Coming only a day apart, the tragedies of Burgas and Aurora point to the different vulnerabilities of Israel and the United States.
With all its goods and not-so-goods, one feature of the United States that keeps it from full membership among civilized countries is the rampant freedom of acquiring weapons. The assailant''s use of an assault rifle, as well as a pistol and gas canister, and having primed his apartment with as yet unknown quantity and quality of explosives reminds us of Colorado''s lawless past, as well as not so long ago Columbine.
Similar tragedies have happened in European countries with strict weapons control. No society is hermetically sealed against madness, but the United States'' record of gun-related violence is sufficiently off the charts to cause wonder as well as sadness.
Israel''s story is not one of individual madness but being the target of organized violence, meant to terrorize civilians, directed by hostile governments. Iran has taken up the leadership of evil, with no shortage of agent-organizations to recruit and dispatch individuals willing to die for a religious cause.
There is also a pathological (Jewish) response to Burgas that faulted Israelis:
"If Israel didn''t continue to disrespect almost everyone in the world including American Jews who dare question any aspect of Israeli policy, Israel might have more friends sympathetic to Israel''s real concerns about existential threats."
Both Americans and Israelis are in a trap of their histories.
One of Americans'' problems is love of a romantic image where unfettered individualism is a value to cherish rather than a barrier to progress. It appears not only in the largely uncontrolled access to means of violence, but in the dominance of health care by profit-making insurance companies. One can applaud President Obama''s efforts to broaden coverage, but still to be tested by the rigors of implementation and regulation (as well as Republican aspirations) is the quality of insurance against companies'' capacity to decide what procedures fit within each customer''s policy.
Israelis are trapped in the reality of being Jewish. While the Holocaust produced Christian introspection and abandonment of persecution, Israel''s creation and success has led Muslims to take up the cause. Holocaust denial, promoting the Protocols as gospel, and suicide bombing have taken over from Christians'' burning Jews in the Middle Ages and pogroms extending until the Holocaust.
Israelis'' responses to Burgas demonstrates a recognition of history and identity.
Media provided full coverage from first reports of an explosion involving Israelis. Several planeloads of medical and security personnel went to Burgas, including one of the country''s best known specialists. Those of the injured who could be transported were brought to facilities in Israel better equipped than those in Bulgaria. National Insurance financed flights to Sofia for family members of the injured who had been moved to Bulgaria''s better hospitals, and could not be transported internationally. Close to half the newspaper pages in the following days as well as extensive television coverage described the event, details of those killed, responses of families and friends, and funerals. Prominent in the stories was a 40-year old couple, who had saved for a low-cost vacation package in order to celebrate the wife''s pregnancy after years of fertility treatments. The husband was injured, and did not learn of his wife being identified among the dead until he was returned to Israel.
Thousands went to the cemeteries, as is typical of such events, most of them not personally connected with the victims.
Political and security leaders are promising an appropriate response, but it may take a while, and it is unlikely to be closely targeted at the perpetrators of this event. Burgas was part of an ongoing cycle of violence involving Iran and its agents, most notably the Shiites of Hizbollah and the Islamists of Gaza. Syria had been an important intermediary, but that link is now chaotic.
Iran has followed the older pattern of focusing on soft Israeli or overseas Jewish civilian targets, seemingly on account of Israel''s existence as well as in retaliation for Israel actions against Iran''s nuclear program and leading terrorists.
My correspondent who picked on Burgas to criticize Israel insists on portrayals of history balanced by admissions of blood on our hands.
Israel has killed civilians, and more will die as a result of Burgas and the larger conflict of which it is a part. However, Israel does not set out to kill civilians, and its record of warning civilians or aborting actions on account of civilians compares well with other armies.
Warfare is not as precise as the judiciaries of democratic countries, leaving aside doubts about the death penalty.
We''ll have to wait to see how Israeli political and military leaders chose to deal with this and other provocations. The only certainty is that enemies, antagonists, and simpletons claiming to be our friends will accuse Israel of excessive force.