It was unfair and now it is even more unfair. The terrorists responsible for Daniel’s murder have been released: Israel agreed to release them and other Palestinian terrorists in exchange for one Israeli soldier who was kidnapped by Hamas and held hostage for over 5 years. Mila’s wish for justice keeps echoing in my head: “Why do the terrorists deserve to carry on with their lives while Daniel did nothing wrong? And what about Daniel’s parents who miss him every single day?”
My friend Ronit is also from Haifa. She is proud of her hometown’s ethnic and religious plurality. “Haifa is a beautifully mixed city. I grew up with coexistence on a daily basis. Religious Arabs, Christians and Muslims, riding the bus with me, waiting with me in line for the supermarket, studying with me at the University and enjoying the Mediterranean shores, just like me and my family.”
I love diversity and plurality, but I cannot imagine what it is to make a daily life knowing there is so much hate in the people you are trying to coexist with, in the minorities you are trying to treat equally. A degree of hate so deep that they might be plotting to kill you based on the circumstances of your birth.
“Our tolerant way of life was severely harmed during the Second Intifada, from 2000 to 2004. I was a teenager at the time. One day, I heard the terrifying sound of an explosion. One of Haifa’s leading restaurants, managed by a Jew and a Muslim, was bombed by a female terrorist who hid a massive bomb inside a baby cart. I cannot describe how terrorist attacks, many times aided by Arab citizens of Israel, destroyed our trust in our Arab neighbors and made it difficult to keep our belief in peace. I remember numerous times when I got off the bus 3 to 5 stops before the one I wanted because I saw a suspicious person coming up and feared he was a suicide bomber. Haifa had about 3 major and deadly bus suicide bombings that killed tens of citizens, many of them kids on their way to school. Honestly, until this day, 10 years later, I still look for the scary guy on the bus, as a precaution.”
The Second Intifada ended around 2004, as Israel built the security barrier between itself and Judea & Samaria, also known as the West Bank of the Jordan River. In its wake, the Intifada left more than 1000 Israeli civilians dead, many more maimed and wounded. Terror did not stop there, but a particularly horrifying chapter came to an end.
Walking the streets of Jerusalem recently I saw many buses. Buses filled with people. Each full bus a demonstration of the people’s renewed sense of security and hope. The passengers, Jews and Arabs alike, with their tired and bored faces after a long day of work, did not seem to share my enthusiasm with the overcrowding. And yet I could not avoid but smiling each time a crowded bus went by.
With each bus that passed me, I would make a private wish: May the people of Israel enjoy many more boring and overcrowded bus trips.