A SIGN ON THE ROAD
By Avi Davis
There are times when an incident jolts us so powerfully that the aftershock leaves a permanent impression on our lives. A year ago, I was traveling with a driver and a friend along the road from Ariel to Kedumim in the West Bank. As we passed by the entrance gate to a settlement called Emmanuel a violent crack shook the roof of the car.
It was followed, within a split-second, by two further thumps and an immediate shattering of glass. The wind-shield had been smashed by two rocks thrown within yards of the jeep. We braked and then jumped out of the car to scour the nearby brush for a sign of the attackers. They had fled. We returned to the car but not before I noticed that a small sign at the side of the road bearing the name Emmanuel in Hebrew had been defaced.
After the attack on Emmanuel this week I remembered that event and relived the sensation of being under attack. I remembered how the rocks pounded with such speed that there was no time for reaction. I recalled how I flinched as the final rock hit and only then did I uselessly raise my arms to shield my head.
It must have been a similar experience for those on Bus 189 assaulted by terrorists on the road to Emmanuel. Nothing this time so 'benign' as rocks. The bus tripped two 20 kilo roadside bombs and as it staggered to a halt was strafed by three Palestinian terrorists hidden nearby who jumped on the roof and then mercilessly gunned down men, women and children. They killed seven including a nine month old baby and wounded eight .
It is almost axiomatic that no terrorist incident is like any other but what Emmanuel bears uniquely is that it is the only Jewish settlement to witness a mass slaughter of its residents - not once, but twice. Only nine months ago terrorists launched an identical operation which claimed the lives of 11. As in the first incident, mothers and their babies, fathers and their sons, and this time even a fetus, numbered among the victims of the assault.
The biographies of the dead victims is once again heart-breaking. Ayellet Shikon, 29, who ran Emannuel's day care center, was returning home her twin 9 month-old daughters, Tiferet and Galia and 2 year-old son, Ohr Chaim. Tiferet died in the arms of her murdered grandmother, and Galia was severely injured by the bullet that exited her sister's brain. Yehudit Weinberg, 22 was returning home from a graduation ceremony with her year-old baby when she was fired upon by the terrorists. In her eighth month of pregnancy, she was rushed to ICU and gave birth via an emergency C-section to a son, who was sent a few miles away to a neo-natal unit, where he died. Galila Adas, 46, was heading home to be with her 4 children, one of whom was seriously ill. The nurse, who had been up the entire previous night caring for invalids, had her life ended with three bullets to her head.
As harrowing as these stories are to relate, they do not begin to convey the extent of suffering in such a small community. It is not just the absence of a mother, father, brother or sister that is so agonizing. It is the loss of the bagel maker, the man who delivers the mail or who serves behind the counter of the community store. It is the loss of the children's nursery teacher or the community doctor. The devastation it leaves rakes a hot comb across the heart of the community leaving it damaged for years.
This, of course, is the aim of Arafat's terrorist campaign as it has been in the persecutions of Jewish communities for generations. It is an attempt to destroy the spirit of Jewish life by making that life intolerable. But the people of Emmanuel are unbowed. The name of their settlement may offer some explanation. It translates simply as God is with us. This declaration might be hard to accept as body bags of the community's residents are loaded onto gurneys. But as I watched television footage of the scene on that tragic day, I noticed something that made my heart beat hard. The defaced sign by the side of the road had been restored. Upright, it seemed to be screaming to me a defiance of history; there, before the cameras, it proclaimed that despite the dangers Jews face, the compass of Jewish history remains fixed on a providential destiny, ensuring that hope survives.
So finally I understood how insignificant are the differences between us all. The rapid rise of hostility toward Jews in Europe and in other countries is an ominous wind from the past now blowing in unison with Palestinian terror. In one way or another, Jews everywhere are still embarked on a perilous journey between safety and danger. For some, the peril may be less obvious than it is to others. But as for me, I now appreciate that my own road, as certain and secure as it has always seemed, travels onward with the knowledge that the fury of Jew-hatred is only a stone's throw away.
Avi Davis is the senior fellow of the Freeman Center for Strategic Studies and the senior editorial columnist for the on-line magazine Jewsweek.com.