Saying goodbye, then and now, to a victim of terror

What a difference 20 years can make.

It was late Tuesday evening, April 11, 1995.  36 hours earlier I had arrived in Israel to be by the side of my daughter Alisa who had been mortally injured in a bus bombing.  Now I was being ushered by Israeli protocol people into the VIP lounge at Ben Gurion Airport to await my El Al flight that would return me with Alisa’s body to the States.

I sat on a couch at one end of the room, next to a military chaplain who didn’t speak a word of English.  On the opposite side were members of the press who asked a few questions.  Frankly, I don’t remember what those questions were, or what I said in reply.

During a lull, I learned that students who knew Alisa wanted to have access to the airport in order to give Alisa a proper send off.  The answer from the Rabin government was, “no.” No one would be allowed in the airport  or on the tarmac while Alisa’s coffin was present in order to say goodbye.  It was for safety reasons, I was told.

Shortly before the flight was to leave, I was brought along the tarmac to the rear of the plane.  There was Alisa’s coffin, with an Israeli flag draped over it, and on top of that a wreath from the government of Israel.  A protocol officer was there to extend her condolences and the chaplain who had joined me in the VIP lounge was there to say the kaddish.

But none of Alisa’s friends or fellow students was there, and there was no outpouring of public support at the airport in the face of the horrific murder of a 20-year old American college student studying Torah in Israel.

As time passed, I realized that the Rabin government had barred any type of gathering at the airport out of fear of criticism of the Oslo accords.  Alisa was called a “casualty of the peace,” a euphemism for an innocent young woman cut down before her life began.  Her murder was an embarrassment to a government that was turning a blind eye to Palestinian terrorism.

Late last week, As the news reports came in about the murder of Ezra Schwartz, the Massachusetts teenager also in Israel to study Torah, I wondered how the Israeli government would act when it was time to send him home to his parents.

Would it stick its head in the ground, as did the Rabin government, at its failure to contain terrorists whose goal is not to rid the West Bank of settlers but to kill as many Jews as they can in a 100-year old genocidal war?  Or would it allow Ezra to receive the tribute he deserved for standing up as a Jew in our homeland and casting his lot, as did Alisa, with the people of Israel.

From all news accounts, hundreds of Ezra’s friends, and people who didn’t know him personally were allowed to say goodbye.  And that’s the way it should have been.

What a difference 20 years can make.

About the Author
Stephen M. Flatow is the father of Alisa Flatow who was murdered by Iranian sponsored Palestinian terrorists in April 1995 and the author of "A Father's Story: My Fight For Justice Against Iranian Terror."
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