I knew Rabbi Twersky. We weren’t best buddies, or drinking pals, or even very close, but I considered him a friend. I met him several times in Boston and in Israel and always found him to be a great giver of Torah and a pleasant man who loved the Jewish people. The horrific events surrounding his murder in this week’s Jerusalem attack are very much in the forefront of my mind. The terror attack, which claimed the lives of 5 Israelis (Jewish and Druze), is sadly nothing new for a conflicted land. One begs to ask the question: what makes this attack any different from the others that have plagued Israel and Palestine for years? For me, despite years of serving in the IDF and attending multiple soldiers’ funerals, this is the first civilian I personally knew who was claimed by terrorism. I have a close connection to this land that we Jews believe God promised us; however, God also promised us peace. Some days we have one, other days we have both, but we have not been able to enjoy both for very long.
For both Israelis and Palestinians, this attack makes peace an even more distant dream. While Israel loses its hold on a Democratic state, the Palestinians continue to suffer as homeless strangers. This most recent terrorist act has left 25 Israeli children fatherless, a fact that reinforces the Israeli government’s status quo position in improving Palestinian civil rights. The murder of Israelis creates more nationalistic tension between Israelis and Palestinians, Islamophobia, and knee-jerk reactionary policies against the West Bank.
Lately, there has been significant talk about settlements and the security barrier. Many view the security barrier as Israel’s justification to seize, occupy, and transform Palestinian land without the consent of the Palestinian Authority or the Palestinian people. The international community considers this Berlin-Wall-like security barrier as an added hardship for Palestinians’ daily lives. Israelis view this fence as protection from Palestinian terrorist attacks. Sadly, it only exacerbates a suffocating existence for Palestinians whose movement is already restricted in the West Bank. Even many sympathetic Israelis feel as though the structure has helped carve up a disjointed territory where Palestinians will never be able to live in a contiguous, viable state. No doubt, that is becoming the reality.
Regardless of how you feel about the morality, legality, or real purpose of the structure, at the end of day, it has, and continues to, save Israeli lives. Before the Israeli-West Bank barrier was built inside and along the Green Line, Israelis and non-Israelis of all faiths were victimized by countless acts of terror during the Second Intifada; over a thousand innocent civilians were killed, many by suicide bombers. As soon as the barrier (many refer to it as a wall, which is in fact less than 10% of the structure) was erected, life slowly began to improve in Israel. Over the span of 5 years, during the early to mid-2000s, the number of attacks sharply dropped and Israelis stopped being slaughtered in cafes, on buses, and in malls; thanks in large part to the security barrier.
Israel has an obligation to protect the safety and security needs of all within its borders, even if Israel has yet to finalize its borders. The security barrier is not a barrier to peace; it is a reaction to insecurity. It is not the illness plaguing the peace process but rather a symptom of the disease surrounding mistrust. We can debate the location of the barrier, but we can’t debate the effectiveness of the structure in reducing the number of terror attacks. The Israeli government views this barrier as a necessary evil and I agree; it is evil and 100% necessary to save lives. Good fences might not make good neighbors, but they keep the neighborhood safe.
The sixth victim of this week’s terror attack was the trust needed to continue the peace process. Those who want peace will continue to suffer through more random acts of violence and tit-for-tat retaliation: Palestinian homes being bulldozed, the fear of buses being blown up again or more rockets from Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon, or ISIS in Syria. The real causality is the trust needed to coexist peacefully between Israelis, Palestinians, Muslims, Christians, Druze, Bedouins, and Jews.
In the perverse Middle East, violence on both sides only strengthens the extremists who use terror to kill, and the fear of terror to justify settlement outposts and security barriers. With the growing number of deadly attacks against Israelis during this latest wave of violence, Israel has more and more justification for its actions in the West Bank, and greater legitimacy in taking whatever extreme measure is necessary to ensure safety and security. Somebody forgot to tell Hamas that they’re playing right into Prime Minister Netanyahu’s right hand. How could Israel be criticized for not sitting down at the negotiation table and making an honest effort at a peace settlement when rabbis are being butchered to death? Additionally, when the IDF firmly responds to murderous terrorist attacks and violent Palestinian riots, where is Abu Mazen to calm the flames of hatred? The entire scenario plays well for the Israeli and Palestinian leadership, who have no political will or daring vision, to change the status quo. Rest assured theses recent attacks will do nothing to erase Israel’s existence or ease Israel’s use of checkpoints, arrests, and search and seizures against the Palestinians. When Israelis are attacked, innocent Palestinians suffer too, and as long as the attacks continue, you might as well add another brick in the security wall barrier.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons