On the ground in Israel, you see a jewel

JERUSALEM — The Sbarro restaurant on Ben Yehuda Street today looks like any other. To be sure, a security guard sits out front and examines all who enter. But most restaurants in Jerusalem employ security guards. There is no formal recognition or plaque for the events of Aug. 9, 2001. On that day, a Palestinian Hamas member carrying a guitar case filled with explosives and nails detonated his bomb in the restaurant and killed 15 people, including seven children, and wounded more than 130.

There are bad apples in every group, right? Yes, but. Israel has spawned its own terrorists. There was Eden Natan-Zada, a 19-year-old Israel Defense Forces (IDF) deserter and convert to the teachings of an extremist Jewish American called Meir Kahane. In 2005 he shot and killed four Palestinians on a public bus, wounding 13 more. In 1994, Baruch Goldstein entered a West Bank mosque and murdered 30 Palestinians at prayer. And in 1982, Alan Goodman fired at Palestinians at the Al-Aqsa mosque, killing two.

There is a tiny extremist element in Israel (which includes former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s murderer) that endorses violence. But the response of the overwhelming majority of Israelis to these atrocities was horror, condemnation and guilt. Typical was then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s response to the Natan-Zada case. He called it “a despicable act by a bloodthirsty terrorist who sought to attack innocent Israeli citizens.” The Israeli citizens in question were the Arabs who lost their lives. The IDF declined to give Natan-Zada a military funeral (he was killed by Palestinians immediately after the murders), and every leading newspaper in the country denounced him. It was the same with the earlier Jewish terrorists (who, one cannot escape noticing, can be counted on one hand).

Things are different in the Palestinian territories. Because it happened around the time of the September 11 attacks on the U.S., many in this country missed the sequel to the Sbarro story. A month after the bombing, an exhibit opened at An-Najah University in the West Bank town of Nablus. It was a model of the post-attack Sbarro restaurant complete with the “Kosher” sign on the front awning, with blood, pizza slices and (fake) body parts strewn about. Students filed through to bask in the memories. The terrorist who committed the act (like those who have committed thousands of other attacks on Israeli civilians) was lionized, labeled a “shaheed” (martyr) and held up as a model for children to emulate.

Things have quieted down since the erection of the security fence. The number of successful attacks has been reduced by 90 percent — though the world (from the International Court of Justice to so-called human rights groups) has clucked its disapproval. Israelis are no longer living with the kind of gnawing daily anxiety they suffered between 2000 (when Arafat rejected 95 percent of the West Bank and launched the second intifada) and 2004. Not that life is normal. The first gift Israeli parents give their children continues to be a cell phone.

Last summer’s war with Hezbollah has left fresh scars, both physical and psychological. It was the first war Israel failed to win decisively. The corruption in high places (not unrelated to the unsuccessful war) has contributed to low morale. Perhaps the best one can say is that life is more livable than in the very recent past — as well as more compatible with tourism.

And there is so very much to see. The Roman city at Caesarea can hardly be called a ruin. The baths are in such excellent condition that you can admire the mosaic floors and the smooth marble decorations. The amphitheater remains in use. Go for a hike in the nature reserve called Tel Dan and come upon the remains of the ancient city of Laish, mentioned in the Bible and dating back to 2700 BC. The Nimrod Crusader fortress in the Golan sits perched near Mount Hermon against the sheer cliffs. How could they have built it in such a place? And how has it withstood the intervening centuries in such amazing condition?

Israel is a spectacular little jewel suffering from too much news.

Mona Charen is a nationally syndicated columnist. Her e-mail address is charenmail@cox.net.

Talk to us

More in Opinion

3d rendering Stack of vote button badges.
Editorial: Bring Davis, Hoiby to Marysville School Board

Both women have deep ties to the community and demonstrate commitment to students and families.

Editorial cartoons for Tuesday, Oct. 3

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

There’s no need to reduce carbon emissions; plants need CO2

National Geographic states that “Most life on Earth depends on photosynthesis.” Photosynthesis… Continue reading

There’s a lot we can do to fight the climate crisis

If you are concerned about the climate crisis and are not sure… Continue reading

Comment: Trump committed financial fraud; now comes price tag

All that’s left for a New York court to determine is how big a fine to levy against the deal artist.

Comment: Estate tax would be ample, fitting child care solution

Using it to support child care programs would recognize the literal debt owed by wealthy Americans.

Comment: U.S.’s greatest foreign policy success in jeopardy

PEPEFAR, which provides HIV/AIDS treatment and saved countless lives in Africa, may not be nenewed.

Editorial cartoons for Monday, Oct. 2

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

FILE — In this Sept. 17, 2020 file photo, provided by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Chelbee Rosenkrance, of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, holds a male sockeye salmon at the Eagle Fish Hatchery in Eagle, Idaho. Wildlife officials said Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021, that an emergency trap-and-truck operation of Idaho-bound endangered sockeye salmon, due to high water temperatures in the Snake and Salomon rivers, netted enough fish at the Granite Dam in eastern Washington, last month, to sustain an elaborate hatchery program. (Travis Brown/Idaho Department of Fish and Game via AP, File)
Editorial: Pledge to honor treaties can save Columbia’s salmon

The Biden administration commits to honoring tribal treaties and preserving the rivers’ benefits.

Most Read