What the world just learned about cruelty, my family knew 22 years ago. So did other victims of the two Intifadas. On May 8, 2001, terrorists targeted and murdered two innocent children – my 13-year-old son Koby and his friend Yosef cut school for the day, hiking in the canyon near our home, having a day of freedom, similar in a way to what the party-goers at the Nova rave were trying to do, let loose and let go – enjoy life. The boys were murdered in the canyon. “Two Jewish Teenagers Are Beaten to Death,” said the headline in the New York Times. No perpetrator, no terrorists, just a passive verb. Koby and Yosef were bludgeoned to death with rocks the size of bowling balls.
Later the New York Times called the killers of innocent Israelis like my son Palestinian militants. Not terrorists. Koby and Yosef’s death was merely part of a cycle of violence. And as the number of victims of the Second Intifada that began in 2000 piled up, the New York Times and other media outlets continued to insist that killings like my son’s were not terrorism. No, the mainstream media claimed, my son was killed by freedom fighters or more innocuously, gunmen.
But the Intifada was waged on innocent civilians – women, children, old people, people waiting for busses. The Second Intifada lasted for more than five years, from 2000 to 2005. More than 1,000 Israelis were murdered. Almost every day there was an atrocity. The Fogel family was murdered in their home, their 12-year-old daughter came home from a youth group activity to find her parents and three siblings dead, her 3-month-old sister murdered, blood all over the house.
Car bombs, ambushes. Bus bombings, bombings in cafes and restaurants, Moment, Sbarro, Dolphinarium – a litany of killings that mark the worst attacks. Massacres of whole families. Children murdered in their beds. Suicide bombers. Still, there was little international outrage.
But now, the world seems to have caught up. We can only hope this is a turning point, a tipping point in the world’s sympathy for us. The world cannot ignore the horror and brutality, the carnage, the massacre of innocent people and the way that Hamas gleefully documents its horrors. Our enemies want to destroy us. That much became clear.
I write this on the sixth day of the war, and we don’t know what will happen. But I’m not convinced that sympathy toward Israel will continue. When Israel starts to be victorious, when we begin to fight on the ground in Gaza, when we exact a steep price from Hamas in Gaza, that may change. Even today, the New York Times called Hamas killers fighters. Even today, groups of Harvard University students applauded the murder of Jews, the bloodbath, executed and filmed in cold blood.
Yes, for the moment, most fair-minded people understand the enemy we have been fighting. They understand evil. But the world could have understood our plight 22 years ago. It could have seen the cruelty of the enemy, the glee that the enemy took in our murders, the way they celebrated and handed out candies when Israelis were murdered. It wasn’t until there was carnage, massacre and a bloodbath of over a thousand people in one day, that the message of who Israel has been dealing with for all of her life was finally clarified and received.