“We’ve got to stop them coming here” shouted the woman on the edge of hysteria in the hardware store as the fourth ambulance screeched by, its siren urgently reminding us that terror is close, that nowhere in Israel is safe, not even the sleepy Anglo haven of Raanana. “What’s happened? Another one?” an old woman approached me, the anxiety plain in her voice.
I check my phone. It’s barely 11:00 in the morning and there have already been four terrorist incidents – two in Jerusalem and two within a mile of where I stand. Three Israelis are dead another twenty injured.
The victims are all just ordinary Israelis, going about their daily business; women, men, teenagers, pensioners, religious, secular, left-wing, right-wing. Their Palestinian assailants aren’t picky. Any Jew will do.
Yesterday it was a 13-year-old stabbed whilst riding his bike, this morning a woman walking down the street and a 60-year-old man crossing the road. Two weeks ago a mother and father were brutally ripped away from their four children. I confess, there have been so many incidents in the past weeks, I cannot keep up. Death, fear and anger are everywhere.
When I took my daughter to gymnastics, held at her school after-hours, the gates were locked “because of the security situation,” so we got back into the car and drove round to the main entrance where a guard let us in. “What’s going on?” asked my seven year old “Why is the gate locked?” The word terrorist slipped from my tongue before I could hold it back and she gasped. “Don’t worry, I told her. Nothing will happen. You’re safe.” But the reality is, I have no guarantee of that. Any Jew will do, a small Jew too.
I eat lunch with my teenagers and ask what they’re saying at school about the attacks. My 14-year-old tells me about her debate with a boy who thinks killing the terrorists on the spot rather than detaining them will deter further martyrs. My 17-year-old son, just a hop skip and a jump from serving in the Israeli army, shows me a video of the terrorist from this morning’s incident as he is restrained by civilians. I share with them that I find it hard to understand how you can just walk up behind someone and plunge a knife into them. “It’s inhuman” agrees my son.
I have brought my children up to be rational thinkers, to have empathy and open minds. They know that there are two sides to this story and that one side has all the power and the other all the rage. They know that in the meantime, power rules the day and largely keeps them safe, but they also know that rage births a ferocious energy that is stealthily gaining ground. They know that their country has a bleak outlook unless we find some way to coexist. I fear that the Palestinian mothers on the other side do not educate their children to meet mine somewhere in the middle.
“Are you afraid?” I want to ask the Arab woman who serves me in the supermarket, wondering if working amongst Jews is as stressful for her in these times as it is for Jews to walk amongst Arabs. But I don’t because the answer is obvious. We are all afraid, Arabs and Jews, Palestinians and Israelis. We are all angry and frightened.
“We can’t stop them coming here” I said to the woman in the hardware store in Raanana, who was shaken and fearful. “We built a wall and checkpoints and an iron dome and still they come. We point guns at them and kill their leaders and block their weapons supplies as best we can, but still they come.” It’s time to understand that we cannot hope to control them. The only thing we can control is our own behavior. Mr. Netanyahu, over to you.