So, Now You’re Dead

A Palestinian woman, estimated at 50 years of age, attempted to stab an Israeli border guard this morning. Other police noticed her actions and shot her before she succeeded. She was seriously wounded and died of her injuries. No Israelis were hurt in this latest terror attack.

And so I began to think…and, as I always do, write….

Dear Palestinian Woman,

I’ve never been shot. I pray to God that I never will be. But here you are, lying dead despite attempts to save your miserable life. You approached a policeman this morning in Jerusalem and pulled out a knife and the police shot you. Up to this morning, it’s very possible that in the important milestones in life, you and I were very similar.

You were around 50 years old, just a bit younger than me. I am a daughter, a wife, a mother and a grandmother. I wonder what you are…or were…other than a terrorist…thankfully an inept and dead one at that.

Did you have children, a husband, and grandchildren? Someone’s world could have changed today, if you had succeeded. Last Wednesday, Tzvika Cohen was a much loved security guard in Maale Adumim who greeted people as they entered and left the mall here. Last Thursday, he took the place of another guard who was too sick to stay the night shift.

An Arab worker, one with whom he would sit and drink coffee, succeeded in attacking Tzvika from behind. Over and over, he hit Tzvika with an ax and now, as his family and community pray for his recovery, our city has changed. The people are angry and don’t want Arab workers in our city. We know that all workers are not guilty, not all are terrorists. But this one, who was, got in on a work permit, drank coffee and was friendly with the mall personnel…until he decided to try to kill someone.

Today, you tried to do to someone else what that Arab worker did — destroy a person’s life and forever change a family. You failed because our Border Guards have learned that you cannot trust — not even a woman, not even a young child. And so they are on alert, always. They watched you approach. Perhaps they saw fear in your eyes; perhaps they saw hatred. Whatever it was, they knew, even before you pulled the knife, that you had come to kill.

And so, as you pulled out the knife, they were ready…you approached one guard; others saw and shot you…and you died. In that minute and the few that you had left on this earth…did you think of your world, the one you abandoned?

You failed to hurt anyone and so the world of Israel goes on, but the world you have worked to shape for the last 50 years has changed. Who will take care of your family? Perhaps your husband has other wives…that is something we don’t have, so I don’t know how it works. I guess he’ll sleep with the other wives more often now that he doesn’t have to sleep with you. They’ll see to his needs, make sure he is fed.

But why would his other wives care about your children and your grandchildren? I once spoke to an Arab named Daoud about his wives. His first wife was 46 years old at the time and he called her “the poor one.” Perhaps that is how your husband thought of you. Maybe you hated that he took other wives…I certainly would hate it if my husband turned to another.

Do you have children? I have five. Three are married to the most wonderful people. They’ve built amazing lives, but I still feel they need me. I talk to them almost every day…one is angry at me now, but still I tell him that I love him and give him a hug or a kiss…and he hugs me back. I don’t think there are many things in life as strong as a mother’s love so I can’t help wondering what happened to yours?

Do you have children? Are they all grown? My youngest is 16 years old…I watch her grow and I marvel at the woman that is beginning to emerge. She is beauty and grace and drama, just on the edge of tomorrow. She comes to my room and tells me all about her world. What of your daughters? Your sons? My children know that I will cross the world to get to them, move mountains if I have to.

And your children…what have you taught them — that you’d rather kill a Jew than be a mother to them? That if they are to emulate you, they too must live and perhaps die, by the knife? Maybe you think that, at 50, you have finished being a mother, that they don’t need you? I guess that’s something you have to hope is true, now that you’ve chosen to leave them.

Do you have grandchildren? I have three small grandchildren. They fill my life with such joy. Don’t tell my children, but I think my oldest grandchild is the smartest human being in the world. I could listen to him forever. I read to him and he tells me stories. I have to remember to speak English with him even when he answers me in  Hebrew. My granddaughter melts my heart when she calls up the stairs, “Savta, I coming” or “Savta, good night. I love you.” And my youngest grandson, there are no words. He simply looks at me and I know the world is right.

Do you have grandchildren? What will they remember of you now? Perhaps they won’t remember you at all. You’ll be a name, a martyr. They’ll learn that you preferred to die some glorious death rather than watch them grow. That your hate of Jews you don’t even know is stronger than any love you supposedly had for them. Will you expect them to revenge your meaningless death?

Mine will remember the sweet sauce I put on my hamburgers, my potato kugel…which is really my mother-in-law’s recipe. They will remember that I held them when they cried, played with them. They will remember the big toy car and the slide I have for them to play with when they come visit.

So, now you are dead. Perhaps I’ll never know your name, whether you were married, had children, had grandchildren. If you did, you have added more poison to the next generation and the next. And the irony is that you are likely to find out that heaven isn’t nearly as welcoming to terrorists as you were led to believe.

Oh, CNN and Reuters and BBC will write about the Palestinian woman who was shot by Israelis today. They’ll add the line about your having pulled a knife deep down in the article. You’ll be added to the statistics — of terror attacks in the Israeli tally. But really, after more than 300 attacks in the last few months, one in which thankfully no one was injured, really ranks low.

So what we have here, dear Palestinian woman, is a wasted death of a wasted life.

About the Author
Paula R. Stern is CEO of WritePoint Ltd., a leading technical writing company in Israel. Her personal blog, A Soldier's Mother, has been running for more than 5 years. She lives in Maale Adumim with her husband and children, a dog, too many birds, and a desire to write her thoughts and dream of a trip to Italy, Scotland, and beyond.