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We Are Not Like Them

No place is safe, not Jerusalem, or the coffee houses of Tel Aviv or the port city of Haifa. Distance is no longer a factor. The rockets go everywhere, undirected, carelessly, to fall on hospitals, nursery schools, summer camps. Miraculously, they are diverted and destroyed, again and again and again.

Three faces. They could be my sons, or yours. They peer out at us wherever we go. There are special prayer sessions at the synagogue, reminding me of those days when we prayed for the safe return of Nachshon Wachsman, my friend and neighbor’s boy.

We wake up each morning, and nothing is new, nothing is known, until, at a wedding by the sea for the son of good friends, caressed by warm sea breezes, beside a flower-bedecked table, Esther Wachsman leans over and whispers in my ear: “They found their bodies. They are all dead.” She and her husband leave. And for me, I am back in October 14, 1994, a Friday night in Ramot. Nachshon Wachsman and Nir Poraz, the soldier who came to free him, have just been killed by terrorist bullets.

Once again, we mourn our unanswered prayers, filled with a grief that I know time will blunt, but never heal.

In the midst of our mourning, there is news that a Palestinian boy, Muhammad Abu Khdeir, has been kidnapped and burned alive. Revenge? It cannot be. We Jews are not like them. We don’t murder innocent people, children. Never. He was gay. He was murdered by his own family.

It’s an honor killing. This is what we want to believe. We are incensed that the media have jumped to conclusions.

And then they are picked up, the murderers, and they are Jews. And they did it for revenge, as if taking an innocent life was an answer, instead of a tragedy; as if it could be justified, be a comfort instead of adding yet another layer of grief to our collective mourning, this time for ourselves, that there are those among us who are no different from our enemies.

But then the truth emerges. Yosef Chaim Ben-David, the ringleader, is a mental patient who once tried to strangle his own baby daughter. Our rabbi dedicates a Torah class to the soul of Muhammad Abu Khdeir. Some are enraged, others, myself, comforted. We are not like them, our enemies.

Again, there is no time to mourn. The “Color Red” warning sirens scream out danger, and the rockets from Gaza begin to fall. Again and again and again. No place is safe, not Jerusalem, or the coffee houses of Tel Aviv or the port city of Haifa. Distance is no longer a factor. The rockets go everywhere, undirected, carelessly, to fall on hospitals, nursery schools, summer camps. Miraculously, they are diverted and destroyed, again and again and again.

Iron Dome is like God’s hand sheltering us, technology, Jewish genius and God’s providence combined.

Summer vacation is suddenly canceled.

My grandchildren are taken from their late night beds to their bomb shelter, used in the light of day as a pantry. There is a supply of chocolate, nuts, candies. That, hopefully, will be what the grandchildren remember, the way their father, my son, remembers when we huddled in the sealed room with gas masks to protect ourselves from Saddam Hussein’s potential poison gas missile attacks. He only remembers the sweets I gave him there. His son, my four-year-old grandson, says: “We’ll always win, like on Hanukka and Purim, with Mordechai and also the Holocaust. Jews also died because there were rockets, but now we have the golden dome, and the Romans are forbidden to touch it.”

A surfeit of Jewish history.

How long? We ask ourselves as the rockets rain down, hundreds, soon thousands. We learn that they are manufacturing rockets in Gaza themselves.

They’ve set up a factory for rockets on the land we gave them, land in which there were little red-roofed houses, and hot-houses growing lettuce and cherry tomatoes. We sent in our army to force out the Jews of Gush Katif, so we could hand it over to Gazans who claimed they wanted autonomy, a chance for a better life, an end to the occupation.

My friends the Schneids, who lived in Gush Katif, told me before the disengagement: “Why aren’t the people of Ashdod and Ashkelon protesting? Don’t they know once we are gone the rockets that fell on us will fall on them?” They didn’t know then, but they do now.

In former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s office, weeks before the disengagement, Mr. Olmert tells me: “The disengagement is a wonderful thing. If it saves the life of just one soldier, it is worth it.”

Now, he is going to jail and our soldiers are dying in the dozens to take back the land we handed over to terrorists bent on our destruction. What a horrible mistake.

And who will take responsibility? Apparently no one.

They announce a cease-fire. Cease-fire? What? To what end? Leave them with their rockets intact? Their launchers intact? It is the old story, Israel leaving before the job is done because of international pressure, the lies of the international pro-terrorist press, the CNN Arabic corporate money- maker press.

It doesn’t happen. It is Hamas that doesn’t want a cease-fire! Has God hardened their hearts to punish them? Like Pharaoh? Our tanks roll in. Relieved, terrified.

Our sons, like the boys on the posters, the good boys, their shining young faces, blackened with camouflage, sent into this snake pit, where rocket launchers hide behind children, and rockets are stored in ambulances, hospitals, UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) schools and beneath apartment buildings. We have sent down leaflets, warned civilians to leave, set up a hospital for our enemies at the border.

We are not like our enemies. We don’t want civilian deaths. We don’t lob bombs indiscriminately; we check our targets. We abort when we can if there are civilians.

But sometimes, you can’t abort. Sometimes, it’s us or them.

Why is Hamas behaving this way? Why did they start this conflict? What do they hope to gain? It is incomprehensible to anyone who loves life. They don’t.

They are not like us. Death to them is honor, glory, victory, 70 black-eyed virgins.

But their leaders don’t want to die. They hide in five-star hotels in Qatar. Khaled Mashaal is building his own shopping center there with American and European money given to help the Gazans. In a secure underground bunker in Gaza, Muhammad Deif – responsible for the kidnapping and murder of Nachshon Wachsman – is in charge. He is the one giving out orders.

He has nine lives. The IDF targeted him, and once it was a direct hit. He survived, but had a brain injury. A brain-injured Hamas fanatic murderer has the lives of the Arabs of Gaza in his hands. Only that explains their actions.

We wanted our army to go into Gaza.

To take it back, cleanse it of terrorism and weapons of destruction. We didn’t want our army to go into Gaza, to expose our children, our 18-, 20-, 21-year-olds to Hamas barbarians, or to take 30-something commanders from their wives and children. We prayed for a miracle, a war without a single military casualty on our side, a single civilian casualty on theirs.

We wake up to reality. Five soldiers killed. Twelve soldiers killed. Twenty-five soldiers killed. And more each day, each one a gut-wrenching, inconsolable tragedy. Hundreds of Gazans who did not leave, who did not heed warnings, killed.

And then we learn about the tunnels. The plan, perhaps disrupted by a freelance kidnapping, to send thousands of terrorists through them to Israel where they would slaughter and kidnap us before we in Israel even understood what was happening.

All these years, from the last war against Hamas in Gaza, to this war, they have been digging tunnels beneath homes, hospitals, mosques. They are 25 meters below ground, stockpiled with weapons, uniforms, drugs. One comes up directly into the dining hall of Kibbutz Kissufim.

We didn’t know this. In our mind’s eye we envision it, the barbaric hordes rushing into our country. The death, the destruction. As much as they like to parade their own women and children and cry crocodile tears for them when as human shields they are killed, they would take no pity on our Jewish women and children. They never have. They cut the throats of babies in their cribs.

They are not like us. We are not like them. And, cease-fire or no cease-fire, this war will only truly end when they are reeducated and stop hating: us, life, women, children. Ours and their own.

This column was originally published in the Jerusalem Post on 25 July 2014.

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14 comments on “We Are Not Like Them”

  1. a g Smith

    Leslie above said it best: “This isn’t just a Muslim/Jewish problem. It’s a Muslim-against-everyone-else problem, including other sects of Islam.” The people around the world who claim they want peace are talking to the wrong side. All Israel has ever wanted is peace with her neighbors. The “peace-niks” just refuse to believe that Hamas and many other radical Muslim sects have officially stated their primary purpose is to obliterate Israel from the face of the earth and kill all Jews. Then the Christians – which is already happening in Mosul. Evil DOES exist.

  2. Pingback: 3rd Party Commentary | Atlanta to Jerusalem: Experiences and Perspectives in Leadership

  3. Gabe Briggs/c/o Charlotte Kaplan

    Dear Naomi,

    I miss you and my heart is with you in Israel. A friend from Holland told me about a very recent article YOU wrote about an intervention in Israel that was a miracle. Please send me that article.

    Your ever grateful
    Gabe (Briggs)

    P.S. I will send the article on to Gabe via U.S. Mail. She does not have a computer, which is why I am writting this for her.
    My thoughts and prayers are with Israel. Charlotte Kaplan

  4. Ingrid Boon


    Your writing is stellar!!

    It makes me cry, especially during these times when there are so many people who don’t want to believe, or even consider the truth of what is happening. There is so much fallacy people pass on.

    I DON’T UNDERSTAND THE HATRED! It has grieved me for years.

    I was born in The Netherlands in 1947 – we had family friends who hid and were friends of the Jews during WWII. I have always understood the plight of the Jewish people.

    May G-d be with you and your people. Thank you for giving me a moment of your time.

    Blessings to you and Israel.

  5. Yuval

    Awesome article. Consider this word: Dehamasification. 100%.

  6. Leslie

    Thank you for your thoughtful article.

    You say their hatred will not stop till they are reeducated. A nice thought, but not possible. Their toddlers are taught in nursery school songs about murdering Jews, infants are dressed in suicide vest costumes.

    They do not live in peace wherever they reside in the Muslim world, or in Europe either for that matter.

    If we are unable or unwilling to destroy them, we must instill great fear in them and rule with an iron fist. They are proof that evil exists in this world,and it is either them or us.

    Let’s not forget they have no room for Christians either. For the first time in 2,000 years, Mosul this week has been declared Christian-free. The birth place of Jesus, Bethlehem, is no longer a Christian city. Christians are being slaughtered and churches destroyed by Muslims not only in the MidEast but also in Africa. This isn’t just a Muslim/Jewish problem. It’s a Muslim-against-everyone-else problem, including other sects of Islam.

    It is frustrating to hear about all the “innocent” Palestinians victimized by Hamas, when you see such things as mothers whose injured babies have been saved by Israeli medics smile during interviews as they still profess their hatred of Jews and their love of death, and the desire to “martyr” more children in their all-encompassing hatred against the Jews.

    There is no reeducation possible for those with such an ideology.

  7. Dot Olsen

    Naftali, Gilad and Eyal did not die in vain, they were just the first warriors to fall in this particular war. May Israel do what is necessary and not cave in to world opinion. There are millions praying for you, standing with you. Be strong and very very courageous!

  8. John Norvill

    Be assured, there are many in this world that stand with you (Israel). The difficulty is conversing with people who have no concept of reality, of seeing past their indoctrination, their hate of God whom they are fighting against. John New Zealand

  9. chava

    שווה קריאה, לא תצטערו …
    החיילים שנלחמים בעזה מתחלפים כל כמה ימים..
    חייל אחד שהיה שם ונלחם יצא עם הפלוגה שלו למנוחה,וסיפר:
    בין היתר בלחימה בעזה תפסנו שם כמה מחבלים כדי להוציא מהם מידע על פעולות החמאס, אני וחברים שלי שאלנו את אחד המחבלים- אם יש לכם כל כך הרבה מנהרות לתוך ישראל בעומק 25 מטר מתחת לאדמה שמגיעות עד באר שבע- למה עד עכשיו לא השתמשתם בהם לפיגועים? עד עכשיו לא פעלתם כדי לחטוף ולהרוג אזרחים ישראליים?
    המחבל ענה לנו:
    כבר 12 שנה אנחנו בונים את המנהרות וחיכינו שנהיה מוכנים. קבענו ליום ראש השנה של היהודים, שבראש השנה הזה – של השנה הזאת תשע”ד 2014 ודווקא בראש השנה כי אז רוב החיילים משתחררים לבית ואין הרבה שמירה, וזה יומיים של חג — נצא כל חמאס דרך המנהרות שבנינו במשך 12 שנה ונכבוש את ישראל. בכל מנהרה נצא כ 20-30 מחבלים חמושים ונחטוף תושבים ואותם נשים בתוך המנהרות ונפזר אותם בתוך עזה ככה שישראל לא תוכל לפוצץ את המנהרות ואת עזה בגלל האזרחים שכלואים. וככה נכבוש את הארץ ונשלוט בה ונהרוג את הציונים.
    12 שנים אנחנו מתכננים את זה וזה היה אמור לקרות עוד חודשיים בראש השנה!!!
    המבצע שלכם הציל אותכם והרס את התכנון.
    זה מה שאמר המחבל לחייל בעזה.
    ואני מוסיף:
    הרבה שאלו לאן הלכו כל התפילות והקבלות שקבלנו לצורך הנערים שנרצחו – גיל-עד, אייל ונפתלי? אז הנה התשובה!!!!
    3 הבחורים האילו במותם הצילו את כל העם!!
    ראש השנה הזה נועד להיות יום של חורבן ובזכות התפילות שלנו ניצלנו!!
    כל הקבלות של כל עם ישראל הציל אותנו!!
    עכשיו נראה מי שיגיד שהמלחמה הזאת היא טבעית, היא כולה רצף של ניסים- אחד אחרי השני!!
    תמשיכו להתפלל ולהתחזק כי הכל תלוי בנו!
    בהצלחה ובתפילה לגאולה

    בברכה משה פניאל

  10. Gerry Beggs

    Naomi,do you not think that the only way to truly defeat Hamas is to engage with the Palestinians people by 1)end the blockade on Gaza 2) to end the illegal construction of houses on disputed land- to offer some hope to parents of Palestinian parents of children,you must try for peace,peace came to my country Ireland through talks,and came when both sides were willing to accept one another and to concede and compromise,a child arab or Jewish is innocent it is surely our goal as Adults to ensure their safety!! They are not like us??? All children Naomi are in fact indeed like us !! I wish you well

    • Hillary Hussein Kerry

      You are quite right that peace would come to Gaza if “both sides [are] willing to accept one another and to concede and compromise”. In Ireland you had a common Christian heritage on which mutual respect and tolerance could be founded. In our part of the world, the majority (Muslims) have nothing but intense hatred and contempt for infidels like you and me. Look at what’s happening in the “Caliphate.” There is no shared set of values upon which to found mutual respect.
      When Hamas destroys its rockets, blows up its tunnels and stops educating Gazan children to hatred and to “martyrdom” we will know that “mutual respect” has begun to happen and then there can be peace. In the meantime …

      • Gerry Beggs

        Hillary,contrary to popular belief the war in Ireland ( more recently the north of Ireland was not a religious war,it was fought on the basic law of economics ,without going back to far!! Protestant planters brought in by the English took land from the native Irish Catholics,thus starting a conflict the was to last a 800 years, hatred of protestants was passed down from generation to generation,just as fear and mistrust of Catholics was passed down on their side.eventually and still in the Process protestants accepted the rights of Catholics,and Catholics acceptance of protestant rights.this of course took bravery and commitment of brave men & women on both sides , it is the only way !! Give Peace a chance. Keep well Hillary

  11. Eric Hoffman

    Dear Naomi,

    Many thanks for your down-to-earth honest reporting of the facts on the ground as they are. I realize that we are in the minority, with loads of ‘good-doers’ (such as the USA Presbyterian Church, the Methodist Conference in the UK and unfortunately many other uninformed souls (who base their opinion on articles from an extremely biased media) who are determined to point fingers towards Israel. I am an ‘old boy’ whose love for God’s chosen people has only become stronger growing older and more mature.

    May G-d bless you, keep you and make His face to shine upon you!

    With love and every blessing,

    Eric Hoffman

  12. Texas

    This will not end until Israel refuses to let anyone dictate to them what they need to do to protect themselves from these evil people.

    It was terrible when they moved the Israeli’s out of Gaza by force to make room for these murderers. I could not understand this as there will never be peace with these people.

    Our prayers are with all of Israel.

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