Analyze This: Gambling with the angels of death over Pessah

Let us hope that the angels pass the entirety of our people.

Kassam removed 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Kassam removed 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
It has been three weeks since Liat Tas-Okun, a 35-year old Israeli woman hiking on her own in the rugged mountains of southern New Zealand, has been seen or heard from, despite the massive search operation under way to locate her. Tas-Okun hails from Moshav Netiv Ha'asara, the small community that sits directly alongside the northern border of Gaza, which during the past eight years has suffered from the steady stream of Kassam rockets and mortars directed against it by its Palestinian neighbors. A young woman was killed on Netiv Ha'asara by a mortar shell that fell there in August 2005, just days before the Gaza disengagement, and an additional 10 meter-high concrete wall had to be constructed to protect the settlement from sniper fire and grenades shortly afterwards. This is the home that Tas-Okun left behind to trek through New Zealand, which enjoys an almost an idyllic image internationally as one of the quietest, safest and most beautiful places in the world - and where there is now real concern about her current condition. Perhaps because it is appropriate to hold out hope until her until her fate is determined, the media has rightly refrained from commenting on a certain irony in this situation. Or maybe it is because it is already a far from uncommon story to hear of Israeli travelers (especially young people who have recently finished their service in the IDF) who leave this embattled nation and end up encountering danger, mortal and otherwise, in some distant corner of the globe. Without comparative statistics it is difficult to say whether it is because of the intimacy of this society that we simply hear of more such cases than elsewhere - or because there is truly a greater element of fatalism, or even recklessness in the Israeli character, that makes these situations more common here. How, for example, to account for the thousands of Israelis still in, or planning to go to Sinai, despite the official warning from the government's Counter-Terrorism Bureau that terror cells are planning "an imminent attack against the thousands of Israelis vacationing there" over Pessah? Is this just casual carelessness, or a more deeply ingrained existential fatalism among Israelis, a feeling that if trouble can find you anywhere - in New Zealand no less than along the Gaza border - than why let a few terror warnings deter you from an enjoyable (and affordable) vacation? In their defense, such warnings have become commonplace during the last few years regarding Sinai, and almost never have amounted to anything. But that in at least one tragic case they have - the Taba Hilton bombing in October 2004 that claimed the lives of a dozen Israelis among the 34 killed - suggests that to simply disregard these alarms is playing a vacationers' version of Russian roulette. Some MKs have proposed closing the border with Egypt during the next few days and warning the Israelis who chose to remain there they do so at their own risk. If because of diplomatic complications that can't be done, Likud MK Yuval Steinitz has suggested that Israelis who enter Sinai be made to deposit a sum of money at the border crossing to cover the government's expenses in the event they are injured or taken hostage. Though the idea sounds reasonable, it's practicability is questionable. How would the parameters of such a policy be determined? What if a terror attack occurs in Sinai not during the holiday, but some time afterwards? Why only there, when intelligence reports have warned that Israeli and Jewish institutions the world over should now be on heightened alert over a possible retaliatory attack for the slaying of Hizbullah terror mastermind Imad Mugniyah two months ago? And what if Israelis were to cancel their plans in Sinai, no attack were to occur there, but they were injured or worse in a terror strike here at home? Could they or their survivors then sue the government for double compensation? What, for example, would the residents of Sderot (or Moshav Netiv Ha'asara) say in response to the government deciding for Israelis where they should vacation for safety's sake, while it asks them to stay in their own homes and take their chances from Gaza's Kassam rockets, while denying (or delaying) them the full protection they have asked for? Although common sense is rarely cited as a prominent characteristic of the average Israeli, this holiday the government will again simply have to rely on it as the best way for its citizens to avoid putting themselves unreasonably in harm's way. Perhaps it might also consider suggesting that Israelis pay special attention to the circumstances of the very first Seder night in Egypt, the event whose anniversary we will celebrate on Saturday evening. Then too, the Jewish people were given a heightened terror alert from on high, and told to stay close to home and take special precautions. But the Bible or Haggadah doesn't tell us whether any Israelites on that very first Pessah still disregarded those warnings, decided the whole sheep's-blood-on-the-door thing was an official over-reaction, and thought an after-Seder stroll down to the Egyptian quarter might be a nice way to cap the evening. If they did, the responsibility was clearly theirs - and theirs - alone. Let us hope though that once again on this Pessah, the angels of death pass over the entirety of the Jewish People, and if they do indeed alight, do so only on the heads of our mortal enemies. Calev@jpost