On Friday night, July 14, the conflict in Israel's north was already a few days old. Some folks in battered Nahariya decided to leave town. Among them were the Pesachovs, who sought safety at Grandma Yehudit Itzkowitz's home in Moshav Meron.
That evening they gathered there for a family meal to welcome the Sabbath. But a Katyusha rocket slammed into the farmhouse and killed seven-year-old Omer and his grandmother. Other members of the family were wounded - some badly.
None of this merited so much as a footnote in the world's media.
It's hard to deny that the victims were civilians unless by international standards very young Jews - who might grow to become bigger Jews - cannot be judged as wholly innocent. Likewise, elderly Jews were once of fighting age and hence cannot be regarded as entirely guiltless either. Perhaps that's why grandmother Yehudit and little Omer failed to tug otherwise compassionate heartstrings.
Then there was the element of refugee status. The Pesachovs had escaped the rocketing of their home to the apparent safety of the grandmother's farm community. The compassion generally showered upon those displaced by indiscriminate aggression should have applied to them as well.
But perhaps, in the world's deepest atavistic perception, Jews are wandering Jews. The rootless cannot be uprooted. Jews can be moved around without evoking the same outrage as the removal under similar circumstances of similar populations. So Omer's search for safety at Grandma's house failed to tug otherwise compassionate heartstrings.
Perhaps no one bothered to bewail Omer's and his grandmother's fates because they remained nameless. No one showed pictures of them, of the wrecked house, abandoned Sabbath table, wounded siblings or weeping survivors. The videos were available from Israeli TV. But perhaps otherwise enterprising foreign reporters didn't bother, since they astutely suspected that such visuals would fail to jerk their bosses' otherwise compassionate heartstrings.
LITTLE OMER and his grandmother were counted without specification among the "Israeli dead" - without age, identity or anything to set them apart from other anonymous Jewish victims of Arab terror. So even if they might have conceivably wrenched compassionate heartstrings somewhere, nothing was even remotely allowed to vibrate those compassionate chords.
Perhaps rescuers should have been filmed removing Omer's mangled corpse from the rubble, accompanied by macabre close-ups of the lifeless grandmother lifted onto a stretcher. Grotesque twisted remains and oozing wounds inevitably boost ratings.
But alas, squeamish Jews undermine their PR with their inexpedient "respect-for-the-dead" scruples. Their excessive circumspection and uncommon morality abet the impression that Jews don't bleed. Is this why the Sabbath-eve murder of grandmother and grandson failed to tug at otherwise compassionate heartstrings?
It could presumably also have been argued that these ordinary Israelis had it coming to them or that their state is culpable for their misfortune because it had already begun returning some of the fire directed at Omer's home in Nahariya. What compassionate hearts call "the spiral of violence" had been uncoiled. Who serially triggers hostilities doesn't matter to the compassionate ones.
So because Israel's army set out to defend families like the Pesachovs, there was nothing terribly outrageous in deliberately targeting them. That was possibly why the carnage in Meron didn't tug otherwise compassionate heartstrings.
Or it may be just a numbers game. The dead in Meron weren't sufficiently numerous to yank those otherwise compassionate heartstrings. The IDF by then already warned residents of Beirut's Hizbullah suburbs to get out lest they be hurt. In its subsequent pounding of Hizbullah's nerve center, Israel inflicted more damage than incurred at Meron. That was unforgivably "disproportionate." The Israel Air Force should have sought out one set of Lebanese grandparents, at a placid farming community, one which never hosted armed terrorist militia and didn't tolerate Katyusha launchers in the barnyard. The IAF should have made sure the grandparents had refugee offspring with them - exactly the same number as sheltered in the Itzkowitz household - and it should have lobbed a payload not exceeding that of a Katyusha at them as they sat for a family meal, preferably one with religious significance.
IAF pilots should have made sure that only one grandmother and one seven-year-old grandson would be slain. That would have been proportionate and would have then justified mention of Omer and Yehudit because they'd no longer be dismissible as statistics on the less-weighty side of the equation. That might have entitled them to equal time and equal tugging of those otherwise compassionate heartstrings.
Alternatively, Israel could have evened the score by forcibly preventing families like the Pesachovs from seeking safety - just as Hizbullah had done for its population. Israel could have considerately made sure that more Jews would die and thereby produce a more favorable casualty ratio to satisfy overseas sensibilities.
Lack of proportionality may indeed be pivotal in explaining lack of sympathy for Omer. Too few dead Jewish children can't pull those otherwise compassionate heartstrings.
But would lots more dead Jewish kids have finally tweaked compassionate heartstrings? They didn't in the past - not at Ma'alot, Avivim, the Dolphinarium, Sbarro, Maxim's, the Hatuel family car and in all-too-many buses and shopping malls. Pretexts are always conjured to blame the victims' anyway much-vilified country.
Hitting one Shi'ite family would have constituted verboten state premeditation. So would anything else Israel could have done - short of capitulating to extortion as per the disproportionate terrorist rate.
Even had we exhibited Omer's bashed body, it too would have failed to tug those heartstrings because maybe Jews aren't photogenic enough. Let's face it - otherwise compassionate heartstrings simply don't respond to Jewish stimuli.