By Shmuel Katz,
It is certainly a confusing time that we live in. When we lived in the USA over a decade ago (and it seems weird to me every time I write that), I did not sense as much nastiness in the political arena as I do today—both here in Israel and in the USA. It could be that I am more attuned to it because politics affects my life more than it did then. But it seems to me that the rhetoric continues to get worse and worse.
It seems that every news event or story is an excuse for both sides of every argument to either take credit for something good or cast blame for something bad. No matter how painful or horrific the issue or event, people cannot seem to resist using it as leverage or a weapon.
Take the event at the beginning of this past week. My daughter posted an agonized message in the family WhatsApp group about a terror attack in Yerushalayim. Within the hour, as details came out, one of my employees was sent a video showing the attack (that most of you have by now also seen).
At the time, I was meeting with a saleswoman from one of the local newspapers who was trying to sell us some advertising in their paper. We both watched the video and I had to ask her for a few minutes to compose myself. And I went outside to cry.
Everyone in the garage was upset by what they had seen. And yet, after a few minutes and quite a few deep breaths, we did what we in Israel do—we composed ourselves and moved forward. We cannot let terrorists or terror control our lives. Only we can control our lives.
It was what followed the attack that I found enlightening. Depending on what your political viewpoint is, the terror attack was either evidence or confirmation of one of the following theories:
- The recent conviction of Elor Azaria (an IDF soldier who shot and killed a terrorist after he had already been taken down and may or may not have been a continued threat) taught the current soldiers that they cannot respond violently in an attack and that is why you see them hesitating and running away on that video.
- Every terrorist is now emboldened to act even more violently and provocatively because they know that the IDF soldiers will be too concerned about getting charged with a crime that they will not be able to respond strongly and effectively to a terror attack.
- The soldiers who were attacked were predominantly non-combat trainees in an officer’s course. Not being trained for combat, they were influenced by the recent conviction not to involve themselves in a situation for which they were not trained or prepared. It led to them following orders of their commanders to head for cover instead of taking action in which they could potentially have escalated the damage.
- It is a travesty that IDF soldiers are unprepared to take action in such an event. The soldiers seen running away were not properly prepared to stand up and fight for their fellows. This is an IDF failure.
- There is no reason to train non-combat soldiers who are working in intelligence on how to handle a terrorist attack. They actually reacted as they were supposed to react, following the orders of their better-trained commanders who took hold of the situation.
- The true sign of the IDF’s failure in this case is that with all the soldiers present who are clearly and visibly armed, it was a civilian who had to take action and kill the driver of the truck.
- A civilian being the first person to take action in killing the terrorist is proof-positive of the effectiveness of having a properly trained armed civilian population.
I listed seven different opinions that I read over the first few hours after the attack. In the days since, many more have come out. Each person sees only what he or she wants to see and used the events to prove how utterly wrong the others are in their approaches. And what gets lost in the furor and anger is the sadness that we all felt initially, that sense of grief we felt upon hearing the horrible news.
We may be moving forward with our lives. But the process, in my opinion, has brought us a little backward, too.
Shmuel Katz, his wife Goldie, and their six children made aliyah in July 2006. Before making aliyah, Shmuel was the executive director of the Yeshiva of South Shore in Hewlett. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.