Today I did what I have done before and what thousands of Jerusalem’s residents do daily. I took a bus, the number 19 specifically. As I looked around at my fellow passengers, the amazing diversity of life in our city struck me. Religious, secular, pale, dark skinned, old, young, pregnant, studious. Kids with big backpacks and not yet old enough to know that it is polite to weave your way through the aisle without knocking people down, an elderly couple arguing about the stop they needed: city life in all of its vibrancy. And a dad and his kid with the kid wearing what might be part of his Purim costume. A regular day on the Number 19 bus.
Six thousand miles away in a New York courtroom, there was a semblance of justice for the eleven families who sued the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian Liberation Organization. Whether the $218.5 million (which legally can be tripled under an anti-terrorism law) will ever be delivered to the families is suspect. What is not suspect is who was responsible for the terrorism that plagued Israel and took so many lives and changed many others for ever.
Included in the article the Times of Israel published about the families who were plaintiffs in the suit there was a photo of Yechezel Isser Goldberg. He died with ten others (fifty people were injured) when a Palestinian Authority cop turned suicide bomber blew himself up on the Number 19 bus. As I bumped along on the return bus ride from Kiryat Yovel today, I thought of Mr. Goldberg on his way to work on January 29, 2004 riding this same route with people who looked much like the people on the bus today. A normal day in Jerusalem.
It occurred to me that the faces and names of those who have been and continue to be the victims of terror sometimes get lost in the headlines. I think that was what was so powerful this past summer when the photos of the three boys who were murdered by Arab terrorists remained in the public eye for so long and are still shared frequently in social media. There are not just a random “bunch of folks”. There were living, breathing loved ones who were just having an ordinary day when hatred ended their lives. These might not have been our personal loved ones, but the cruelty of dehumanizing victims of terror by minimizing the impact of their deaths hurts society as a whole. And this is what we have witnessed: justification for terror because Israel exists and anonymity for the victims because some believe it is our fault for continuing to survive.
This court case will not stop the blame game; it will not stop anti-Semites from wanting us dead and wanting Israel to be destroyed. It will not bring justice to the families. What it has done is to confirm what Israelis have known for years: that the so-called “Palestinian” leadership is directly responsible for the terrorist attacks that still occur. Will this court case change the minds of those who think we should walk away again, as in Gaza, and give land to those who will only use the opportunity for violence? Most likely not. Will it stop the United States from cajoling Israel to again release terrorist murderers who will probably go back to their old ways? Most likely not.
It might change nothing at all. We can only hope that the court’s decision will open up a few closed minds. We can only hope.
In the meantime, the places where these acts of terror occurred continue to be part of our daily lives. We walk the streets, ride the bus, go shopping on King George, and live our lives to the fullest. It is not bad that we remember that these things happened. It would be bad if we forgot that they happened in our beloved city. I cannot promise that every time I ride the Number 19 bus that I will think of Yechezel Isser Goldberg, but today I did and I am sure when I am again on that bus sometime, I will look around and think about that day in the winter of 2004 when a good man was going to his job working with troubled youth. Just a regular day.