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January 1, 2016 11:53 am

I Was Less Than a Block From Tel Aviv Shooting Attack That Killed Two

avatar by Joel Mowbray

The scene of Friday afternoon's shooting spree in Tel Aviv. Photo: Channel 2/screenshot.

The scene of Friday afternoon’s shooting spree in Tel Aviv. Photo: Channel 2/screenshot.

Just over an hour ago, I was less than a block from a shooting in Tel Aviv that may have been a terrorist attack that killed at least two. All of a sudden, a flood of people in the little cafe where I was sitting rushed past me to the back of the restaurant. People fell to the ground, covering their heads, their loved ones, each other. No one knew exactly what was going on, except that there was danger immediately nearby.

Toddlers and infants who had been laughing, playing, and happy moments earlier were now trembling as their parents wrapped their arms and their whole bodies around them. After the confusion had subsided a bit and we realized it was a shooting a few buildings away, several of the 20-something guys literally climbed over the patrons huddled on the floor to run out to see if they could do something, anything.

Once the threat had passed and people were standing, one Israeli woman was still shaking, unable to stem the flow of tears running down her face. It was, she said, not the first terrorist attack that she’s been that close to — which is what made it that much harder to endure it yet again. Each time it happens, the fear compounds, meaning you feel not just that current threat, but the accumulation of all the past ones.

As an American in the immediate aftermath, one thought that I keep coming back to again and again is how amazing it is that Israelis don’t hate Palestinians. The support that used to exist for the Palestinian quest for statehood has long since dissipated, of course, but that there is not more overt hatred is really quite shocking to an American’s sensibilities.

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It’s not that a majority of Palestinians are lining up to commit terrorist attacks; it’s that the overwhelming majority of Palestinians support those who do. And almost every Israeli knows this.

So the fear in the eyes of those little children is something that most Palestinians celebrate. And yet, my fellow Jews who live under constant threat of Palestinian terrorism do not burn with murderous rage.

That’s the core difference between Israelis and Palestinians: When an Israeli does something evil, he is shunned by Israeli society, vilified for his actions and usually faces swift justice from the authorities. When a Palestinian kills Jews and strikes fear into the hearts of hundreds or thousands of others, his fellow Arabs hail him as a hero, name streets or stadiums after him, and the Palestinian Authority – to great public reception – gives him and his family honor and money.

We don’t know yet if it was, in fact, a Palestinian shooter, but it was clear to everyone on the street in the mayhem that followed that the totality of Palestinian attacks over the last year, and frankly the past 15 years, is what made that moment so frightening.

And the sad reality is that based on a slew of polling, most Palestinians who heard about the shooting and the resulting two deaths likely were hoping that a Palestinian was responsible. Any society that can celebrate death and destruction, feeling unmitigated joy at the terror that I witnessed first-hand is clearly depraved.

That depravity, sadly, is why we will not experience peace anytime soon.

Contrary to what blissfully ignorant pundits and talking heads proclaim, most Israelis would make incredible sacrifices for peace — something they’ve demonstrated repeatedly over the years.

But any group of people who would feel joy at what I witnessed today will simply not accept peace. And that, more than anything, is what makes the fear as deep-seated as it is – knowing that the very existence of Jews in the Jewish homeland means that the enemies of the Jewish people will always desire our death.

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