People speak of the heart of a city which usually means its center. It’s a silly phrase — the heart of the city. The heart is really anywhere and everywhere all at once. Without the heart, there is nothing. No life, no value to a brain that thinks or legs that walk, eyes that see or hands that hold.
Today in Jerusalem, our hearts are bleeding. We’ve bled so much in the last few weeks. Each day, almost every day, there is a report of more injuries. It’s like someone is throwing darts at our country — one day in the north — in Afula, Netanya, Haifa…another day in the south — in Kiryat Gat, Beersheva, rockets at Sderot, an attack in Eilat. And most often, it is something in the center of the country — Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Hevron.
Today, again, it was Jerusalem, as it was last week and the week before. Today it was a 24-year-old Muslim man who decided that it was a good day to go out and kill people. And so, I heard sirens…many of them…too many to be anything but what it was. Ten people hurt…eleven people hurt, including a small baby. Fourteen people, one critically, several in shock…the baby is seriously wounded. The reports rushed in…those confusing first moments when you are desperate to find out how bad an attack it was.
It’s always bad…but sometimes it is just beyond bad. Usually you cry; sometimes you break. You break for the orphans; for the mother who lost her only child. You break for the babies…the young children. Always, you break for the children.
His name is Yotam Shmuel and he is 18-months-old and he was attacked by a terrorist with an axe in his car, murder in his eyes, and hatred in his heart. Just as our land is an ancient one, Yotam is an ancient name, dating back, like our land, thousands of years. Yotam was a King of Judah, known for the castles and towers and cities he built here. Yotam was a righteous man, a humble man. Shmuel was a prophet. His name means “name of God” and he led the people to victory over the Philistines. Shmuel too was a righteous man.
Today, little Yotam can’t built towers and castles. He can’t even walk. He couldn’t fight against the Philistines or lead our people to victory…he’s only 18 months old. Doctors are fighting to save his leg…the one badly injured by a Muslim man who rammed his car into the bus stop where Yotam was waiting with his mother, Yael.
And here I am, silenced and censored. I can write of Yotam, but not of his killer. The world does not want to hear of Islamic fundamentalism, of hatred and death.
So many articles are appearing about how we have to help Moderate Islam — with capital letters, of course. We need to help them fight the evil in their society and, of course, to sound credible, we have to quickly equate it with the evil in our society…even though I can’t think of a single attack in which an Israeli Jew rammed his vehicle intentionally into a crowd of waiting Muslims, certainly not one with a child there.
Wait, I do remember one — it was a Jewish driver who rammed his vehicle into a pack of Arabs…who were throwing stones at his car…so that’s one, I guess. And yeah, Israeli society didn’t universally condemn him. But on a more serious note…why must we try to balance condemnations of horrible attacks like the one that happened today by demanding a stop to “violence on both sides.” What the hell is with that “on both sides” nonsense. You can’t count the innocent Jewish victims on a room full of fingers; and that’s even without counting the dead all around the world.
So long as you can count the innocent Palestinians who were intentionally murdered by Jews on the hands of one person…okay, let’s say five people…there is no “balance,” no “violence on both sides” nonsense.
I’m holding on to my anger, struggling to find comfort in words, as I usually do…but it’s very hard. Yotam is in serious condition, on life support, and being operated on at this very moment.
How do you speak of “moderate” Islam when a child is fighting for his life, when 14 people were terrorized today and are suffering tonight?
Five years ago, Kay Wilson went for a hike with Kristine Luken…within an hour, they were both attacked. Kristine was murdered, Kay severely wounded. Kay has spoken of her experience and today she wrote that on the fifth anniversary of that horrible event, there was a memorial service and three of her friends — Israeli Arabs — came to “honor her, support me, and plant a cyclamen of hope in the place of cyclamens that soaked up her [Kristine’s] blood.”
What was most amazing, was what Kay wrote after that. She explained that each of the three Israeli Arabs had suffered since that day. Two have received death threats. One destroyed the radical ISIS signs that were posted in his home town. And then she wrote the most important phrase of all, “they dared to speak out against the same hatred that stole Kristine’s life and nearly took my own life.”
And for the first time in a very long time, I finally realized there is a road to peace. It won’t be found by criticizing Israel and demanding an end to the so-called occupation (the one that supposedly began in 1967 and because of which the PLO was founded in 1964.
The road to peace is not paved with good intentions; it won’t be paved by a bunch of liberals showering love and rainbows and fairy tales over Kalashnikov rifles, axes, knives and crashed vehicles. It sure as hell won’t be paved with Jewish blood.
If it is to be paved at all, it will be designed, paved, painted, and patrolled by moderate Arabs who, like Kay’s dear friends, dare to speak. So long as you can count that number in single or even double digits while counting the extremists in the thousands, babies like Yotam will be rushed into the hospitals of Israel…and Paris…and San Bernadino….Mali and Bali and London and Madrid and beyond.
So, the only message I can offer tonight, as the sirens fade from my ears and the terror remains in my heart is to little Yotam.
Yotam Shmuel ben Yael — may God watch over you in these critical hours and grant the doctors the knowledge to make you well; may God return you to health and may you grow up to be strong. You are named after a king of Judah, a prophet of Israel…may they be by your side. May Michael be to your right, Gavriel to your left. May Uriel guard your front and Raphael your back. May God watch over you from above and all of Israel pray for you, little Yotam…