It was nasty, but it was not really a surprise that a bus was blown up in Jerusalem on Monday. Some 20 people were wounded and police and security forces are checking to see whether the man who died in hospital two days later was the terrorist who detonated the improvised explosive device, as Hamas now claims.
The timing was presumably aimed at ruining the pre-Passover preparations.
There have been warnings for a while that although the number of so-called “lone wolf” attacks has dropped, Israelis should be alert for the likelihood of terrorism incidents around the holiday.
Two other things related to the timing didn’t surprise me either: Firstly, the attack took place at the same time as the UN Security Council was (again) debating Israel; secondly, the day of the bombing, news was released of the discovery of a 30-meter-deep tunnel dug by Hamas from Gaza into Israel. It was apparently excavated after the 2014 mini-war, Operation Protective Edge, as part of Hamas preparations for a future war.
Although no group claimed immediate responsibility for the bombing, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and several other groups praised it, and video footage of Palestinians celebrating by handing out candies flashed quickly across my screen. (Either they don’t know or don’t care that the bus generally has Arab passengers as well as Jews.) Shortly after the bomb went off, I received a call from a London-based radio station asking if I’d be available to talk the following morning. I noted that at that point police hadn’t yet confirmed that it was a terror attack but in any case I’d be happy to speak about the Hamas tunnel, which I still consider a bigger story.
As it turns out, perhaps because there were no fatalities, they chose not to discuss the matter on the morning news (apparently the Brexit referendum on whether the UK should leave the European Union was more urgent).
I don’t entirely blame them: How many readers, for example, noted that a Taliban attack in Afghanistan’s capital this week killed more than 60 people and wounded some 350? I didn’t see a single “We’re all Kabul” meme on the social media, despite the neat rhyme.
There is still a tendency to see Afghanistan as “there” – somewhere else; not related to what’s happening around the world. And there is an even stronger tendency to view what happens in Israel as related only to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute over “settlements.”
Israel left the Gaza Strip completely in 2005. Some 10,000 rockets followed.
It takes twisted thinking and chutzpah on the part of Hamas and its supporters to accuse Israel of “occupying” the Gaza Strip while they’re digging tunnels from Gaza into the Negev, with the intention of bursting out one day in a southern community, killing and kidnapping as many Israelis as possible.
Attacks on Israel aren’t about “the settlements” any more than attacks on Paris and Brussels are because of the former French and Belgian presence in Algeria and Congo.
Did I have an immediate “Oh no, here we go again” response? Absolutely.
Nobody who lived in Jerusalem during the second intifada period can completely forget that feeling of playing Russian roulette every time he or she boarded or passed a bus. I have a friend in Sderot who still doesn’t like using public transport in the capital, just as I’m always a little nervous about the possibility of a rocket attack whenever I’m in the South.
Does that stop us traveling? No – the same way that European airports are still crowded with travelers trying to put horrific stories and scenarios out of their minds. And anybody who thinks that Palestinian terrorism is caused by the “humiliation” and “frustration” associated with Israeli checkpoints should keep in mind cause-and-effect. The terrorists who committed the atrocity in Brussels’s Zaventem Airport last month didn’t do it because they were fed up with security checks, having to remove their shoes, empty water bottles, and line up for long periods before boarding their flights. Those measures, now well-known to airport passengers everywhere, were an attempt to prevent terrorism post-9/11, not the cause of it.
ONE OF the reasons I consider the discovery of the terror tunnel to be the more significant story is because of what was not, and cannot be, published.
Nonetheless, there were lots of hints that the IDF didn’t just happen to find the tunnel.
Just as Hamas seems to consider the tunnels a strategic means of fighting Israel, Israel has made finding and destroying the tunnels a priority.
I don’t know how it’s being done (and those who do know quite rightly aren’t saying) but evidently there is some new combined intelligence and technological means in use, the underground equivalent of the Iron Dome that provided an essential safety net against rockets in the 2014 war.
I consider the Iron Dome, in its own way, to be miraculous. Miracles, even the splitting of the Red Sea, can be explained; the miraculous part is in the timing and result.
As an added bonus, I expect that Israel will be able to use any new tunnel detecting technology on all its borders and eventually export it, while Hamas is investing huge efforts (and donor funds) in building tunnels that aren’t going to get it anywhere.
PASSOVER, MARKING the Exodus from Egypt thousands of years ago, is all about miracles. As I have written before, the fact that it’s still celebrated is a miracle in its own right; that every generation, as commanded, passes the story on to the next generation; every year.
As I often point out: Passover, the festival of freedom, represents everything we are proud of: survival against the odds; national identity; and a return to the Promised Land.
All the things for which we have been admired – and reviled – throughout millennia.
For our enemies, nothing can be more frustrating than seeing Jews – millions of us, religious and secular – preparing for the holiday.
It’s part of our story, collective memory and identity that can’t be taken from us – not, of course, that that stops them trying.
While smoke was still rising from the burned-out bus in Jerusalem, Israel’s ambassador to the UN Danny Danon was verbally sparring with the Palestinian representative, Riyad Mansour, who shouted at Danon, “You are an occupier. You are a colonizer,” and, in a clear attempt to adopt the Exodus image as his own, called on Danon to: “Let my people be free.”
Watching this were two members of the Meir family, Natan and Renana.
They are the widower and daughter of Dafna Meir, the 38-year-old nurse and mother of six who was stabbed to death in her home in Otniel by a Palestinian teenager in January.
My heart goes out to them, and all the families of the victims of terror, who have to face their first Seder night without their loved ones.
This attempt to portray Israelis as colonialists – foreign invaders – is part of a concentrated campaign. Those behind it were probably pleased by the wording used by executive board of UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) in resolutions passed in Paris last week. The Temple Mount is referred to solely as al-Aksa Mosque/ al-Haram al-Sharif; the Western Wall plaza is called by its Arabic name, Al-Buraq plaza, and the words Western Wall appear only after the Arabic name, in quotation marks.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a statement in response saying: “This is yet another absurd UN decision. UNESCO ignores the unique historic connection of Judaism to the Temple Mount, where the two temples stood for a thousand years and to which every Jew in the world has prayed for thousands of years. The UN is rewriting a basic part of human history and has again proven that there is no low to which it will not stoop.”
Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid, continuing his adopted role of shadow foreign minister, wrote a letter to UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova calling the resolution a “disgraceful attempt to rewrite history and rewrite reality as part of a sustained political campaign against the State of Israel and the Jewish people.”
He warned that the UNESCO resolution feeds the type of incitement that fuels violence.
It is easy, but wrong, to dismiss these resolutions as meaningless.
They don’t only foster Palestinian violence of the type seen in this week’s bus bombing, they also create a false image that is hard to correct in the world in general. Bokova, who distanced herself from the decision, has a real chance of becoming the next secretary-general of the UN.
In an another resolution, UNESCO expressed its regret that Israel refused to comply with its request to remove from its list of National Heritage sites “Al-Haram Al-Ibrahimi/Tomb of the Patriarchs in Al-Khalil/Hebron and the Bilal Ibn Rabah Mosque/Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem,” as if the Muslim identity was created before the Jewish one.
Out of the 58 states members of the UNESCO Executive Board, only six states voted against – Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States.
But whenever things get tough, we console ourselves with the Hebrew saying: “Avarnu et paro, na’avor gam et zeh.”
We survived Pharaoh, we’ll get through this too.
And every year we end the Seder with the prayer: “Next year in Jerusalem!” It can only be a matter of time before the UN condemns us for email@example.com