Stop the Show
July 16, 2001
A few minutes before five o’clock this afternoon, three explosions rocked the car of
Hebron residents Noam and Elisheva Federman. The vehicle was parked next to the
Kiryat Arba Medical Center, and was empty at the time of the blast. Elisheva and her
children were visiting the doctor at the time. Fortunately, no was near the car either,
so no one was injured.
But not all people are so lucky. A little while ago a suicide bomber blew himself up
in the train station in the town of Binyamina. Initial reports are of several critically
wounded people and possibly some killed.
Over the past 9 and a half months we’ve had many people injured and many too many
killed. Friends, acquaintances, strangers dead.
Last Thursday was almost beyond belief but then again, today, nothing is beyond
belief. Wednesday night had been full of fireworks but not the kind you’re used to
on the fourth of July. It was the first time in a long time – late at night, suddenly, out
of nowhere almost three hours of war raging all around you. It’s difficult to always
ascertain who is doing the shooting – them or us. But as a rule, we make more noise
than they do. The problem is that it is just that, noise, but back to that later.
On Thursday morning many people seemed a little beat the noise kept the kids
up much of the night and the kids kept the parents up. It was mid morning, when
suddenly someone asked, – “did you hear about what happened in Kiryat Arba? After
a few hurried questions, the answer was confirmed a terrorist shooting at the western
gate, leading from the Kiriya to Hebron. Very quickly, camera in hand, I made my
way up, dreading what I knew I would see and there it was. A crowd, mostly police
and soldiers, and smack on the side of the road the car this time a Ford transit van.
The door was open, the victim already on his way to the hospital, or what was left
of him. Unfortunately, not too much. The bullet holes on the right side of the front
window told the story. The driver, 28 year old David Cohen, father of 2, was hit in
the head by terrorist gunfire from only a few meters away. He never had a chance.
Somehow his heart kept beating until late Friday afternoon. He was buried Saturday
night. Another funeral.
That was Thursday morning. It should have been enough. In truth it was already too
much. But no – there was more to come.
Late Thursday afternoon a group of Kiryat Arba-Hebron residents decided to hold a
protest march from the site of the attack to Ma’arat HaMachpela in Hebron, about 10
minutes away. As the march started, so did the rocks, flying out of windows of Arab
homes on the side of the road. Rock throwing should not be a one-way affair – soon
the marchers found themselves being bombarded with cement blocks, returning as
many of them as possible. Finally, with Israeli soldiers and police providing cover,
people managed to get by the attacker’s homes, and started on another road, back to
Kiryat Arba. As the group reached the gate the police went to work, and by the time
they’d finished, 20 Israeli youth had been arrested for throwing rocks back at the
Arabs, who had attacked us.
Later that night I went up to the Kiryat Arba police station to see if anything could
be done to get them released. Seeing a large group of people there, and realizing that
not too much could be accomplished, I made my way back down to the front gate. It
was then that the shooting started again, loud and clear, and not too far away. Then
the Hebron ambulance showed up – something was definitely wrong. The ambulance
took off, and shortly afterwards, I did too, in the same direction to the Givat Harsina
neighborhood, above Kiryat Arba proper. Up there, again the most horrid of sites,
ambulances, red lights flashing, security forces, people covered with blood. Who was
hit? How bad? What’s their condition?
It was soon clear. One man had been struck by 2 bullets one in each leg. The other
man had a bullet in his lower back, and the wound was considered serious. In all
actuality it was much more critical than we thought. Hezi Mualem, 49 year old father
of four, died at about three in the morning, a few hours after being hit by Arafat’s
Later that night the shooting continued, in Hebron, and on the outskirts of Kiryat
Arba. The army knows how to make a lot of noise when it wants to. The problem is,
as I hinted earlier, many times it is just noise, nothing else. The gunfire is not directed
at terrorists it is directed, at best, at cars, stores, windows, and at other times, at fields
and empty houses. But not at Arafat’s army. The military sometimes uses tanks, or
heavy machine guns, and it really does sound impressive – but the enemy is already
accustomed to it. Noise – nothing else. When Israel finishes wasting ammunition,
the terrorists just start shooting again, and so it goes, day after day, week after week,
month after month. And our friends keep dying.
Rather than do what has to be done, rather than take back the hills, rather than
destroying the terrorists and defeating the enemy, noise. A grand show. Really grand,
except for the mothers and fathers, except for the widows and widowers, except for
the orphans, little boys and girls, all of whom have lost their sons and daughters,
husbands and wives, mothers and fathers. A grand show.
Israeli soldiers, upon completion of basic training, are not awarded a B.A. in theatrics.
They are recognized as fully trained warriors, ready to defend their country with their
lives. They wear uniforms, not costumes, they wear helmits, not wigs, they carry
arms, not sticks or canes. Their job is not to make noise. Their job is to defeat the
Stop the show. Let the curtain fall. Let the real work begin.