The terrible and annual commemoration of the murder of my two best friends is coming up in another two weeks.
Beno Moshe and Ami Saltzman had worked for years in the Gaza Strip, in a packing house facility near Kibbutz Nahal Oz, but in the strip. Two Hamas killers murdered them both on June 25th, 1992.
We had worked together for years. Both Beno and Ami had contracted the fresh corn packing operation from a nearby kibbutz. The kibbutz itself grew much of the crop, and also supplemented the supply from other farming communities as far south as Eilat and as far north as the Golan, very close to the Syrian border with Israel.
I hauled the freshly harvested corn and brought it, truck and trailer, to the packaging warehouse. On return trips there was either a container filled with corn leaves and cuts left from the packaged product or the skids of packaged corn, ready for the markets.
I was in the Gaza Strip daily.
Beno and Ami and I became good friends. They spoke fluent Arabic, and many of the Palestinians who worked there came from neighborhoods nearby. From what I could tell, at least at the very beginning of the operation, the Palestinians liked the work, sorting, packing, moving packaged corn onto skids, getting the skids ready to be loaded.
Beno and Ami had designed the entire process, with conveyors and hydraulic lift gates to empty the containers of freshly harvested corn at a pace that the workers could manage well and package carefully.
Several Palestinians, especially Rafik, were in charge of the maintenance, not only of the conveyors but the forklifts and the packaging equipment as well.
Daily the Palestinian in charge of the payroll of the workers brought a carafe of freshly brewed coffee. The workers took breaks, and ate their lunch in the packaging facility.
Beno and Ami knew them all, knew their families, helped them on occasion, and had some, like Rafik, earn extra income by working privately for them in their homes in Israel.
Soon after the first Intifada something changed. Some of the “regulars” stopped coming to work. Younger workers drifted in.
I especially remember one such young Palestinian, who, whenever he saw me would run his thumb across his own throat, as if to slit it, and whisper “HAMASSS”.
Beno would tell me to ignore him. “He’s just a kid. What does he know anyways?” But there was a new tension in the air. Hamas had continued what the Muslim Brotherhood had started years ago.
I remembered what Adam, a Palestinian living in Jabalia had told me. I had become friends with Adam. “Don’t come to my home again. Your visits are putting the lives of my family and my life in danger.” Others I had known in the Gaza Strip said the same thing. Hamas was driving its wedge slowly, surely, inevitably.
When the Hamas killers murdered my friends, the Palestinian workers stood, watched and did nothing. Were they afraid of Hamas retaliation? Did they agree that Jews should be butchered? I’ll never know the answers but I have seen, over the years, that wedge Hamas was driving between Israel and the Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip get larger and larger.
We see the results of that hatred, even after Prime Minister Sharon removed the Jewish population and the IDF from the Gaza Strip in 2005. We see the rockets, the mortars, the gunshots and now the fires, the destruction of nature preserves, and farmland and orchards. We see the despicable use of human shields. We see Hamas “educate” the very smallest, some not yet out of pre-school, to murder, to butcher the Jew.
At the expense of a desperately impoverished population of Palestinian children, women and men, living in terrible conditions, Hamas uses millions and millions of dollars not to improve the lives of these people, but to find ever more devious ways to murder Jews. With the inexhaustible funds of Iran, Hamas would rather find ways of tunneling into Israel than building a better life for Palestinians. Hamas would rather spend Iranian Rials to fire missiles and rockets and mortars to murder Israelis than to create a “Hong Kong” or “Monte Carlo” of the Middle East, right there in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas killers murdered my best friends, Beno Moshe and Ami Saltzman. With that heinous murder Hamas destroyed a true bridge between Israelis and Palestinians.
By burning nature preserves, farmland and orchards in Israel, Hamas has burned a bridge too far. Forcing helpless Palestinians to rush at border fences and using those helpless people as human shields, perhaps Hamas has burned a bridge too far. By becoming a vassal of Iran, a regime that has sworn to “wipe Israel off the face of the world”, Hamas has burned a bridge too far. Soon there may be no more moderate Israelis willing to repair bridges.