There’s a story coming out of Israel that will not make the New York Times or any of the major American newspapers of record. It’s the story of the shocking murders of Rabbi Eitam and Naama Henkin by Palestinian terrorists as they drove with four of their children through the West Bank after celebrating the Sukkot holiday with friends. It’s not news, the thinking goes, for, after all, the West expects Palestinians to commit these heinous crimes; it’s their nature to hate and kill rather than to coexist. Which brings us face to face with another fact of journalism — when a dog bites a man, it barely gets a mention. But when a man bites back, well, you get the picture.
While Jews joke and love to play a game of “who knows whom,” which we call “Jewish geography,” as our people are not that numerous, we do tend to know someone in common. Especially in this case.
Eitam Henkin is the son of Rabbi Yehuda and Rabbanit Chana Henkin. It was Chana Henkin who met me outside the intensive care unit of Soroka Medical Center in Beer Sheva a little over 20 years ago when I arrived to see my daughter Alisa, who lay dying from her injury in a Palestinian terror attack that had taken place the day before.
At the time of her murder, Alisa was a student at Nishmat, a women’s institute started by the Henkins in 1990. Rabbanit Henkin had come to know Alisa as a student in love with her studies and possessed of a keen sense of humor; she could not get enough classroom time to suit her or enough time to sneak out of school to go to the Kotel to pray. Thus, I suppose it was second nature for a teacher to be near her student and to lend whatever support she could to a father who felt out of place in a distant land.
Having written about Palestinian terrorism for several years, I know that the leadership of the Palestinian people bears great responsibility for the murders of Eitam and Naama. You cannot day in and day out spew Jew-hatred — anti-Semitism is too mild a phrase — into the ears and minds and hearts of your people and not understand that some are going to act in a vile manner.
Denial of the Jewish people’s connection to the land of Israel, including Jerusalem, site of Solomon’s and Herod’s Temples on the Temple Mount; characterizing Jews as people who kill non-Jewish children and use their blood to make Passover matzo; and likening Jews to monkeys and pigs is standard fare, not just from the extremists in Palestinian society, but at the very highest levels of Palestinian leadership.
And the result of all this played out yesterday on a dusty road in the hills of the West Bank.
Edward Said, no friend of Israel or the Jews, did get one thing right — the West’s Orientalism towards Palestinians has to come to an end. And one of the first steps the West can take is to label murderers for what they are and make stories such as this one front page news.
I don’t know what I’m going to say to the Henkins when the time comes that I see them. I’m hoping a simple “I love you” will suffice.