Seven years ago this week, the bombing of Jerusalem's Sbarro restaurant took the lives of 15 innocent Jews. Among them was my daughter, Malki.
Seven is a significant number in Jewish tradition. The seventh day of the week is the Sabbath. The seventh year, the Shmittah,imposes a moratorium on farming in Israel along with unrestricted access to private fields for everyone. The bride circles the groom seven times under the wedding canopy. Seven is the number of Israel's native fruits as well as the number of divine commandments given to Noah and his descendants.
But seven is not unique in the life-long process of grieving for a child. It is just one more year of incessant pain and longing.
This year's anniversary of the Sbarro terrorist massacre, however, is likely to coincide with an event certain to exacerbate those sentiments.
Two boats chartered by the California-based Free Gaza Movement left Cyprus a few days ago. They are currently heading for Gaza. Dubbed the Free Gaza and the Liberty, the organizers say they are transporting 45 self-proclaimed humanitarians from 15 nations.
The identities of most of the participants and their date of arrival have not been released. Yet the media buzz is that they will dock on the date of the yahrzeit, August 21.
Among the handful of passengers names that have been publicized are those of an 84 year old Holocaust survivor; the sister-in-law of former British Prime Minister and now Middle East envoy Tony Blair; an Israeli left-wing activist; and a Catholic nun. Rumor has it that actor Leonardo DiCaprio is also on board and South African Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu is one of several dignitaries to have endorsed the voyage.
Reality rears its ugly head
The participants in this lame-brained scheme are probably bubbling over with good intentions, convinced that the Gazans are pitiful victims. What is baffling is their indifference to the hard facts of the conflict into which they are plunging head first.
While Lauren Booth, Blair's sister-in-law, says she is eager to show the world the reality of what's going on in Gaza, it is evident that reality plays only a bit part in this Hollywood-style production.
Reality rears its ugly head, for example, in a piece of footage that these humanitarians probably did not watch.
A film circulated last week shows Gaza children at a summer camp graduation where some 200 boys strutted their newly-acquired skills.
With soldierly precision, the Hamas-trained pre-teens are shown marching and repeating after their instructor: "Kill!", "Slaughter!", "Blow Up!" and "Charge!"
Wearing T-shirts bearing the logo "Despite the Siege," they somersault over one another while older Hamas militants shoot into the air. Wooden rifles are used as props in some exercises while fingers pointed like guns feature in others.
Many more stunts not seen on the film were detailed in the international press:
"The youths leaped through hoops set on fire...an older youth lay on the ground as a minivan drove over him (and he) later smashed concrete plates set on fire with a quick snap of his hands... youths leaped off wooden bars, a few landing in a smoldering fire pit lit below them all while bearded gunmen fired their assault rifles in the air and around the youths' feet."
In the film, a journalist asks one camper what he would like to be when he grows up: "I want to be a military man, a holy warrior."
Any rational observer of these campers could not delude himself about the Gazans’ intentions. As the International Herald Tribune summed it up: "The goal of the Hamas camp was clearly to train the youth in military tactics and impart the militant Islamic ideology that has characterized Hamas.”
The "Free Gaza" activists exhibit total disregard for the innocent Israeli victims of Gaza's past terror attacks. Their brash interference with measures that preempt more such tragedies declares that stance loud and clear.
Israel's vital security operations off the Gaza coast are designed to prevent the infiltration of terrorists, weapons and other materials of terrorist warfare into Gaza. Yet the protection of innocent Israeli lives apparently does not cut it with these activists as a legitimate humanitarian goal.
Making peace more elusive
And what of the Palestinians who suffer at the hands of their own regime, officially recognized as a terrorist group by major Western governments? Are the "Free Gaza" supporters at all disturbed by Hamas' recent brutal attacks on their own brethren, Fatah activists?
Would any group members consent to live, for even a day, under the Islamist totalitarian regime they are now bolstering? Would they send their own children to the sort of camps that Hamas runs?
Organizers of this puerile project say their cargo includes 200 hearing aids intended for Gaza children who have been injured by explosions and sonic booms. Again, they seem unaware of the facts: Israel routinely admits Gazans into its hospitals to receive cutting-edge medical care free of charge and transfers many tons of humanitarian aid daily into the Strip.
With a little further investigation, the "Free Gaza" meddlers might also have learned about my daughter's camp experiences.
On the day of her murder, Malki was headed to a Jerusalem suburb to attend a meeting of counselors preparing for their summer camp. The activities included swimming, hiking, singing, dancing, drama and sports. Malki had also returned only several days earlier from the north of Israel where she had been a volunteer counselor at Etgarim, a camp for physically and mentally disabled children. Her smile beams out from the photos we have of her there, hugging campers with Down Syndrome.
But introducing information like this into the mix would confuse the Gaza-bound activists. Their support for this terrorist enclave can only survive as long as they remain blind and ignorant.
This folly will render the prospect of wholesome camps for Gaza children more unlikely and the chance of a lasting peace here ever more elusive.