In some ways the terrorism suffered by Israel has been worse than 9/11, especially because in a small nation like Israel terrorism produces a ripple effect through society. If 9/11 is now an emblem of evil remembered worldwide, Israel’s suffering has been deliberately forgotten.
We have read everything about the American mothers and fathers who didn’t came back home 10 years ago, the firemen, the survivors, the people who jumped from the Twin Towers, and the heroes of the flight that crushed in Pennsylvania. However, a demonic strategy of silence worked very well in the case of Israel: it’s as if the Israeli victims never existed.
Indeed, the “civilized” world should feel ashamed for leaving the Israelis alone during the Second Intifada.
If 9/11 was a military operation conducted by 19 Saudi fanatics that wanted to destroy the military and financial symbols of US power, Israel has been struck in the most familiar and routine places: scores of young people and children, women and elderly incinerated on civilian buses; cafes and pizzerias destroyed; shopping malls turned into slaughterhouses; mothers and daughters killed in front of ice cream shops; families exterminated in their own beds; infants executed with a blow to the base of the skull; fruit markets blown to pieces; nightclubs eviscerated along with hundreds of students; seminarians murdered during their studies; husbands and wives killed in front of their children; brothers and sisters, grandparents and grandchildren murdered together; children murdered in their mothers’ arms.
If 9/11 was conducted by four squads of suicide pilots, in Israel there have been more than 150 suicide attacks carried out. It’s a black hole that in 15 years swallowed up 1,557 people and left 17,000 injured. Israel is a tiny country - a jet can fly from one end to the other in two minutes. If a proportion of the population equivalent to those 1,557 victims were murdered in the US, there would be 53,756 Americans killed.
Moreover, the 9/11 attacks did not produce 17,000 wounded civilians like the Second Intifada. Israeli figures of those wounded in terror attacks, extrapolated to the population of the US, would be the equivalent of some 664,133 injured.
Children’s faces burned
The terrorists have always selected their targets in Israel very carefully, to cause as much destruction as possible. One suicide bomber in Rishon Lezion massacred a group of elderly who were enjoying the cool air on the patio, where they had no protection. There are the shopping malls like in Efrat, pedestrian areas like in Hadera, bus stops like in Afula and Jerusalem, train stations like in Nahariya, pizzerias like in Karnei Shomron, nightclubs like the one in Tel Aviv, buses of students like in Gilo, bars and restaurants like in Herzliya, and cafes like in Haifa.
The 9/11 killers didn’t plan specifically how to inflict further pain to the survivors. In Israel pieces of metal were added to the explosives in the terrorist’s vest or backpack, with blasts often severing limbs completely. Many Israeli children have had their faces burned or their hands rendered useless; some have had their sight ruined forever.
There are trembling elderly people, totally dependent. There are people who go insane and don’t want to live anymore because they are haunted by the sound of the explosion, secluding themselves in their homes. Naturally, the focus has been mainly on the people killed in terror attacks, but more than eight times as many have been wounded.
This is the true face of the war against the Jewish people: Jews scathed and scarred, living reminders of the Israeli 9/11. They require years of costly and complicated physical and mental rehabilitation. Israeli doctors estimate that 40% of the injured will have permanent disabilities. There are survivors of attacks who struggle even to get rid of the stench of death.
Some Israelis are still hospitalized with injuries sustained in suicide attacks years ago; many more require repeated hospital visits and multiple operations. Many are unable to work. Thousands of families have been forced to alter their lives to care for a wounded member. For all those killed, there are many, many more left alive but burned, scarred, blinded, hearing-impaired, or missing limbs. Many sustain fractures, vascular injuries, paralysis, or brain damage.
Blood-covered parking lot
Just a couple of months before 9/11 an Israeli discotheque was destroyed by a suicide bomber. The Dolphinarium was named for a dolphin tank that once stood there; nearby were big Tel Aviv hotels. That evening, dozens of Russian-born students were waiting to get into the disco for an evening of dancing and friendship.
However, this place of happiness was turned into a slaughterhouse - young people with hands blown off and faces reduced to a pulp, a hail of blood, corpses, and torsos. The parking lot in front of the Infinity nightclub was covered in blood, and the cars were littered with body parts.
Two months after 9/11, on a busy Ben Yehuda Street in downtown Jerusalem, two suicide bombers killed 11 young Jews. People were walking without an arm or a leg. That evening, Ben Yehuda was no longer part of the world - it was an anti-world. There were people running around aimlessly. Others were sitting on the sidewalk, dazed. A young woman walked back and forth on the sidewalk like a robot. Someone was holding a human limb.
What happened in a poor city like Afula was certainly less spectacular than the tons of metal and ashes in Manhattan. But I do really believe that the majestic horror of 9/11 can be matched by the lone death of an Israeli girl, Inbal Weiss, who was in a bus returning from the university when the bomber took her life near Hadera. Her proud parents, who are the most honorable part of Israel, were waiting for Inbal at home.
For me, these innocent Israeli victims are all saints and heroes. And those who survived them are the best humankind has to offer because they hold on to the value of life. September 11 should be remembered forever as a turning point in world history. The Israeli civilians should be honored with the same global sorrow and respect.
Giulio Meotti, a journalist with Il Foglio, is the author of the book A New Shoah: The Untold Story of Israel's Victims of Terrorism
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