Cairo harbors much interest
in fanning terrorist flames and disrupting the uneasy truce that has
precariously prevailed since Operation Cast Lead. Egypt, an unsteady step away
from uncontainable internal chaos, prodigiously presents Cairo’s caretaker
military junta with other preoccupations. Simultaneously Hamas surely
doesn’t relish another punishment of the magnitude inflicted upon it in
This makes ample sense – on our wavelength. Cerebral processes in
the Arab realm, however, don’t necessarily conform to our rationale. They
practically never do.Israelis shocked by last week’s roadside massacre
outside Eilat and by the ensuing rocket barrages from Hamastan fall prey to
excessively non-Levantine logical assumptions. They fail to understand that our
concepts of levelheadedness don’t apply in neighboring latifundia.
has any business being the least bit taken aback. Porous borders that allow
African economic migrants to infiltrate illegally, and drugs to be smuggled
routinely, also invite enemy attacks. The Egyptians were never motivated to
guard the frontier and are far less so now, as the repeated explosions on the
gas pipeline to Israel attest.
Neither the Egyptians nor the Gazans have
changed. They only occasionally resort to expedient chatter in the Western
idiom, which suffices to make them sound trustworthy – as trustworthy as the
scorpion in the fable attributed to old Aesop.
Said scorpion had to
traverse a wide and swift stream. There was no way for him to negotiate the
current, but then he spied a frog sunning itself on a lily pad near the other
bank. “Yoo-hoo, Mr.Frog,” hallooed the scorpion across the water, “would
you kindly ferry me on your back?”
The frog was nobody’s fool and reminded the
scorpion that any contact with him was tantamount to courting death. But the
scorpion was persuasive: “Am I likely to sting while riding on you in the middle
of a deep river? I can’t swim and would drown. I’m not going to kill myself, am
The skeptical frog, though, needed further security guarantees. “You might
try something when I’m close to shore,” he noted.
“Ooh,” crooned the
eager-to-please scorpion, “I’m hardly likely to reward goodwill with
Enticing visions of coexistence swayed Mr. Frog, who made his
way to the scorpion, let his potential peace partner hop on and paddled
obligingly back. The further he moved, the more complacent he grew about the
well-behaved commuter, who obviously had existential reasons to exercise
All this time the scorpion eyed the frog’s soft, glistening
hide. It drove him crazy. He itched to plunge his stinger into that pulsating
flesh. Yet, knowing it’d kill him, too, he controlled himself with every residue
of willpower at his disposal.
But the scorpion’s self-discipline proved
lacking. In one fateful second it all got to be too much. The frog felt a sharp
prick. Deadly toxin diffused and numbed his limbs. “You’re crazy,” he screamed
with his remaining vitality, “now we’ll both die! Why did you do this?”
sank together, the scorpion, filled with triumphant glee, exclaimed: “I couldn’t
help myself! It’s my nature. I can’t change who I am.”
NONE OF our
neighbors can, reluctant pragmatism (in Hamas’s case) or an actual peace treaty
(in Egypt’s case) notwithstanding. The premeditated murder of innocents is
nothing new. In fact, it’s as horrifically habitual and as predictable as the
scorpion’s unconquerable penchant to sting, the consequences be
We’ve seen it all before, with eerie similarity and with
identical coldbloodedness. Only the dates, names and incidental
circumstances vary, but the critical core remains uncannily
The August 18 ambush, the hail of bullets targeting all
travelers on a given stretch of highway – even the shots to the heads of victims
to verify their deaths – all these are tragically familiar. Already
wounded en route to an Eilat vacation, Esther Levy of Holon had to play dead
after the shooting and keep deadly still beside her husband Yosef’s body, lest
the marauders discover her and squeeze the trigger yet again.
transpired on the way to Eilat is chillingly reminiscent of the bloodshed of
March 17, 1954 – long before Israel’s 1967 victory and subsequent denunciations
of so-called occupation.
Egged bus No. 1383 was winding its way up back
to Tel Aviv from Eilat, where the passengers had taken part in Eilat’s fifth
birthday celebrations. They marked the anniversary of the closing phase of the
War of Independence, when the makeshift ink flag was hoisted over what would
become the country’s southernmost point. The bus was decorated with a banner:
“Egged’s salutations to the Negev pioneers.”
One of the two drivers along
for the trip, Ephraim “Fiska” Furstenberg, had brought his wife Hannah and
children Haim, nine, and Miri, five, with him. Baby Tzippi was left with
relatives. Fiska dreamt of moving the family to Eilat and becoming the first
Egged cooperative member to take up residence in the haunting wilderness of that
outlying embryo township.
But different plans were hatched by the
Fedayeen – the moniker adopted in those days by predecessors of today’s Fatah,
Hamas and their assorted offshoots.
It means “self-sacrificers,” which
calls to mind the Shahids (martyrs) and suicide bombers of the current
On the single old route to Eilat in those days, approximately 100
kilometers south of Beersheba, the scorpions struck. Twelve Fedayeen ambushed
the bus, ironically at a spot called Ma’aleh Akrabim – Scorpions’
They first aimed at the duty driver, Kalman Esroni, who in his last
seconds of life managed to prevent the vehicle from tumbling over the
After spraying the bus with intense gunfire, they boarded it and
everyone there, or so they assumed. They proceeded to verify the 11
mutilate the corpses and steal everything in sight. They tossed Hannah
the bullet-riddled bus and hacked off her fingers, because they couldn’t
otherwise remove her wedding band.
Unbeknownst to them, Haim and Miri
remained alive behind the rear seat – Miri underneath the body of a
threw himself over the child to shield her. Haim raised his head and
they go?” But the sound of the boy’s voice betrayed him. The gunmen
took callous aim, directly at his head.
Miri, who remained hidden, was
spared. Haim took over 32 years to die. He was left in an irreversible
vegetative state and lingered on until September 4, 1986.
tracks led to the Jordanian border, but the Hashemite Kingdom of
Mixed Armistice Commission (HJK/IMAC) couldn’t bring itself even to
Jordan’s knuckles. No surprise here.
Meanwhile, equally unsurprisingly,
inside Israel another surreal debate raged about whether to retaliate
or, in the
words of then-premier Moshe Sharett, “underscore the qualitative moral
difference between us and our heartless enemies” (not that foreigners
impressed – even before we were demonized as imperialist ogres).
line: The more things change, the more they stay the same. Scorpions
That’s what they do. That’s who they are. www.sarahhonig.com
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