JULY 31, 2002 - EXCLUSIVE FROM ISRAEL
Dear Rabbi Ben-Chaim:
It is a sad day here in Jerusalem as another suicide bombing
has taken the lives of 7 students at Hebrew University today,
wounding 70 more, 9 critically.
We started the day at the Hadassah Hospital in Ein Kerem,
visiting the victims of earlier suicide bombings, their families
and their doctors. I
have chosen to withhold their names.
The first young man we visited is 17 years old. Several months
ago, he and another man recognized a suicide bomber entering
a building and put their bodies between the bomber and others.
The terrorist looked at them and smiled his wicked smile and
detonated the bomb. The other man did not survive. This young
man was severely injured and was not expected to survive. He
has no recollection of the bombing. His mother is at his side
daily. We spoke to her at length in an on-camera interview.
What strikes at your heart when talking to the family members
is the way in which the entire families' lives have forever been
changed by cold and calculated acts of evil perpetrated upon
innocent people going about their daily lives.
The second young man we visited is 14 years old. About six
months ago, he and his classmates took a bus to a kibbutz to
help with picking cherries at the end of the season. When they
arrived, the bus parked and let them through the gate of the
orchard. After their long day toiling in the sun, he and two
of his friends walked out of the gate where a terrorist had planted
a bomb under the ground. The bomb exploded, hurling all three
boys into the air. Both of this young man's legs were shattered
and he is partially paralyzed. He is undergoing intensive physical
therapy but his Legs still aren't mended enough to be able to
The third young man we visited is a member of the Israeli
police force. He and his partner, a young woman, were at a checkpoint
in the streets. They spotted a terrorist walking down the street.
The tip off was the fact that he was using his cell phone upside
down. Sometimes the terrorists use cell phones to detonate bombs.
The officers approached this man and he shot both of them --
the young woman twice in the chest. She died there in the street.
The young man wrestled the terrorist to the ground. The terrorist
attempted to explode a hand grenade in the struggle, but by some
miracle it did not detonate. All the while our brave young man
is still wrestling with the terrorist, who puts his gun to the
young man's head. By another miracle, the gun jammed and did
not fire. Civilians in the street came to the aid of the young
man and subdued the terrorist. He is currently in jail.
Ambassador Keyes and his wife, Jocelyn, then met with the
head of the Trauma Unit at Hadassah Hospital, Dr. Avi Rivkind.
This is Israel's premier trauma unit. Accordingly, they receive
most of the victims of the bombings in the area. It was a moving
interview, an honest human conversation with a doctor who has
treated so many of these victims.
As we left the hospital and said our goodbyes to the wonderful
doctors and nurses, little did we know that less than an hour
later, only a few blocks away, evil was working its way into
the cafeteria at Hebrew University. We were all sobered to think
of what our new friends were dealing with in the aftermath of
the bombing. We could not help imagining the fearful injuries
of those of the 70 survivors who were being rushed through the
very doors we had just left.
It is heartbreaking to think of all of those new families
who today began the journey of those family members we had just
met. It was very sobering, indeed.
After leaving the hospital we visited the offices of The Media
Line in Jerusalem. Felice and Michael Friedman and The Media
Line are our group's hosts in Israel and have made all of the
plans for this trip. Theirs is a non-profit organization that
assists journalists in better covering events in Israel.
At their offices they had arranged for us to meet with several
groups who had stories that had not yet been covered.
The first meeting was with Avishai Kfir and Tsafrir Ronen
of the Israel History Channel. They have been working with a
scientist, Nahum Shahaf, on the story that gripped the world
over a year ago of the death of the young Palestinian boy, Mohammed
al-Dura, who was crouched behind his father and killed in the
so-called "crossfire" of a "shootout" between
the IDF and Palestinian forces.
The one-hour interview turned into two and we had to call
a halt to it as our schedule was set for the day and we were
running so far behind. The information these men have uncovered
will rock the world when it comes to light in a documentary they
are producing of the day of Mohammed's death. The documentation
and raw footage of the day that they were able to obtain from
different journalistic sources, including Palestinian television,
among others, offers some startling possibilities. Among their
assertions: the camera footage of the day shows artificial staging
of battles and events using multiple cameras, directors and actors.
Documentation and interviews show that the body of a young boy
that was buried under the name of "Mohammed" was delivered
to the hospital several hours before the shooting started. And
a scientific reenactment of the boy's shooting shows that he
and his father were both clearly out of the line of fire from
the only IDF post.
They had hours of footage, interviews with those on the scene
and information that will go into their documentary. If the substance
evidence they put forth is true, this will prove to be a shocking
example of psychological warfare and deceit on the part of the
Palestinians. We await the documentary in hopes that truth will
be uncovered. Let the chips fall where they may!
Ambassador Keyes also met with representatives of the Center
for Monitoring Peace and was shown some startling examples of
current school textbooks published by the Palestinian Authority
and given to their children in the classrooms with details of
what these children are being taught. For example, did you know
that Jews have never, throughout history, ever lived in the Middle
East? I was as surprised as you are!
After a quick lunch in the offices, we joined Gil Kleiman,
the spokesman for Israel's police force. He most graciously took
us on a walking tour of terror locations in Jerusalem ending
at the infamous Sabarro pizza parlor where so many young people
were killed or injured by a suicide bomber.
Ambassador Keyes was then given a private briefing by Israeli
security forces before we left in a bullet-proof SUV for the
Israeli community of Efrat, Gush Etzion in the West Bank, courtesy
of Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, the community's Chief Rabbi. We drove
over the famous land bridge where so many people have been shot
in their cars by snipers that the Israelis have erected barriers
along the roadway shielding the bridge from the Arab community
that overlooks this dangerous piece of roadway.
We were warmly greeted at a public reception in this modern
community that has been painted in the press as a right-wing
radical settlement. Quite the contrary, our hosts were doctors,
lawyers and other members of the professional community including
the high-tech industry. The landscaping was beautiful in the
glow of the streetlights leading up to beautiful homes, some
in the million-dollar range.
The tears flowed and the "thank yous" rang through
the community center as Ambassador Keyes entered the building
and was introduced by Rabbi Riskin. It was an emotional time
for all as the Mayor of Efrat, Etian Golan, read a note from
a friend of his stateside, who was not particularly religious,
but had seen Alan Keyes is Making Sense and resumed his nightly
prayers to "pray for Alan."
Ambassador Keyes then took the podium and there was not a
dry eye in the house as he gave a dramatic speech on the courage
and resolve of those throughout history who have faced oppression
and evil only to rise above it without allowing their souls be
turned to despair and evil. And he thanked the Jewish community
for setting an example for the world in this regard.
Tomorrow looms brighter on the horizon as we pray for the
first full day on our trip without a suicide bombing.