At 3:23am I just couldn't fall asleep. Since about 11:45pm I had been attempting to go to sleep. At 12:00am the Israeli government was making good on their promise to start releasing 26 (of 104) Palestinian terrorists. Most were released to their homes in Judea (where I live), Samaria, and Gaza. This move was made as precondition to get the Palestinians to the negotiating table for peace. Let me reiterate... we, Israel, have so far released 26 convicted murderers back to their homes throughout the West Bank and Gaza.
Disgusting. Infuriating. Unheard of anywhere in the world but here. Anger and resentment boils over inside of me like a volcano close to erupting. I'll get back to that. Let me back up...
At about 7:30pm Tuesday evening I was driving from Tekoa to Jerusalem when I saw something unusual at the traffic circle by Herodian. As I approached and slowed down I saw what must have been roughly 100 Arab villagers converging on the traffic circle, blocking traffic, and exiting their cars. Simutaneously I saw Israeli army jeeps arriving and IDF soldiers dressed in full riot gear walking towards the crowd. Nothing was happening... yet. No one was yelling or screaming, but my heart was pounding in my ears so loud that I could no longer hear the music playing on my radio. Suddenly an Arab man starts waiving at me to drive forward, into the crowd. At this point I was the first car in what was quickly becoming a traffic jam on my side of the road. I saw an opening in the crowd and cars and I floored it. The some 30 seconds it took me to get to the other side of the mass of people felt like an eternity. I prayed, "Hear me Ha'Shem, grant me safe passage to their other side of this road. Protect me, protect the other travelers, protect our soldiers. I don't know what is happening or why, nor do I currently care. Just protect us." I silently thanked Ha'Shem as I drove and pushed 140km/hr racing towards the checkpoint to enter Jerusalem. Thank you Ha'Shem, for allowing me to learn how to drive and handle any car.
Later, after driving back home on the same road, which was now deserted and silent, I again offered up a prayer of gratitude. "May this be the worst of what I experience in my days living in Israel," I concluded.
Will it be the worst? My ideological and hopeful peace-loving side of my self fervently hopes that it was. The realist in me knows that is bull-shit! She knows that I have only seen a sliver of the truth of what it means to be an Israeli.
So there I sat, at 11:45pm reading news article after new article announcing the release of men like Raai Ibrahim Salam Ali. Raai Ibrahim was arrested in 1994 and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder - using an axe - of 79 year-old Morris Aizenshtat who was sitting on a park bench in Kfar Saba reading a book at the time. Let me also reiterate that... Morris, a 79 year-old man, was sitting on a park bench reading a book when he was murdered by Raai Ibrahim with an axe. An axe! As of last night, Raai Ibrahim was most likely welcomed home to Gaza with party and fan fare as a true hero of the Palestinean people. As I write this, I have to swallow hard to make sure that I don't throw up out of disgust and anger. I cry with and for the Aizenshtat family (and many more), knowing that their loved ones murderer is a free man who is being celebrated as a hero.
Yet somehow, it is believed that all of this will bring peace?
As my insomnia kept my mind running and my adrenaline pumping I attempted many things to wear myself out. I watched a movie. I read a book. I tried to meditate and breathe deeply. Sometime after 3:00am the real noise started. Pop, pop, blast, pop, pop, bang, blast, bang, bang... over and over and over again. I haven't been here long enough to know the difference in the sounds of fireworks versus gunfire (apparently one develops an ear for these things), so I silently told myself that it must be fireworks... it was gunfire. I rolled over, once again attempting to fall asleep. Sometime around 4:00am (I'm not sure what time exactly) I hear the Muslim call to worship for morning prayers to begin. The pops, bangs, and blasts had barely begun to lessen when the loud speakers kicked in from the Arab village across the way. "Aaaaalllllllaaaahhh!!" it wailed, followed by a series of undecipherable chantings. The speakers blared as if someone was standing outside my bedroom window with a mega-phone. "Allah hu Akbar" it screamed through my sleepless mind (Allah is great). At nearly 4:30am, you know what's really great? SLEEP!
I am now sitting on my couch as the latest wave of pops and bangs and blasts echo across the waadi from their hilltop to ours. Every sound amplifies the fury inside of me. Each celebratory blast for them is another kick in the chest for us, knocking the wind out of our tired and frustrated sails.
The UN makes us, Israel, out to be the terrorists of the Middle East. Somehow, we are still the bad guys. As rockets are fired into Southern Israel, as murderers are welcomed home as heros throughout the West Bank and Gaza, and as Northern Israeli hospitals continue to care for and treat victims of the Syrian civil war, we are lauded as the 'bad guys'. Despite, or maybe because of this, the resilience of Israelis is still unsurpassable. This stops no one from living their lives. It is currently two weeks before school starts up again, and Israelis are still vacationing in the Red Sea, jumping into waterholes, hiking, camping, shopping, going to movies, etc.
These murderers are welcomed to their homes as freedom fighters, defenders of Allah, true heros. This "bargain" for peace is nothing more than an incredibly harmful illusion and political manipulation at its finest. If Bibi (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu) really had balls, not one convicted murderer would leave jail. Not one! If John Kerry truly understood the history, pain, triumph, tragedy of the Middle East, then I'm sure he would be preaching a different path to peace. America does not negotiate with terrorists, remember? Why should we?
Despite my cynicism, I still pray for peace. Real peace. Lasting peace. Despite the fighter jets and helicopters that seem to fly so low it rattles my apartment windows. Despite the questionable pops and blasts that could either be fireworks or gunfire. Despite seeing IDF dressed in riot gear approaching a group of Arabs who are blocking the road. Despite it all, they, our Arab cousins, will NOT drive me out from my home. They will not bully me into giving up my home. They will continue to push until we are driven into the Mediterranean Sea. We can not compromise with terrorism. We can not compromise with bullies.
Until then, the day of true, uncompromising, peace... all I can do is pray.