Friday, December 14, 2001

Hannukah in Jerusalem

Thursday, December 13, 2001

This morning I was awoken at around 5am by the sound of low-flying helicopters. Half asleep, I thought I was just dreaming it, but the sound persisted and got closer. By the time I had the presence of mind to look out the window they were gone, the sound fading into the distance.

Later, on the morning news, I heard that the Israeli Air Force had hit Palestinian military facilities in Ramallah, just five miles northeast of Modi'in. The raids were in response to yesterday's Palestinian ambush of a civilian Israeli bus near the Israeli town of Immanuel. The assault with both roadside bombs and automatic rifles left 10 Israelis dead - nine civilians of all ages and a soldier who came to rescue them - and over 30 wounded.

This afternoon I took the bus into Jerusalem, as I do most Thursdays. On board, a man sitting up front was chatting to the driver. Apparently this morning the Modi'in-Jerusalem road was closed while the army checked it for Palestinian ambushes. Following last night's massacre, the army wanted to make extra sure that the road was safe. They determined that it is, but they stepped up security on the road all the same.

I don't know if it's the tense situation or the fact that I'm spending more time in front of the TV watching news, but lately I've had the urge to keep my hands occupied with something creative. Over the last few months I've been beading scarves, decorating skirts, making jewellery and pretty much trying to ornament anything in sight. Having exhausted my stock of broken necklaces to reinvent, I went into town today to buy some beads.

I don't really know how to sew, let alone bead, but I seem to be doing all right - I haven't ruined anything yet. (If anyone would like to buy a beaded or beribboned headscarf or a necklace, I seem to be producing them faster than I have time to wear them...) Right now I've been making them up as Hanukah gifts.

There are some nice bead and textile shops downtown, and the chilly but sunny weather was amenable to strolling the streets, so I took my time to find just the right thingamajig.

My walk took me up and down and across Ben Yehuda Street, Jerusalem's downtown pedestrian mall, which has been the scene of several terrorist bombings in recent years - most recently, two weeks ago, killing 11 Israeli teenagers. Every alley and side street leading to it had been barricaded off, with police and soldiers checking everyone who passed. I lost count of how many security guards checked and rechecked my bags.

Not far from the recent bombing, a busker was alternating between Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water" and Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World". An elderly lady was hawking small Psalms books, blessing anyone who bought one with a special "segula", a mystical protection from terrorist attacks and car accidents, she said.

Outside each café and restaurant, bored-looking security guards stood around smoking while eyeing the foot traffic, waiting around for someone to try and enter their establishments. Weird having your bags searched just to go and have a cup of coffee or a burger.

At the Jaffa Road end of the street, near Zion Square, right in the heart of Jerusalem's entertainment district, a stage had been set up, not far from the site of this month's suicide bombing. A big orange sign read, "Banu Hoshekh Legaresh" - "We have come to banish darkness" - a line from a well-known Hanukah song. A large, makeshift-looking hanukiah, Hanukah candelabra, adorned one corner of the stage. A pair of klezmer musicians were doing last minute sound tests and a growing crowd was massing expectantly nearby.

A huge knot of people were crowding around a couple of tables set up near the stage. Standing on tiptoe I could just make out the source of the commotion - a giant sufganiah, the oily jelly doughnut traditionally eaten on Hanukah. Soon someone announced over a microphone that this was the largest sufganiah ever made. Weighing in at 22.3kg, it had beaten the previous Guinness record of 15kg. (Only he pronounced it "Jinness"....) A gaggle of photographers was swarming around it, flashing and clicking as though some mighty celebrity had been spotted. Not bad for a doughnut.

Yet even this mighty sufganiah was not the real source of the ruckus. No, the real reason the crowds were closing in was that on the next table over they were handing out free sufganiot, albeit regular sized ones. And you didn't have to be Israeli, or even Jewish, to get in on the action. Several Arab families and at least one priest were joining in the doughnut frenzy. You'd have thought no one had ever seen a sufganiah before, and, believe me, by the fifth day of Hanukah there isn't a soul in Israel who hasn't had at least one forced upon him or her at some point.

For each night of Hanukah, the Jerusalem municipality has held a festive Hanukah candle lighting at this spot, with all manner of entertainment. Tonight the city chose to honour the Bnei Akiva youth movement and the city's tourism industry. A giggly group of kids in Bnei Akiva shirts held a mini torchlit parade up to the podium. The director of the tourism ministry lit the hanukiah and the municipality's tourism chief performed an operatic rendition of Ma'oz Tzur, the traditional Hanukkah hymn, in heavily Russian-accented Hebrew. The klezmer band burst into life again and soon the crowd were enthusiastically moving along to the lively music, some tapping their toes, others dancing with their toddlers, while some garishly-clad young men swirled and swayed in an almost trancelike state. I heard a refined British accent behind me announce that Jerusalem certainly had the spirit of the Blitz, minus Vera Lynn and Glenn Miller.

"Spirit of the Blitz" described it well. For an ordinary Hanukah the scene was quite normal. Yet it was totally bizarre to consider that this lively celebration was taking place on the site where only a couple of weeks ago two suicide bombers detonated themselves, killing eleven Israelis and wounding over a hundred. But what else do you do when the enemy has made your town centre, your Times Square or Piccadilly Circus, his battleground? The only choice is to reclaim it as your own, to return it to its original purpose as an entertainment centre, as a place of joy.

I stayed a while to enjoy the music and then turned to get my bus home. As I walked down towards Zion Square, I noticed an assortment of homemade posters stuck onto walls and barricades, all around the makeshift memorial where the bomb had gone off. "Am Yisrael Hai - the nation of Israel lives", "Hazak Ve-ematz - be strong and of good courage", "Lo Nitya-esh - we will not despair!", and so on.

In Zion Square itself a large group of teenagers sat cross-legged on the cold stone, huddled around a guitar player singing Israeli songs. A man walked along with a sign proclaiming that Israel should respond firmly to terrorism. A car which stopped at the lights was festooned with Israeli and American flags, with a sign taped inside the window: "Nitgaber - we shall overcome".

Despite the bombs, despite the fear riding on a bus or walking down a city street now induces, Jerusalem was crowded and festive, just as it should be on Hanukah. Today you can be a hero just by going to a café.

After spending two hours stuck in traffic on the ride home, I arrived too worn out to cook dinner. Knowing that my husband had to work late, I stopped by my local falafel place for a bite. The owner greeted me like a long lost friend. Turning to the TV hanging in the corner of his shop he shook his head, "So, what will be? They bomb a busload of civilians and we bomb empty military buildings."

"What will be?" He repeated. That is the question every Israeli is asking right now.

Shabbat shalom,

Wednesday, December 12, 2001

Hannukah in Modi'in

Tuesday, December 11, 2001

Sunday evening, the first candle of Hanukah, I attended a grand ceremony at a local high school on the occasion of its renaming in honour of the late Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. The ceremony was in many ways a peace rally. On the stage a wall had been decorated with peace slogans, quotes from Rabin and artistic graffiti, just like the walls of the Tel Aviv square where Rabin was assassinated by a lone gunman six years ago. "Peace will be victorious", "Let the sun rise", "Only peace", "Tolerance, co-existence and dialogue are the way", "The nation supports peace", "For me peace means no hate, only love and happiness", "We always seek the dove", "A strong nation makes peace" and "Peace is compromise".
Speaker after speaker passed on a similar message, from the guest of honour, Rabin's daughter and deputy defence minister Dalia Rabin-Filosof, to the headteacher, local education ministry officials and various parents.
There was something surreal about the whole thing. The area around the school was tightly cordoned off, and Dalia Rabin was escorted in by a posse of heavily armed border guards who then took up positions around the room. With the current security risks no one was taking any chances. In the middle sat the audience, on the stage the peace wall, and above a screen showed continuous footage from Yitzhak Rabin's life, focusing on his years as prime minister, including his famous handshake with Yasir Arafat on the White House lawn and his receiving of the Nobel Peace Prize alongside Arafat. Arafat is fighting a war against us, the armed guards were there because of his war, and we were sitting there celebrating the nonexistent peace. It felt as though no one in the room had heard the news for the past 14 months.
And yet in context it was not so weird. As I wrote last time, people here are hungry for peace and many are not prepared to hastily relinquish the sweet dream that Israelis have clung to these past 8 years. The children performing peace songs and readings that evening have known nothing but the Oslo years. Last night their teachers and senior education ministry officials promised that they will continue to teach this peace curriculum as part of the legacy of the late Prime Minister Rabin.
No one knows the horrors of this war like Deputy Defence Minister Rabin-Filosof, yet she too made it quite clear that her eyes were on a future peace. "You can either be with the pessimists who say there is no hope, or you can be an optimist and believe that there will be peace" was a common theme running through all the speeches. There may be war now, but children here are still being trained for peace and dialogue with the enemy.
This week, Hanukah, marks three years since Jason and I moved to the ancient-new town of Modi'in. By the standards of Modi'in we are almost old timers; the modern city is less than six years old. In the context of history we are only the latest generation of Jews who have made our homes in this historic region.
More than any other place, Modi'in is associated with the Festival of Lights. Ancient Modi'in was home to the Maccabees or Hasmoneans, the priestly family who led the Jewish revolt against Greek Seleucid rule in the second century BCE. Hanukah celebrates their victory over the tyrannical Antiochus and their liberation of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Subsequently, they founded a dynasty of Judean kings which ruled until the Roman takeover in the first century CE.
This Hanukah is extra special for Modi'in, as the town celebrates officially being designated a city, with the population now over 35,000 residents. A variety of special events are planned this week to mark Modi'in's new status. Prime Minister Rabin laid the foundation stone for the city in 1993, not long after he laid the foundations for the Oslo Accords. It is thus fitting that this city which was born under Rabin's premiership should have a school named for him.
Later Sunday evening, the first in what it is hoped will be a series of annual seminars about the region's history was held. Like the school naming ceremony, the first lecture was linked both to Rabin and Hanukah. Rabin was amongst the Israeli commanders who fought in this area during the War of Independence in 1948. Back then Jerusalem was under siege. Already the Arab armies, led by Jordan's Legionnaires, had captured the Jewish villages to the north and east of Jerusalem: Neve Ya'akov, Beit Ha'arava and Atarot. Gush Etzion, the Jewish area to the south of Jerusalem, had also fallen to the Jordanians, as had the Old City, the ancient heart of Jewish Jerusalem.
In an attempt to break the siege on Jerusalem, a massive military campaign was launched. Codenamed Operation Danny, its objective was to link the beleaguered Israeli communities that lay between the Tel Aviv area and Jerusalem, creating a safe corridor to bring supplies to the city. Some of the most crucial battles of that campaign were fought in the Modi'in area, battles that decided the very future of the nascent state and prevented the Jews of western Jerusalem from suffering the fate of those killed and expelled from the areas which fell to the Arab armies.
As the lecturer noted, it is particularly fitting to retell this story on Hanukah. The Maccabean uprising against the Greeks was launched in Modi'in with the aim of redeeming Jerusalem; in 1948, the battle for Modi'in was crucial in defending Jerusalem.
Moving from the modern to the ancient, the second lecture of the evening was by an archaeologist who has excavated Modi'in-area sites from the Hasmonean and Bar Kokhba periods. The Bar Kokhba rebellion, the last great Jewish revolt against Roman rule, took place three centuries after the Hanukah story and also began in the Modi'in area. The archaeologist described the secret tunnels and caves used in those days by the rebels. In some of those caves, including one in modern Modi'in, coins were found which had been minted by the rebels. They were inscribed in ancient Hebrew with the legends "for the freedom of Jerusalem" or "Jerusalem, the Holy City". Again, Modi'in was vital for the defence of Jerusalem.
He also showed diagrams explaining the excavations currently taking place on the edge of town. Recently an ancient synagogue has been found dating back to the Hasmonean era, making it one of the oldest synagogues ever found. (Last summer I went with a few friends to watch the dig in progress) If funding is obtained, the site will hopefully be properly preserved and developed for visitors to see the treasures unearthed from ancient Modi'in.
One family who won't be together to enjoy all these special Hanukah events in Modi'in are the Nachembergs. The mother of the family, Chana, was seriously wounded in the bombing of the Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem last August. She remains in a coma, now in a longterm care facility in Tel Aviv. Last week I met her parents for the first time at a pre-Hanukah gift fair in Modi'in. Such warm, gentle people. They said that Chana is gently being weaned off the respirator, and they recently took her little girl, Sarah, to see her for the first time since the bombing. Little Sarah played with her crayons by her mother's bedside. I'm not in the habit of making appeals, but anyone with a little time is invited to visit the website a family friend made for Chana. The family need all the support they can get. Bring this family some Hanukah warmth. Please visit:
I was just getting to bed that night when I heard the news of another shooting in our area. A young man from Dolev, a Jewish village northeast of the Modi'in area, was shot in the spine while driving home on a local road. He's now hospitalised in serious condition, but responding well to treatment. Tracks from the ambush site led to the Palestinian village of Harbata, just north of Modi'in, close to the town of Kiryat Sefer. I've lost count of the number of similar attacks which have taken place on that road, a small local route, used mainly by residents of the villages of the northern Modi'in area.
Happy Hanukah from Modi'in, the home of the Maccabees.

Tuesday, December 04, 2001

Who really wants peace?

Monday, December 3, 2001

As you probably know by now, Saturday night's Jerusalem bombings were just the beginning. Sunday morning came news of a drive-by shooting near the Israeli village of Alei Sinai in northern Gaza. A few hours later all other news was superseded by an even worse atrocity, when a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up inside a bus in the northern Israeli port city of Haifa. Other terror attacks - several shootings and another bombing - followed across the country. In less than 24 hours, twenty-six Israelis had been killed and hundreds wounded, many seriously.

Especially at times like this, after Israel has suffered such horrific terror attacks, people often make comments along the lines of "well, if only you guys would stop hating each other there would be peace" or "this conflict is about irrational hatred on both sides". The implication is that both sides have been active in fostering hostile attitudes and blocking reconciliation and that we are all equally to blame in the impasse.

I beg to differ. I belong to a generation which has been brought up to believe that peace is just around the corner. The Israeli-Egyptian peace accords and the first Camp David negotiations took place when we were in kindergarten. We were brought up with the idea that Egypt was Israel's new friend, and that soon the rest of the Arab world would follow. The Israeli song "Ani Noladati Leshalom" (I was born for peace), composed specially for Egyptian President Sadat's historic visit to Jerusalem, was an anthem of our childhood.

The generation after us has grown up with the idea that peace was even closer, that Yasser Arafat and his Palestinian Authority were Israel's friends and that Jordan's King Hussein was a kindly uncle. This is the generation who grew up with the Oslo Accords process, begun almost 8 years ago. This is the generation of Israeli-Palestinian Seasame Street in Hebrew and Arabic, peace workshops and dreams of weekend shopping trips to Damascus or relaxing in Gaza City cafes with our new Palestinian buddies. Oslo, we were told, was the start of a new age of peace and reconciliation.

Israeli musicians, at the forefront of the peace campaign, brought us a plethora of peace songs, both writing new ones and reviving old ones. "Shir LeShalom" (song to peace), written decades ago, received a new lease of life as the anthem of the Oslo era. The song calls on Israelis to forget the many casualties of past wars, for the dead cannot return, and instead to cast our eyes to the future, to sing a song to peace.

School curricula, the media and popular culture reinforced this message. We were encouraged to understand the Palestinian side of things, to feel the Palestinians' pain, to learn their perspective on history as part of this historic reconciliation. Arafat, Erekat, Sha'ath and other senior PLO and PA officials became VIPs in Israel, members of the Israeli celebrity A list. Everyone from politicians to children's show presenters rushed to Gaza City to meet them and have their photos taken. It was taken for granted by most Israelis that Oslo would end with a Palestinian state alongside Israel, and that the two states would live side by side.

Yes, we suffered terrorism, indeed the Oslo peace process brought with it some of the worst terror attacks in Israel's history, but this, we were told, was the work of fringe extremists. Peace was just around the corner. Peace was the highest goal, superseding all other goals and it was there for the taking, just a few more Israeli concessions away.

The Oslo process brought a peace treaty with Jordan, flourishing markets sprang up in Palestinian villages and new joint Israeli-Palestinian industrial zones in border areas created new jobs. These were the images we were encouraged to put our faith in, and who wouldn't want to believe this rosy side of Oslo? Israel is a nation which has craved peace since its birth, when the armies of seven Arab states massed to crush the infant Jewish state one day after it declared independence. Oslo offered the hope that life would not always be lived from one Arab assault to the next. Oslo offered the hope of normal peaceful relations with all our neighbours.

Yet there was and is a dark side to Oslo, a side which the media, politicians and intelligentsia worked hard to play down. While Israeli schoolchildren were being raised on a peace curriculum, the nascent Palestinian Authority, the Palestinians' government in waiting created by Oslo, was building a state founded on hate. The new Palestinian Authority schools and youth movements teach a curriculum which presents Israel as the enemy, which drips anti-Semitism and encourages Palestinian youth to kill and die for the Palestinian cause. Summer camps for children as young as eight feature weapons drills and train them in guerrilla tactics for use against Israeli towns.

Official Palestinian television from its inception broadcast children's shows in which, against a background of cute Disney characters, little Palestinian boys and girls sang about their desire to be martyrs in the struggle against Israel and of how they hoped to die gloriously in battle. Suicide bombers are role models for Palestinian tots. Palestinian media and television, closely controlled by Arafat's Palestinian Authority, broadcast programmes filled with hate, holocaust revisionism, classic anti-Semitic stories about blood libels and Jews poisoning the water, and false histories denying that the Jews ever had a religious or national connection, or indeed any other, to the region. Palestinian songs, including those sung at public events attended by Arafat and senior Palestinian negotiators, featured verses about recapturing Haifa, Ashkelon, Petah Tikva and Safed - cities within the internationally-recognised boundaries of Israel.

The Palestinian Authority launched an all-out campaign to deny Jewish history. Suddenly Jesus was a Palestinian Arab - even though the Arab conquest of the region took place many centuries after the birth of Christianity, and Jesus was, of course, a Jew from Judea, as described in the Christian bible. Palestinian leaders claimed there had never been a Jewish Temple on Jerusalem's Temple Mount. At the same time they began destroying archaeological remains at the site - attempting to wipe out millennia of Jewish and Christian history in the region. Palestinian propaganda maintained that traditional Jewish holy sites such as Joseph's Tomb in Nablus / Shekhem, the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem were "Zionist myths" and were in fact exclusively Islamic sites.

When in 1999 I took a tour to the Nablus region organised by the Palestinian Authority's tourism wing, the official Palestinian Authority guide omitted virtually all Jewish connections with the region, rewriting history to exclude the ancient Israelite period. As anyone who has read the Bible knows, the ancient city of Shekhem features pretty prominently in ancient Israelite history. All this formed the basis for a Palestinian campaign to portray Israel as a relic of European colonialism, a foreign interloper in the Arab Muslim Middle East, and so avoid according any legitimacy to our presence and the existence of a Jewish state here.

The Israeli public had looked upon the Oslo Accords as an historic mutual reconciliation in which Israelis and Palestinians accepted one another's legitimacy and agreed to historic compromises for the sake of peace. The Palestinians meanwhile looked upon it as the first phase in their victory over Israel. The Israelis had 8 years of peace education. The Palestinians had 8 years of war education.

When, during the summer 2000 Camp David peace talks, the Palestinian leadership decided to reject Israel's openness to painful compromises and willingness to reach a negotiated settlement - refusing even to respond with a counteroffer - the Palestinian people were ready for violent confrontation, which in their eyes had never ended. For them the Oslo peace process was a tactical move, not a rejection of their "armed struggle". When Yasser Arafat began his latest war against Israel, the Palestinian people were well prepared.

The Israeli public, on the other hand, were not. Years of peace education, peace songs and reconciliation projects had left the Israeli public expecting peace, not another war. Israelis were looking forward to the day - some time soon, Prime Minister Barak had promised us - when Israeli men would no longer have to do military reserve duty. Suddenly, with Arab attacks on several fronts, many Israelis received emergency call-up papers. The dream of Oslo had turned into a nightmare.

Too late we now realise that peace was never even on the Palestinian agenda.

This is not about hating each other. This is not about a failed peace process. This is about a Palestinian leadership which never had any desire to change its ultimate goal of destroying Israel. There never was an intention on their part to commit to real peace. It was just a tactic, as the late Palestinian "moderate" Faisal Husseini put it recently, to bring an armed Palestinian army into the heart of Israel in the guise of the Trojan horse of peace.

And we Israelis fell for it hook, line and sinker. We wanted peace, real peace, Belgium and Luxembourg peace, so badly, that we were prepared to overlook everything, even to help arm a tens-of-thousands-strong Palestinian army. Now we're paying the price, and, sadly, so once again are the Palestinian people, led down the path to war by their leadership.

I remember the euphoria when this all began in September 1993 when I was 18. I spent Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, with friends in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City. Their parents took us on a nighttime walk over the roofs and walls of old Jerusalem and told us enthusiastically how finally this ancient city would know peace. They pointed out the Muslim areas which would be part of a Palestinian state and the Jewish areas which would remain Israeli and we would all be happy, having finally settled all the old disputes.

Walking down to Shiloah, the spring which fed ancient Jerusalem, for the traditional tashlikh ritual, we passed the Arab houses of Silwan, once a Jewish village, now Arab, which borders the southern edge of the Old City. The Arabs greeted us with shouts of Shalom and Salaam, and we responded with the Arabic Merhaba (hello). They waved Palestinian flags and we smiled back, confident that this was a sign that we were on the road to the longed for peace and reconciliation.

Little did we know that their aspirations and understanding of peace and ours were so different.

Sunday, December 02, 2001

Open season on Israelis also known as Zinni's peace making mission

Saturday night, December 1, 2001

We were just getting to bed tonight when we heard the news. Just want to let you know we're fine.

Tonight the Palestinian bombers really outdid themselves. Two suicide bombers detonated themselves in one of central Jerusalem's prime entertainment districts, Zion Square and Ben Yehuda Street, Jerusalem's equivalent of New York's Times Square or London's Piccadilly Circus. Shortly afterwards, as rescue workers were tending to the wounded, a car bomb exploded in a nearby side street, one of the main evacuation routes to the closest hospital.

There are no words. I don't think that I need to describe the nightmare scene one more time. Once again it's the scene from the Sbarro restaurant in August, and Tel Aviv's Dolphi Disco in June and downtown Hadera a few weeks ago and the Afula central bus station this week, the Netanya shopping mall in May, too many other dates and places to remember I think by now you know it as well as I do. Right now they're talking about well over 170 wounded, many critically, and at least 8 dead. By tomorrow the numbrs will probably be worse. Another day of funerals ahead.

I could have been there. Any number of friends, family or neighbours might have been there enjoying an evening out on this chilly, but beautifully clear Saturday night. Any one of us might have been sitting at Cafe Rimon, the Blues Brothers Steak House or the Patriot Cafe, or just window shopping or listening to buskers or watching the Breslev Hassidim hold an impromptu street concert / dance party in Zion Square.

How many times have we met up with friends at a cafe in the area, or decided on a whim to stop by for a soup on our way home from the movies or a concert. Not long ago, while they were still coming, tourists crowded these lively thoroughfares, and Cafe Rimon in particular was popular with English speaking visitors and remains a popular meeting place for foreign students. At this late hour I don't even know if or where to start phoning friends and family to check that they're OK, the list is just too long, the possibilities just too terrible to think about.

Once again the Palestinian terrorists have chosen a "soft", civilian target. They seem to revel in attacking places of entertainment, specialising in targeting Israel's youth, the kids at the disco, schoolbuses, pizzerias. Sometimes I wonder whether this is part of the Islamist message, attacking these very western symbols. Sometimes I think that it motivated by the demographic "struggle" to overwhelm Israel's Jewish population: they want to attack Israel's future mothers and fathers. Sometimes I think it is just an easy target, an easy way to kill and maim a lot of Israelis in one go. In the end it doesn't matter, the bottom line is that they want to kill, destroy and maim, and it doesn't matter if you are a newborn baby, a granny or a combat soldier; any Israeli, any Jew is a legitimate target for them, any time, any place. We might as well walk around with bullseyes on our chests saying "kill me, I'm an Israeli."

In the 14 months of this terror war, over 200 Israelis, most of them civilians, have been killed by Palestinian terrorists. On the scale of the United States with nearly 50 times the population of Israel that would be the equivalent of over 9,000 killed, or more than twice the September 11 attacks. And we still haven't even tried doing to the Palestinian Authority, which harbours and arms these terrorists, what the US has done to the Taliban and Bin Laden's cronies. Every action Israel takes against Palestinian terrorists is met by worldwide condemnation and threats of sanctions and other measures against Israel.

America and their grudging European allies are allowed to fight terrorism, but the natural order of things is that Israelis are supposed to be terrorised. Murderers of American and British civilians must be punished, even killed; murderers of Israelis must be "understood" and negotiated with. Each time we try to defend ourselves, to stop this Palestinian open season on Israelis, we are chided by the enlightened leaders of Europe and America: "All we are saying is give peace a chance". Well we've given peace a chance, however slim that chance has sometimes seemed. But since the 1993 Oslo "peace accords" Israelis have been dying in ever increasing numbers, victims of a peace process that has granted the Palestinian terrorists an army with bases next to every Israeli population centre.

Well, American peace envoy General Anthony Zinni's mission to the region is going well. Aside from tonight's bloody attack, since his arrival on Tuesday Palestinian terrorists have shot up the central bus station in the northern Israeli town of Afula, shot up several cars and a schoolbus in Gaza, Samaria and in other border areas, blown up a bus near the northern Israeli town of Pardes Hanna, opened fire on the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Gilo, and engaged in scores of other attacks. As of Thursday night seven Israelis had been killed since Zinni arrived, and dozens wounded. My hunch is that Arafat is upping the violence now to give him more "wiggle room" in declaring a ceasefire: Compared to this week's carnage, we should be satisfied if "only" one Israeli is killed a week and a dozen wounded, perhaps a few cars shot up and a few homes mortar bombed. Sounds like a ceasefire, no?

This evening, as on every Saturday evening, we made havdala, the little ceremony marking the end of Shabbat , the Sabbath. As on every Saturday night we sang traditional havdala songs wishing one another shavua tov, a good week, and the hymn listing the many blessings we pray for in the coming week, prayers for protection and well being and the hope for imminent redemption and peace.

On nights like this it is hard to have faith, hard to believe, and yet we do, somehow despite it all we still hope and pray that the nightmare will end one day.

Last night the rains came hard and furiously and this morning we awoke to green hillsides and the first crocuses and narcissi. There is so much to live for. All around us the land is rejuvinated from the rains. The plants and flowers call out for our blessings, and all around we are dying and our blessings over the rain and the thunder are mixed with the prayers for the dead and wounded.