The Seeds of Brussels were planted twenty years ago exactly — and we did nothing

As the civilized world recoils in horror at the carnage in Brussels, it is instructive to look at the date of the attack on innocents using the  Belgian transportation system.   It was twenty years ago, almost exactly, in February and March of 1996, that a wave of suicide attacks struck Israel, targeting buses in Jerusalem and a major thoroughfare in Tel Aviv, Dizengoff street.   Nearly 60 Israelis were slaughtered by Hamas suicide bombers over the course of ten days.  Among the dead were at least two young American citizens and the twenty year old son of the prominent Haaretz columnist Nahum Barnea.

Arguably, the destruction on the streets of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv ushered in our modern age of the suicide bomber who purposely targets public transportation and places of assembly, shown to such awful effect in Belgium yesterday.  Yet twenty years ago, after the usual pious claims of sympathy, the Western world promptly turned its back on Israel and its suffering.  Had we as a civilized society worked together to end the scourge of suicide bombing and to address the growing terror apparatus, perhaps, just perhaps, the streets of Brussels would not have flowed with blood yesterday as did the streets of Jerusalem twenty years ago almost to the day.  But, dare I say it, because the victims years ago were largely Jews, and Israelis, the world, and its concern moved on. But the world moved on, Benjamin Netanyahu was elected not long after, largely as a result of the terror bombings, and we are where we are today.

Recall that in Israel, the most popular bumper sticker went from “Shalom Haver” (goodbye friend) in memory of Yitzhak Rabin, to “Shalom Haverim” (goodbye friends) in memory of the scores killed. Sadly, that bumper sticker is just as relevant today

About the Author
Rabbi Douglas Sagal has served as the Rabbi of Beth Shalom in Connecticut, KAM Isaiah Israel in Chicago, and is now Temple Emanu-El in Westfield, NJ, the largest congregation in the state. He studied at Wesleyan University, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, and Yale Divinity School.