Reuters and AP talk about “militants.” Australian papers put it on the back pages, behind stories about Sharon’s “corruption.” CNN and BBC are busy discussing why America didn’t protect the UN in Iraq (when it asked not to be protected, certain it had earned the mutual love of terror organizations). Israeli crews have busily cleaned the streets. The dead babies are buried. The wounded, burnt children and their parents suffering in hospitals. Everyone wants to forget.
But this is what happened:
A 29 year old Palestinian Muslim preacher from Hebron, with small children of his own, a member of Hamas, put on the outfit of an ultra Orthodox Jew and a suicide belt provided by a well-financed terror organization. Permitted easy access to Jerusalem by Arik Sharon’s policies, dictated by Colin Powell and George W. Bush, he entered the city and waited for a bus crowded with Jewish worshippers coming home from the holiest site in Judaism, the Western Wall. He got on, pushing past the baby carriages, the mothers nursing babies, the small children, the pregnant women. He walked to the center of a twin bus, and he knowingly blew himself up, injuring or killing every, single person on that bus.
Twenty are dead. 136 injured.
When the bomb went off, people flew from the bus, others died instantly. Father and mothers and children got separated. Wound up in different hospitals.
Babies arrived without parents. Parents without their babies. Shmuel Zagari, eleven months, died. Lilach Kardi, 22, eight months pregnant, died. Chava Reichner, 19, engaged to be married in three months, died. Shalom Mordechai Reinetz, father of 11, died, along with his nine year old son, Yissacher Dov. Leba Schwarz, 57, grandmother of 11, died. Goldie Zarkovski and her three month old son, died. Elisheva Meshulmi, 16, died. And Chanoch, and Shmuel, and Benjamin and twelve year old Avraham…
And Ora Cohen lay weeping in her hospital bed, unable to move, unable to search for the one month old baby she’d been holding, and her year and a half old son, both of whom she feared dead, until volunteers found them for her and told her they were fine. And a mother and her four year old daughter lay next to each other with head injuries in intensive car. And whole families were destroyed….
And in Hebron, at the news of dead Jewish babies, they sent up fireworks. And the wife of the bomber said he had fulfilled his lifelong ambition. And that she was proud of him. And she began emptying out her cupboards waiting for the IDF to blow up her house, because she had no doubt been promised a bigger, better house financed by Syria, Saudia Arabia or Iran.
This is what happened here, on Tuesday, August 19, 2003. In the holiest city in the world.
And I’m thinking, what can we do, now? And what feels right to me is the idea of a vigil, a candlelit vigil, to say that we won’t forget. Holding the names and pictures of the victims. Holding up the words of our leaders. Letting them know that the responsibility can’t be washed away like the blood of children on Shmuel Ha Navi street. That the blood of innocents are crying out to us from the ground, like the blood of Able, the first murder victim, and that the cry echoes in our ears. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Jew or not. It only matters if you are human.
Please, organize these vigils in your home towns. Pick a day, any day. Ask a few friends. Send a press release to your local papers. Light memorial candles.
Stand outside in the streets. In Phoenix, in Melbourne, in Toronto, in Johannesburg, in Haifa, and Kfar Saba, and New York and Washington and London and Paris. Please, even if only a few of you do it, at least there will be some candles in the darkness. A few candles in the darkness. And all those of you here in Israel who want to join me, send me your ideas, try to enlist organizations to which you belong to join.
Ask our leadership, the world, to take responsibility. Don’t forget what happened here.
Don’t forget the terrible, terrible thing that happened here…