Late in the afternoon of Sunday, March 31, 2002, which this year was both the fourth day of Passover and on Easter Sunday, an explosion rocked Efrat, my wife, typing away yet another e-mail to one of many corresponding women from the world over, looked around the living room to see that the children were OK, and resumed her correspondence, including the “boom” in her closing graph.
Elchanon, our almost sixteen year old son who helps me in every aspect of my work, ran to the scene of the blast, cell phone in hand, stood on a hill overlooking the evacuation of the wounded so that he could report to me at the press center in Jerusalem. From where our office was able to place the story on the wire services, and to his brother Noam, now soldier on the Lebanese front.
Elchanon’s first words said it all. This attack was different from all the other attack. This time, an Arab blew himself up at the emergency mobile medical unit that dispatched a medic to treat him.
As the terrorist blew himself up, the medic that came out to treat him, Assaf Perlman, was riddled with shrapnel, sustaining injuries in his head and chest. Assaf is fighting for his life. Assaf is the same medic who risked his live under fire at the Joseph Tomb compound in October 2000 to try to save the life of a Druze Israeli soldier, Mamduch Yusef, who wound up bleeding to death in Assaf’s arms. Five other paramedics were also hurt, including Elchanon’s tenth grade classmate, Netanel, whose parents, from Moshe and Debbie, are old friends of mine who went to graduate school with me in New York 25 years ago and who, like us, settled in Efrat.
After many threats, this attack was clearly aimed against Efrat’s policy of providing medical services for the two Arab villages that are contiguous to Efrat. As a matter of policy, the Rabbi of Efrat, Shlomo Riskin, raised substantial funds from liberal Jews for medical clinics and schools in these nearby Arab villages a policy that earned the wrath of Arafat’s Palestinian Authority.
Rabbi Riskin made such a policy decision in the spirit of the Torah states 36 times that which a non-Jew who lives at peace with you in the land of Israel must be treated with dignity, respect and service.
In Januray, Last month, without warning, Channel One of Moscow filmed the Arab villages near Efrat, expecting to hear stories about the “Israeli occupation” and tensions between the small Arab village and the 16 expanding Israeli Jewish settlements of Efrat and the Etzion Bloc. The Russian TV crew heard the opposite message only praise for the people of Efrat and the Etzion bloc, and seething anger against Arafat and the “PLO occupation” of their fellow Palestinian Arab brethren in the Bethlehem region.
Family after family in these Arab villages told Russian TV that they were getting the best medical treatment possible from their friends in Efrat, while their families in Bethlehem had to bribe officials just to get the basics of treatment from the PA. They also spoke with pride about the school that Efrat had built for them
All this was aired on Russian TV Channel One very recently.
It would seem that the PA was watching. The clear purpose of the attack was to disrupt a proper relationship between a Jewish city and an Arab village.
Despite the threats to their lives from Arafat and the Palestinian Authority, the people of Efrat’s nearby Arab villages gathered in an emergency town meeting to issue a statement that denounced the attack in the strongest of terms. It surprised nobody in the villages that Arafat’s police force took credit for the attacks.