Thursday, November 14, 2002

In Their Beds

It is a parent’s worst nightmare. To wake up to the news of the terror attack on Kibbutz Metzer last week.

By now you already know the story: a terrorist broke into the kibbutz and entered a house. The mother, 34-year-old Revital Ohayon, was reading bedtime stories to her two boys, Matan and Noam. She tried to shield the children but he shot her, then shot the children, point blank, in their beds. Two other people were killed before the terrorist fled.

Parents around the world have many nightmares to contend with when it comes to their children – drugs, kidnappings, unsavory boyfriends and girlfriends.

Parents in Israel have additional concerns: putting your kid on a bus to school and not knowing if it will blow up. Trying to encourage your kids to eschew the fun of going to hang downtown with their friends, or to a mall, a cafe, anywhere there’s a crowd that a terrorist would target. Is it any wonder that so many teenagers here have cellphones?

But this attack calls up entirely different fears. Unlike suicide bombers, which are by their nature anonymous, this attack had all the hallmarks of the cold-blooded hit man. (It is the exact opposite of what I wrote last week about “Marla’s Killers.”)

The terrorist most certainly looked those children in the eyes before shooting. Did he think about his own children? Did images of his own brothers and sisters flash before his eyes? Or was he so brainwashed by his handlers that he no longer saw Matan and Noam as human beings?

We don’t want to descend so far into despair as to start using the “H” word – that only cheapens the Holocaust and gives too much credit to our adversaries. But when was the last time that our enemies were able to shoot us at point blank range?

In other cases, employees or long-time acquaintances have turned their guns on us. Maybe pogrom is more appropriate, since often times it was the Jewish villagers’ own neighbors, people they knew well, who initiated or joined in the massacres.

The terrorist who killed the Ohayons didn’t know them personally, but the Palestinian village across the valley certainly did – it has been widely reported that these twinned communities were in the vanguard of promoting peace and coexistence. They had even been instrumental in trying to move the location of the Security Fence, a fence that would have separated the communities but would also have likely prevented this atrocity.

What do we tell our own children when they hear the news? At first, we tried to protect them, turning off the news when it was became too personal or too frightening. Indeed, for a while, I listened to the 7:00 AM News in English on headphones while I went about making the lunches for the day. But then Amir got upset because he said everyone else in school knew what was going on and were talking about it, and he was left out.

Merav, however, has become increasingly afraid in her own home. On too many nights, she refuses to go downstairs to her room alone, convinced that terrorists may be outside.

“What are you afraid of, honey,” I ask.

“I’m afraid they will put a bomb in our apartment building.”

“They’re not interested in our apartment,” I try to comfort her. But inside I think: who knows? With each new escalation, there are new strategies. Can’t get a bomb on the bus? So drive a bomb-laden car next to one and explode it. So who’s to say that at some point they won’t start targeting private apartment blocks in southern Jerusalem?

Last night, Jody wanted to lock our bedroom door. “What good would that do?” I asked. We might be safe, but how would we save the children? Not that Revital Ohayon was able to.

“Please don’t bring these things up right before bed,” I pleaded. I have a hard enough time sleeping as it is.

Still, I am appalled and furious that I even have to think of these things. I am transported to images of camps and ghettos in Europe, of mothers smothering their children so they wouldn’t cry out. Is this what we have come to, here in our own land?

What can be done? This is not 1942 and we are not helpless. We are here. We are not going anywhere. Though this horrible stinking situation may harden us, we will survive.

But will our children?

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