Shooting attack at Tel Aviv's Sarona complex, June 8, 2016..
(photo credit: ISRAEL POLICE)
It was in the wake of a savage terrorist attack at Tel Aviv’s Sarona Market that Israelis began the extended Shabbat-Shavuot weekend.
On Wednesday, the nation reeled from the gruesome shootings perpetrated by two young Palestinian men from the Yatta, a town in the South Hebron Hills.
On Thursday, the nation mourned the deaths of Mila Mishaev, 32, Ilana Naveh, 39, Ido Ben Ari, 42, and Michael Feige, 58.
But even before they could get over the shock of innocent citizens being shot down in central Tel Aviv, Israelis were refusing to give in to fear. Restaurant tables that had been abandoned by diners running to save their lives were being used again by people who would not be intimidated by Islamic terrorism.
One of them was Margalit Bergman.
As reported by The Jerusalem Post’s Ben Hartman, on Wednesday night, Bergman had been eating at the Benedict restaurant in the Sarona Market with a group of friends, when she saw two “wealthy Italian- looking businessmen in fancy suits and skinny ties” sitting in the common dinning area, near the neighboring Max Brenner cafe. These innocent- looking men turned out to be Palestinians out to commit mass murder.
On Thursday morning, “traumatized and shaking off the sleeping pills she took the night before,” as Hartman put it, Bergman returned to the scene of the crime and to the very same table where she sat the night before. It was her way of overcoming her fear.
Bergman was not alone in her refusal to cave in to terrorism. MKs Tzipi Livni and Shelly Yacimovich could be seen Thursday sitting at one of the tables drinking and talking.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman visited the scene as did Construction and Housing Minister Yoav Galant and National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz.
Israelis were not the only ones showing their commitment to normalcy. About 20 foreign envoys visited the locale.
Italian Ambassador Francesco Talo praised the quick return to normal life.
“What Tel Avivians are doing is important. The terrorists lose when they see that people are enjoying life. We can tell the terrorists that we are not afraid of them,” he said.
One of the terrorists’ goals is to use fear to force citizens of open societies to curtail their freedom by getting them to change their way of life, to self-impose restrictions on their activities. That is why it is important for victims not to give in to the natural inclination to avoid public places and remain shuttered up at home or at work.
It may be a cliché to say that Israelis are particularly adept at picking up the pieces and moving on very quickly after nihilistic Islamists carry out a barbaric and pointless attack, but it is true.
Perhaps it has something to do with the Jews’ rich experience with overcoming adversity. After all, the Jews are no strangers to murderous enmity. It is no exaggeration to refer to anti-Semitism as “the oldest hatred.”
It should be no surprise that the Jews are particularly well equipped to, so to speak, hit the ground running after being hit by tragedy. But knowing how to return to daily routine is not just a handy survival tactic.
By refusing to be pulled down by their many detractors, Jews offer an alternative to death and destruction. As former chief rabbi of Britain Jonathan Sacks put it, “The Jewish people in its very being constitutes a living protest against a world of hatred, violence and war.”
By insisting on taking part in the positive – if somewhat mundane – aspects of life such as going out to socialize and dining at a coffee shop, Israelis are making a statement: Those who sow nihilism and violence will fail, because life is infinitely stronger.