I. Just what is it that is so depressing about our situation? I have been trying to put my finger on it. I think perhaps it is the feeling that we have lost the war against terrorism.
The terrorists want to disrupt our everyday routine and sense of security. They want to spread fear, to make our lives unlivable, so that we will ultimately collapse and give in to their demands, if we and they can figure out what those demands are. Sure enough, despite the fact that rationally, your risk of death in a traffic accident in your private car is much greater than your risk of death by bomb in a public bus, still, anyone who can afford it avoids riding the bus, and takes a car or cab. We avoid public places and won't send our kids on school trips (just like our American cousins, who won't send their kids on Israel trips). We spend millions to hire security guards for every shop and restaurant -- and on a Maginot fence. The mass media are saturated with gory pictures and emotional coverage of funerals after every attack. We live in a constant consciousness of fear and mourning.
The terrorists want to derail any possibility of compromise, of peaceful settlement. They want to paralyze the center. Sure enough, every time the nationalistic elements of the Israeli political scene show any signs of faltering -- as in the current Likud vote-buying scandal -- a few attacks occur and the right surges ahead once again. And any time Israel shows any signs of lightening the oppressive conditions of the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, a vicious terrorist attack "forces" us to tighten the screws another turn, generating a new crop of terrorist recruits.
The terrorists do not believe in values such as democracy, due process, and the sanctity of life. And sure enough, in our ongoing, unsuccessful attempts to battle these terrorists, we have repeatedly and increasingly set aside these values, imprisoning and torturing and assassinating suspected terrorists (and occasional innocent bystanders) on the basis of information from informants/informers.
The terrorists want to drive us crazy, to make us abandon our rational self-interest, to disrupt our decision-making mechanisms. Sure enough, no matter how difficult it may be to find a reason for continuing to occupy the Gaza strip, one of the most miserable places on earth and one with no Jewish historical or spiritual significance, we are stuck with the reason that to withdraw would be to give in to terrorism.
The terrorists want to tear apart any possibility of Jewish-Arab cooperation and trust within Israel. Sure enough, the rightward shift of public opinion in the wake of terrorist activity has spilled over into suspicion of Israeli Arabs -- and now to the disqualification of two popular Arab candidates for Knesset, a decision that further tears what was left of the delicate fabric of coexistence inside Israel.
In a way, terrorism is like a cancer: it injects its genetic code into the victim's organs, which then begin to grow and change in bizarre and uncontrolled ways, so that ultimately the victim destroys itself from within. More damage, it seems, is caused by our reactions to terror than by the acts of terror themselves. And what is depressing is our feeling of powerlessness to avoid this predicament. Are we really not in control? Are we really at their mercy? Are we really caught in some kind of vortex?
II. The Goldin family moved to the Galilee from Tel Aviv a few years ago. Amiram is an urban planner, active in projects designed to foster Arab-Jewish cooperation, most notably the planning of a jointly operated industrial zone between Jewish Misgav and Arab Sachnin. In August, his son Omri, a 20-year-old soldier, was killed by a suicide bomber on a bus on the road to Safed. Here is what a friend and associate, Dan Bavli, wrote shortly afterwards:
"Omri was a happy, optimistic person who did what he did with gusto. The lyrics of the songs he wrote for his rock group were full of social criticism and of longing for a world without hatred and violence. There are no words to describe the feelings of a parent who loses a child in any circumstances, how much the more so in this case. And it is difficult to find words to speak in comfort. Ironically, it is Amiram who, in his grief and loss, has been speaking words of comfort to us, his friends and coworkers. Speaking to shiva visitors he made it clear that he believes it urgent to proceed with the work of planning and building the institutions of a just society in the Galilee: '...It is Omri's legacy; we must not be deterred.'"