The news of the recent events caught me by surprise. I turned on the news, in the middle of the story. Terrorists, holding hostages, in a school. They threatened to kill everyone. It was all too familiar. It is the nightmare we all have. It took me a few short seconds to realize this wasn't happening in Israel. This was happening in Russia, a country that to many people seems as one of the strongest nations in the world.
Instinctively, I called Vadim, my close friend who had immigrated to Israel from Russia just 5 years earlier. He told me that he was worried, but that fortunately, he doesn't know anyone from the region. At night, channel 10 in the Israeli T.V. had already found a young Russian immigrant, only 10 years old, who had come to Israel just a year ago. She went to the school in Beslan when she lived in Russia, and was tearfully flipping through news sources, trying to recognize any of her old friends.
Sadly, we followed the news day after day, finding it impossible to believe that someone, even terrorists, could be so heartless, as to target young children.
I must admit, like pretty much anyone in Israel, I don't know much about the conflict between Russia and the Chechens. I have a vague idea, and that’s about it. Something to do with land. To be honest, I bet most of the readers have just about that much knowledge about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But it doesn't matter to me why there is a conflict in Russia. It doesn't matter one bit. Do you want to know why?
Because nothing. NOTHING. Nothing in this world justifies killing innocent people.
If you walk into a room and kill someone, for any reason except for him trying to kill you, then in my book, you are a terrorist. It doesn't matter if that innocent person is Israeli, American, Iranian, or Russian. Not one child in Beslan had ever done anything to warrant such an attack. Not one of them deserves the terrible fate which they endeared.
Terrorism has become part of our every day routine in Israel. And I live in Tel Aviv. There aren't that many people anywhere in the world who would call Tel Aviv a disputed region. I have my bag checked in the entrance to any coffee shop, bus or mall. I tell the security guard that I am unarmed every time I walk passed a security check. It's almost automatic. That's how life is in Tel Aviv. Central Israel, no where near any settlements, 2004. I don't hate Palestinians. I don't know any Palestinians. I don't want to harm them. I want to wake up in the morning feeling safe. I wish them the best, and hope they share the same feelings.
Beginning to sound kind of familiar, huh? If you are American, I bet you haven't run into too many evil Iraqis in your life. I'm pretty sure most of the Russian readers haven't ever personally done anything to harm a Chechen person.
There's nothing I can do. I'm in the middle of a war. Sure, I'm not a soldier. Heck, I've never even considered killing anyone in my life. But there's someone out there plotting to kill me. All the time. There's nothing you can do either. Terrorists don't care who you are. They have a goal, and it justifies, in fact, it glorifies, any means that they use.
I have more questions than answers. But there's one that I really want answered. What's it going to take to get the leaders of the world to realize that succumbing to terrorism will set a dangerous precedent. It's not going to stop in Israel. Major terrorist events have occurred in the past few years in the USA, Russia, Spain, to name a few. When will our leaders be responsible enough to form, a united front against terrorism? When will they be brave enough to say it out loud: "There is no cause in the world that justifies targeting innocent people".
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Just three weeks ago I met with two frightened German girls who were visiting Israel as part of their vacation. They were staying in Beer Sheva, and I told them confidently. "There's hasn't been any suicide bombing in Beer Sheva for years".
Ironically, they were 200 meters from two buses who blew up in the city a few days later. The death toll was close to twenty, and over 100 were injured. They were terrified. Terrorism is unexpected. It's impossible to control. If you beat it in one place, it will only resurface in another.
I guess here in Israel we've learned to live with terrorism, as terrible as that sounds. We worry for our loved ones every time the TV show that we are watching is interrupted to report a bombing, and to be honest, we never really feel safe. It's a small country. There aren't many of us who don't know a person who got injured or even killed during a terrorist bombing.
We don't walk around with guns. We don't hate Arab people. We were just born here and want to live in peace. I'm not sure, but I bet 90% of the Palestinians feel the same way. It's terrorism that is in our way.
So I can't really tell you how we cope with terrorism. We don't cope with it. We just live with it. There's no better way we can think of. We have a strong army, and we have a powerful government. But still, every once in a while people die because of terrorist activity.
It almost seems like a fantasy, but maybe some day, the world will stand united against terror. Leaders would know that if they support terrorism there will be a price to pay. Only when there is a united front against terrorism, will we be able to overcome.
To those who are unfamiliar with the history of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.
You may be surprised to find out that only a small part of the land is truly in dispute. This is land which has not received international recognition as Israeli territory, however, has been settled by Israeli settlers, in various forms.
As part of an attempt to relieve the tension with the Palestinians, along with an effort to comply with international law, Israel has been considering removing these settlements, at least in part. This doesn't sound like much, but in reality we are talking about deportation of a large amount of Israeli citizens. That's right. Israel is willing to deport, even forcefully, its own citizens, in an effort to achieve peace.
You would think such an action would lead to the demise of the government, but believe it or not, the vast majority of Israeli's support this plan. That's how tired we are of fighting our neighbors. It's not going to be easy. Israel is a democracy. Minorities have their rights, and not everyone wants to withdraw. But we're working on it.
Do we feel that this will end terrorism? We doubt it. We hope it's one step closer to peace. One step closer to the day that our children will be able to enter a building without opening their bag for a security guard to check.
I would like to conclude by sending my deepest sympathies to the families of the victims of the terrible atrocity in Beslan. Nothing I can say can relieve your terrible pain, and there is no way to express how much I wish you did not have to endure these horrible occurrences. May you never know sorrow again.
(The writer holds a degree in law from the Bar Ilan University in Israel).