Turning on the news Thursday night, I expected to hear the wretched daily tally of Kassam/Grad rockets shot from Gaza to into Sderot or Ashkelon; instead, breaking news streamed across the screen about a terror attack taking place that very moment at Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav.
I learned from telephone check-ins with family members that one grandson had been on his way to a party scheduled at Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva High School in celebration of Rosh Chodesh Adar. Despite the news, he refused to return home and continued on to the yeshiva.
Early accounts of dead and wounded and the number of terrorists involved varied. None of the stations seemed able to supply accurate information until about 11 p.m., when a young man named Yitzchak Daddon, a part-time student at Mercaz, was interviewed.
Breathless, Yitzchak described hearing the gunshots while he studied in the bet midrash, how he jumped onto a balcony alongside the library where he saw the terrorist – “with a Kalashnikov rifle in his hand that President Peres and the Olmert government gave him.”
The interviewer tried to quash the political judgment, but this hero would not allow his opinions to be stifled. If the newscaster wanted to hear his story – how he shot the first two bullets that neutralized the terrorist – the viewers would have to listen to a little history lesson about how successive Israeli governments armed our enemies with the very rifles they use to kill us, despite widespread warnings that the policy was suicidal.
Yitzchak recounted those warnings, and he threw responsibility directly at our president and prime minister for the horrendous attack on the yeshiva.
Yitzchak’s outburst reminded me of a rather frightening placard: A masked Arab, long rifle in hand aimed directly at the viewer, with a large banner head reading “Al Titnu Lahem Rovim” (Don’t Give Them Rifles) followed by text beseeching the government of Israel not to arm the Palestinians.
For close to three years, during those heady days following the 1993 Oslo accords, I often held that banner on the crossroads leading to Israel’s Knesset. A group of local Rechavia women rotated their time and presence daily.
There were other placards. We changed slogans and messages to match the issues and events of the day, but the “Don’t Give Them Rifles” banner never changed.
I recall attending a closed American Jewish organization session held in a Jerusalem hotel some thirteen years ago. Then-Foreign Minister Shimon Peres was the guest speaker. He had a captive audience and he cautioned, “the peace train is pulling out of the station.”
He described his vision of joint Israeli-Palestinian cooperation, and the building of an economically viable Palestinian state. He stressed how important it was that we help stabilize and raise the Palestinian standard of living to that of Israel’s. He spoke about the need to give the Palestinians the tools required for self-government, and then, dramatically lowering his voice, he said, “After all, we owe them.”
Not all sights and sounds leave impressions. Shimon Peres’s address that night was unforgettable. He really believed Israel should trust the Palestinians and provide them with weapons. Yet even after the Palestinians put down their sticks and stones and began turning those rifles against us, Peres continued to believe in the good faith of our so-called peace partners.
Adding insult to injury, both Peres and our prime minister continue to believe in giving away land, giving away homes, giving away arms, and giving away (releasing) murderous Palestinian prisoners – even at the ultimate cost of giving up our own right to live in our homeland.
At midnight last Thursday, the news channel repeated the same interview with Yitzchak Daddon, only this time his J’accuse against the president and prime minister was deleted. Still, his words remain pasted in my memory. The media can feed the public whatever they wish and censor whatever they don’t like. It doesn’t matter; my friends and I will always remember the warning on that banner we waved years ago: “Don’t Give Them Rifles. They will Be Used against Us!”
Participating in the heartbreaking funeral Friday morning of the eight korbonot, the eight kedoshim – among them five high school youngsters who sat in a library studying, learning Torah, unarmed, too young to carry weapons – I could not help but reflect on the carnage caused by a murderous Arab bearing a blue Israeli identity card, defiling a holy Jerusalem sanctuary with a rifle likely supplied by a Jewish government.