Israel at 65


I watched the video of the Boston Marathon bombings and thought, of course, of the bus bombings that wracked Jerusalem and Tel Aviv a decade ago. The mundane calm violently shattered. The screams giving way to sirens. The bodies sprawled on the ground. And the smoke — movies never show how much smoke explosions really cause, because there would be too much to see anything.

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one making these associations.

Dr. Alasdair Conn is chief of emergency services at Massachusetts General Hospital, where at least 22 of the severely wounded victims were rushed.

“This is like a bomb explosion we hear about in Baghdad or Israel or other tragic points in the world,” Conn told The New York Times.

The way Dr. Conn put it jarred me. Sixty-five years after its founding, Israel is vibrant, creative, tough, embattled, intense, exhausting — but tragic? Nope.

It’s not because enemies, like the terrorist or terrorists who attacked Boston, haven’t tried for years to reduce Israel to a nation of blood and tears. Just since the Second Intifada, the terror death toll of Israeli Jews and Arabs has topped 1,000. In the latest attack, in July of last year, a Hezbollah bomb planted on a bus full of Israeli tourists in Bulgaria claimed six lives.

Numbers don’t begin to reveal the human agony behind each of these attacks. Beyond the casualties and their anguished loved ones, there are the wounded, who bear the scars for life. Israel has known tragedy, and how.

But Israel — as a nation, as a set of ideals, as a population within its (somewhat iffy) borders — continues to thrive. If any one word could describe Israel, it would not be tragic. It would be resilient.

Research now shows that people who fare best in life are ones who’ve undergone some adversity — not too much, and not too little.

“In our trauma-focused age,” psychologist Anthony Mancini writes,we sometimes lose sight of our innate capacity to endure. We seem to assume that ‘traumatic events’ must result in ‘trauma.’ And yet the research tells us the opposite. Most people cope with the worst things with only modest and transient disruptions in functioning.”

By that measure, Israel was forged in just the right degree of adversity.

The sites of some of the worst terror attacks in modern history bear no lasting signs. Israeli leaders made a decision early on to restore attack sites to normality as soon as possible. The message that sends is the same as what grass reminds each time you mow it — “we’ll be right back.” All that marks the place is a plaque or some kind of permanent memorial — because preserving memory of sacrifice is also a way of ensuring resilience.

Israel’s economy has a kind of unplanned resilience — not relying on any one commodity or industry, but constantly inventing new ones. So, too, its agriculture, which has moved from simply growing stuff to engineering the finest ways to breed, plant, irrigate, harvest, process and ship produce. Dozens of other countries can grow cheaper potatoes, but all over Europe you’ll pay six bucks a kilo for Israel’s Avshalom brand.

Part of this resilience is born of an innate restlessness. But it also comes from being not just a country, but a People. As Gidi Grinstein, founder of the Israeli think tank Re’ut has pointed out, Jewish longevity and success is in large part due precisely to worldwide networks of communities that could grow when others shrank, or disappeared, that could help when others were hurting.

“A secret of Jewish survival, security and prosperity over centuries of exile has been its geographic spread among nations, cultures and languages,” Grinstein writes.

Israel was supposed to herald the Ingathering of the Exiles, when the far-flung Jews, called, disdainfully, the galut, would all drop their briefcases and flock to Zion.

Thankfully, our innate sense of resilience kept us from doing exactly that. Israel grew strong and has prospered by drawing on the talents and resources and experiences of Jews, non-Jewish friends and, yes, former Israelis throughout the world.

The last Israeli election, which saw the ascendancy of parties informed by a more open — that is a more American-Jewish — approach to Judaism is a good indicator of how Israel’s future also depends on the strength and ideas of outside Jewish communities. It doesn’t just take a village, it takes a web — or, to be geeky about it, it takes an interconnected network.

What binds these networks together is a common story, a shared narrative of struggle, endurance, redemption. That story has enabled Israel, in the words of the late Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, to emerge “stronger than before from the test of fire and blood.” That story has been both a source of hope, and its fuel.

Because, really, what is resilience but a fancy word for hope — HaTikvah. And if we lost that — now that would be tragic.

Hamas leader calls for third intifada


A senior Hamas leader called for a third intifada, including suicide bus bombings in Israel.

Hamas Jerusalem bureau chief Ahmed Halabiyeh on Tuesday called for new, violent action against Israel,  saying that ”we must renew the resistance to occupation in any possible way, above all through armed resistance.” He called for “a third intifada to save the Aksa Mosque and Jerusalem.”

The call came in response to the approval for construction of thousands of apartments in eastern Jerusalem and the E1 area near Ma'aleh Adumim.

Also on Tuesday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak told a conference that Israel is “on the verge of a third intifada,” Ynet reported.

“If we continue to refuse peace, we will be dealt a painful blow that will affect all aspects of our lives,” he said.

Deadly bomb explosion in Jerusalem – ZAKA Emergency response [PHOTO SLIDESHOW]


ZAKA volunteer Motti Bukchin: “We were sitting in a meeting in the ZAKA headquarters when we heard a huge blast and the whole building shook. We ran into the street, carrying our emergency medical equipment and yellow vests, without even waiting for the news to come on our beepers. When we arrived at the site of the attack, we saw two women lying in huge pools of blood on the pavement. We began resuscitation immediately and were soon joined by other medical personnel from MDA and ZAKA. The two women were evacuated to hospital in serious to critical condition. “

ZAKA Chairman Yehuda Meshi Zahav : “The sights, sounds and the smell took us back to the time of the terror attacks. We treated many other injured people behind the bus stop including a seriously injured, but conscious, yeshiva student. Because of the location of the attack, close to the headquarters of ZAKA and other emergency medical personnel, the injured were treated and evacuated very quickly. ZAKA volunteers are at the site clearing the blood and other body parts from the scene.”

Find more photos like this on EveryJew.com

On Statistics and Heroes


The current conflagration in Israel and the territories is now two years old. News of each explosion in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv alarms me and fills me with a dread that does not retreat until I hear on the phone the voices of my friends in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. Countless times now I have woken my friends in the middle of the Israeli night. I confirm their voices, and then my dread recedes into statistics.

We’ve been inundated by the numbers of dead and wounded in the second Palestinian uprising. Charts show us dips and rises in casualties on a weekly and monthly basis. Media reports follow a strange and similar pattern: the incident itself, followed by eyewitness accounts, followed by politicians commenting on either the tragedy or inevitability of such a thing. And weaving them together is an ongoing debate over whether this particular incident was based on retaliation or revenge, whether it was preemptive or responsive.

Innately I know that each statistic reflects a human life and grieving families and friends on both sides of the conflict; without my knowing the deceased and their families, the statistics let me quantify loss.

And then suddenly, on July 31 everything changed. Janis Coulter was one of nine killed at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. The two-year loss of life for me is now qualified.

Because Janis was my friend and my colleague. Because Janis took my position when I left the Hebrew University. Because Janis and I had an e-mail correspondence and saw each other at meetings and conventions. Because Janis was a convert to Judaism and I was born a Jew, and in many ways, I think, she was more passionate about her Judaism than I am. Because if you play the what-if game, if I had kept my job with the Hebrew University, that could very well have been me on the campus on July 31.

Janis and I shared a particular realm that connects so many of us: alumni of the Hebrew University’s program for international students. A passion for Israel. A love of Jerusalem. A desire that goes well beyond the definition of work, encouraging students to breathe in an experience something similar to what we have known.

Jerusalem: It’s an ungraspable city. The beauty, pain, joy and melancholy in Jerusalem defy description or containment or words. Yet, we know the feeling when we are there. It’s not a secret, it’s there for all who breathe it in, but that feeling simply does not leave Jerusalem.

In some ways, both horrific and comforting, Janis has not left Jerusalem. Her spirit is now part of the life of an indefinable Jerusalem.

In other ways, Janis is very much part of my life here. Over the course of the weekend preceding her memorial service in Boston, Janis’ boss and I spent time with the Coulter family. In the two years prior to losing her own life, Janis lost her uncle, her brother-in-law and her mother. Despite this — or maybe because of this — the Coulters have an extraordinary, humane resilience. The Coulters have taught me how to breathe with, and through, the loss of Janis. The Coulters have become my local Jerusalem — I know the feeling I have when with them, but I can’t readily describe it to you.

In his novel “Continental Drift,” Russell Banks writes, “We must cross deserts alone and often perish along the way, we must move to where we can start our lives over, and when we get there, we must keep knocking at the gate, shouting and pounding with our fists, until those who happen to be keepers of the gate are also moved to admire and open the gate. We are the planet, fully as much as water, earth, fire and air are the planet, and if the planet survives, it will only be through heroism. Not occasional heroism, a remarkable instance of it here and there, but constant heroism, systematic heroism, heroism as governing principle.”

I embrace the memory of Janis Coulter. Now, especially now, I think of her not as a martyr, not as a sacrifice, but as a hero — a woman whose passion, smile, work and life so unpretentiously embodied heroism as governing principle.


Hal Klopper is director of Tel Aviv University’s office of academic affairs in New
York.

Criticism Remains


Shortly after the bomb went off at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, killing seven and wounding more than 80, David Ward, president of the American Council on Education, sent off a strongly worded statement of sympathy.

"The leaders of American higher education join me in condemning — in the strongest possible terms — yesterday’s terrorist bombing and the terrible loss of life at the Mount Scopus campus of Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The heart-wrenching deaths of seven people — five of them Americans — is only made more appalling by the fact that this terrorist incident targeted an institution of higher learning, long considered places of peaceful dialogue."

The heart of the statement, unequivocal condemnation coming from an academic institution, surprised me. I wondered if the attack had prompted faculty and students, particularly those on the left who have been most critical of Israel, to alter their stance. Had violence coming so close to home dislodged some of their support for the Palestinians? I decided in a random way to call professors at different universities.

The first call went to a friend at a Texas university. He is Jewish, in his 40s and self-described as an active member of the academic left. He doesn’t keep kosher, but his children attend Jewish day schools. He has been a staunch critic of Israel, often likening its policies to that of South Africa under the Afrikaners.

"For me, that act was the last straw," he said. "Maybe mine is a visceral reaction or maybe just a class response, but universities seem to me the last bastion, the brightest hope for future leaders and for a present-day dialogue."

But he also was most concerned that he not be identified, either because he might change his mind between now and the beginning of the new term later this month, or simply to protect himself from repudiation by his liberal colleagues for shifting his support toward Israel.

His voice, however, was the only one among many that reflected a new consideration. At Harvard, I talked to Patrick Thaddeus, an eminent professor of astrophysics. Thaddeus, who is also a friend, and not ideologue of the left or the right, had just returned from a conference and a stay in Britain and so felt more comfortable describing the reaction there — though he did not seem to believe the responses at Harvard of people on the left would be much different. Speaking generally, he explained, there is still widespread sympathy for the Palestinians among British and European intellectuals on the left.

These men and women are not anti-Semites, he emphasized. They are critical of America, of globalism and of Israel and see the three as linked. But they are especially suspicious of Ariel Sharon and believe he is out to get the Palestinians. In their view, Palestinians are the victims; Israelis the colonial power. Even the peace proposal that Ehud Barak offered, they believe, for all its generosity, would have created a colonial situation for the Palestinians, with blocked roads and Israeli settlements in their midst.

The bombing at Hebrew University had changed nothing, altered few if any beliefs.

When I asked why the killing last month of Hamas military leader Salah Shehada and the accidental death of nine Palestinian children was called by the left an Israeli war crime, while the Palestinian attack on Hebrew University with its seven deaths was described as folly and a misjudgment, Patrick explained to me that for those on the left, one action was carried out by a state (and so was a war crime) while the other was the act of an ill-defined group.

Not everyone on the left shared this view. Victor Navasky, the publisher of The Nation magazine and a professor at Columbia University’s School of Journalism, thought both were war crimes. His primary commitments, I believe, are to civil rights, the First Amendment and the struggle for social justice here and abroad. It is in this context he feels the Israelis are at fault.

Many of Navasky’s friends (and readers of The Nation, as well) are Jewish, as is he, and a typical sentiment expressed at Nation magazine parties is that he and The Nation are wonderful on everything except Israel.

The difficulty in the Mideast, he believes, is that each side moves in the wrong direction following a murderous act. After each terrorist incident — Hebrew University is as important as any — Israel and the Palestinians should redouble their efforts to achieve some kind of peace. Instead, each side seeks retribution.

As for the effect of the bombing on Columbia’s left, it would be difficult to predict, he said. After all, he pointed out (as did others), this is summer and the campus is relatively quiet.

This was also the first reaction of Rabbi Susan Laemmle, dean of religious life at USC. The campus was quiet; most people were away tending to families, research, private lives. And while horrified by what occurred on the Hebrew University campus, she wonders if it wasn’t "naïve to think that anyplace, even a university, could serve as a sanctuary."

In the end, she says quietly, "Human life is human life," wherever the attacks and the deaths occur. "The most important thing is to still be talking — to still keep working for peace."

UCLA Hillel Mourns Victims


It was a postcard-perfect afternoon outside Kerckhoff Hall on UCLA’s campus on Tuesday, Aug. 6., but Debra Bach could not stop crying.

The day before, Bach had been in San Diego attending the funeral of her Hebrew University roommate, Marla Bennett. Now she stood among 150 people singing "Kaddish" for Bennett and six other victims of last week’s bombing of a Hebrew University cafeteria in Jerusalem.

"It’s a beautiful tribute to Marla that so many people who didn’t know her [attended her funeral] and were forever moved by her life and her love," Bach told the audience, before lighting a candle for Bennett, who was only 24. Amid a steady stream of tears, she spoke of Bennett’s generous spirit, of how the San Diego-raised aspiring educator always invited people to attend her Shabbat meals and crash at her apartment.

"We used to joke that our place was like a youth hostel," Bach said.

As the campus buzzed with its usual summer activity, the crowd participating in the emotional UCLA Hillel-organized memorial service recited prayers before pictures of Bennett and the other victims: Janis Coulter, 36, who ran Hebrew University’s foreign students department in New York; American students Benjamin Blutstein, 25, Dina Carter, 37, and David Gritz, 24; David Diego Landowski, 29, of Argentina; and Levina Shapira, 53, head of the Student Services Department at Hebrew University. Candles were lit for each victim, as friends of recalled their lives.

Bennett’s death touched many in Los Angeles, as she was closely connected to the community. She had attended Camp JCA Shalom in Malibu, as a camper, CIT, counselor, unit head and last summer as the program director.

"It’s been devastating to the staff that knew her and grew up with her," Bill Kaplan, executive director of Shalom Institute, who had known Bennett for 12 years, later told The Journal. "This was the nicest person in the world. A mensch, mensch, mensch. She always went the extra mile."

Arriving from Israel only 90 minutes before the service, Peter Wilner, executive vice president of American Friends of Hebrew University spoke about his somber visit of the "burned and severely damaged" survivors of the bombing. He described his late colleague Coulter as "an individual who died simply because she was doing her job to take American students to Hebrew University." Right before the lunchtime bombing, Coulter, who had converted to Judaism after becoming interested in the Holocaust, had just returned from leading a visit to the Western Wall.

During the services, Cantor Avshalom Katz, of Beth Jacob Congregation in Beverly Hills, sang songs of solace, and Hillel Director Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller, who organized the event, blasted the Hamas-sponsored act of terrorism that "cut them down in their youth when they were brimming with potential."

He described Hebrew University as "the home of dialogue and tolerance and the dream of mutual coexistence."

Meirav Elon-Shahar, Israeli consul for communications and public affairs, condemned the extremists who "consider it legitimate and holy to kill those who are innocent," she said.

Leah Buchwald, who knew Blutstein and Bennett, tearfully recalled spending Shabbat with Bennett and going to parties and weddings with Blutstein, a DJ who had dubbed himself "Benny the Bee."

"This past week has been a real nightmare," Buchwald said. "But if they were here, they would tell you not to stop believing in Israel," she said. "I don’t want them to die in vain."

After the service, the undergrads in attendance told The Journal that they were not only drawn to the memorial out of sadness for the victims, but also as a sign of support for Israel. They said that by bombing what should have been a "safe educational environment," Palestinian extremists have gone too far.

UCLA student Dana Nahoray said she didn’t know any of the victims personally. She came because "I have a connection with all Jewish people. It’s important to show support for Israel. That what happens to the people over there affects us here in L.A., in our community."

Jonathan Dekel, 23, came with his sister, Jennifer, and friend, Eugene Niamehr, 22. The bombing really hit home for Dekel and Niamehr. Both had studied at Hebrew University during the 1999-2000 school year.

"When we were in the Ulpan," Dekel said of the Hebrew program, "we ate at that cafeteria every day. That’s where we got to know each other and really bond."

Following word of the bombing, a friend traveling through Europe contacted Dekel at 5 a.m. to deliver the bad news.

"I’m very shook up, but I’m not surprised," he said, "because I knew that the terrorists were capable of this."

Jennifer Dekel’s frustration extended to the political isolation she feels Israel is going through. "I’m frustrated with the media biases against Israel," said the 20-something, who just came back from studying at Tel Aviv University. "I’m frustrated with the ignorance of the world to fact and truth about the Middle East conflict."

"There’s always going to be criticism of the Jewish people," Nahoray added. "But I don’t think any of the countries have the right to criticize. They don’t have suicide bombers coming into their universities and bombing them."

"Nothing’s sacred," her brother added. "Look at Sept. 11, and now this attack on a university campus. "

Mixed among the sadness and the anger, there was a sliver of optimism.

"She loved people. She loved Israel. She loved Jerusalem," Bach said of Bennett. "Marla gives me great hope for the Jewish people because she always gave beyond herself."

Goodbye, Shoshana


When Marni (Balter) Benuck heard about the bombing at Sbarro’s in Jerusalem, she immediately thought of her best friend Shoshana. She knew that Shoshana, nearly five months pregnant, loved pizza, and in her last e-mail a few days before had mentioned Sbarro’s as her favorite pizza place in Jerusalem. Marni left a message with Shoshana’s husband, Shmuel, to see if he had heard from her.

It wasn’t until hours later that Marni found out that Shoshana had just ordered when the suicide bomber, standing right behind her in line, blew himself up. She died instantaneously, along with 14 other Jews.

The grief is still settling in for Marni and for the rest of us who knew Shoshana (Hayman) Greenbaum, who was 31 when she died. Shoshana and Marni were both my classmates in the YULA class of 1988. Her death has sent shock waves through us all, a close-knit class of 32 girls. For the past week we have converged on the phone, feeling the need to connect in ways we haven’t in years.

Part of the shock surely stems from the fact that it could have been any of us. Shoshana, a teacher, was in Israel on a six-week program as part of obtaining her master’s in education. She had stopped at Sbarro’s for a study break.

But it is more than its senselessness and proximity that makes this death so difficult.

It was Shoshana. She was in so many ways the class tzadeket — the most mature in her righteousness, the most genuinely pious one among us, the one most dedicated to true chesed, acts of lovingkindness. She was academically among the brightest, socially liked by everyone.

Despite the fact that for so many of us she represented a distant ideal, and was a role model more akin to a teacher than classmate, she never felt herself above the rest of us, though she had every reason to do so. Shoshana, always cheerful, was one of us — in on our antics, a good friend to all, eager to help everyone.

One classmate remembers that Shoshana was the first to reach out to her when she found out she was from out of town, boarding at someone’s home. Another comments on her ability to be confident enough to be different, to have it together when so many of us were doing what teenagers do — floundering as we searched for direction.

I hadn’t been in touch with Shoshana in years, but I kept up with her through common friends. I knew that she was well on the way to achieving the things she always knew she wanted — a family, a life of service to God and of giving to others.

Shoshana’s death has ripped through the community, shocking her friends, her colleagues, her former teachers and students.

In their Hancock Park home, her parents, Alan and Shifra Hayman, received a constant flow of hundreds — possibly thousands — of people who came to comfort the mourners as they sat shiva for their only child.

The visitors were a mixture of friends of Shoshana, people who had been impacted by Alan and Shifra — both pillars of activism and chesed in the Orthodox community — and strangers who were overcome by the tragedy.

On Monday night, about a dozen of us from the class of ’88 went over. It was a surreal experience, gathering in a shiva house rather than at a bris or a wedding, as we usually do.

As the line of comforters flowed without stop through their home, Shoshana’s mother spoke with deep, spiritual emotion but without tears. She talked about the sparks of beauty Shoshana had left behind, of the legacy of chesed, of Torah, of a unique passion that would live on with her friends, her family, especially her hundreds of students.

And Mrs. Hayman urged us not to lose this lesson about keeping in touch, about coming together — whether on the phone, or by e-mail, or in person. She urged us to remember to hug each other often.

“Because you can’t hug a neshama [soul],” she said.

While eulogies tend to be laudatory, what everyone is saying about Shoshana is in fact understated.

“It’s hard enough to hear that 15 fellow Jews were killed, but when it is somebody you know and somebody so beloved by everybody, the pain is not bearable,” Debbie Eidlitz, who taught with Shoshana at Emek Hebrew Academy in North Hollywood, told me on the phone. “It’s amazing how many people she touched and how many people are so shocked and devastated.”

Shoshana was buried within a day of her death, as is the custom in Jerusalem. Her parents, who could not get there for the funeral, will be going to Israel in a few weeks. Shoshana’s elderly grandfather was at her burial, as were many people who knew her well or who knew someone who knew her, but felt the need to be present at her funeral.

Her husband of 16 months, Shmuel Greenbaum, fought back tears as mourners shoveled the earth of the land of Israel into her grave. “Shoshana, I love you,” he said, according to news reports.

Shoshana wanted to get married and start a family soon after she spent a post-high school year in seminary in Israel. But through the years she kept a bright and positive attitude as her search for her beshert, her destined one, went on.

“She always had a smile, was always cheerful,” says Marni. “When other people were having their own simchas, even though she hadn’t attained those milestones, she was the first one there to dance and the first one to bake a cake.”

In April 2000, she married Shmuel, who is now 38. Marni describes Shoshana and Shmuel’s wedding as radiant, with guests overjoyed that such a couple found each other. Seeing the way Shoshana and Shmuel looked at each other and cared for each other made it so clear that their wait had been justified, Marni says.

“At their wedding there was such an outpouring of love that they had for each other, and that everyone around them had for them,” Marni recalls.

Soon after they were married, Shmuel and Shoshana were regularly hosting singles and other guests over for Shabbat, treating each one — adults and children alike — as an honored guest. Marni’s three small children loved Shoshana like an aunt. Shoshana and Shmuel had moved to Passaic, N.J., about six months ago to be near Marni and her husband, Mitch. Shoshana and Marni, who became instant friends when they were 12 years old and have kept up the relationship throughout the years, would often spend Shabbat together, or just hang out, eating ice cream or pizza late into the night.

“Even though she had these intense ideologies — her commitment to Eretz Yisrael and to Torah — her personality was such that you could just hang out with her,” Marni says. “Her intensity didn’t impact on her enjoyment of life.”

Shmuel had left Israel a few days before the bombing. Shoshana was scheduled to return Aug. 15, at the end of her program with Yeshiva University’s Azrieli School of Education.

By all accounts, Shoshana was already a gifted teacher. She spent two years teaching at Emek Hebrew Academy in North Hollywood, and at Valley Torah High School, before she went to the Hebrew Academy of Long Beach in New York, where she spent 10 years. She was set to begin teaching at the Yeshiva of Northern New Jersey in September.

“From day one I knew she was going to be an amazing teacher. The girls had an instant love for her,” says Mrs. Eidlitz, who was a fellow teacher at Emek at Shoshana’s first job out of seminary, teaching seventh and eighth grade girls. “She was the kind of person who, when she talks to you, you feel like you are the only person in the world. The students felt her caring for them, and in my experience with adolescents, when they feel you care about them, they give themselves completely to you.”

A former student, Sigalit Sharabi, who had Ms. Hayman — as she is known to her hundreds of students — in 10th grade about 10 years ago, describes her as a teacher, who aside from imparting information in creative and interesting ways, was always there for the students.

“She had this unbelievable level of bitachon [faith] and was such a good person. She really set an example for all of us to strive for,” Sigalit says.

Sigalit kept in touch with her former teacher for a while, but by the time she got to Israel for a post-high school year in seminary, they had lost touch. That is why she was so surprised and touched when she received a care package of treats from Ms. Hayman, with a card urging her to hang in there and not feel too homesick.

“She was such a giving person, she gave of herself without any expectations of receiving anything in return,” Marni says. “She gave for all the right reason — she was not trying to look good or wanting anything. She just gave because she was genuinely a good person.”

Michal Sharabi, Sigalit’s sister, remembers one of her teacher’s primary messages.

“She was always telling everybody that God never gives you something you can’t handle. You are only given challenges that God knows you can succeed in,” Michal says.

May that message be a continuing source of strength for all of us, and may God comfort all of us among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

Goodbye Shoshana. Your memory is a blessing.

Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy, where Shoshana went to elementary school, is holding an alumni reunion from 3 p.m. -6 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 19 at the school, 9120 W. Olympic Blvd. The reunion is dedicated to Shoshana’s memory and in honor of the hundreds of alumni now living in Israel. Proceeds from the event will go to buy an ambulance for Magen David Adom in Shoshana’s memory. For more information call (310) 276-6135.

Bibi’s About-face


It’s remarkable: Palestinian terrorists set off three bomb attacks in as many weeks, yet Binyamin Netanyahu, of all people, goes ahead with his plans to relinquish 13 percent of the West Bank to the Palestinians.

There was the grenade thrown at Beersheba’s central bus station, the attempt to blow up a busload of 35 schoolchildren in Gaza, and, finally, last Friday’s bombing in Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda open market, in which 21 Israelis were lightly injured.

After this last attack, Netanyahu talked tough, suspending Cabinet discussions of the Wye accord, yet made it clear that the debate would be resumed shortly. Indeed, on Thurs., the Israeli cabinet gave its approval to the accords, and the peace process — including Israel’s withdrawal from West Bank territory — would go on.

This policy is being carried out by a man who made his career as the scourge of Palestinian terror and a champion of Judea and Samaria. What has changed? Why is it that the peace process is going forward despite the current bombing spree?

One reason is that Netanyahu and the Likud aren’t there to lead demonstrations against the government in charge. One can only imagine what would be going on in the streets of Israel if Shimon Peres or any other Labor leader were trying to sell the Wye accord in the face of such attacks.

Secondly, the bombings have failed. Only one Israeli has been killed. With less luck, the death toll could have been in the scores. Had this been the case, it is difficult to see how the peace process could have proceeded.

There are other important reasons. The Israeli people — about three-quarters of them, according to a number of public opinion polls — want the Wye accord to be carried out and the Oslo peace process to continue. Netanyahu cannot defy such overwhelming popular will.

And, unlike previous bombings, the blame for these last ones is not falling so heavily on Yasser Arafat’s head. It has not been missed that Arafat placed Hamas’ spiritual leader, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, under house arrest in Gaza, or that the Palestinian Authority has arrested some 100 Hamasniks and numerous Islamic Jihad activists.

When Iran’s spiritual leader, Ali Khameini, calls Arafat a “traitor” to the angry chants of Iranian crowds, and Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah threatens to assassinate Arafat, this can’t help but raise his stock with Israelis. It appears the Palestinian leader really is cracking down on terrorists this time.

Arafat also made a point to profess his good intentions to the Israeli public, initiating an interview with Israel Television after the Mahane Yehuda attack; he promised to “pursue and imprison” the terrorists, noting that he called Netanyahu to “express my pain” over the bombing.

One other crucial element has changed: the Clinton administration. If Netanyahu had hoped the Monica affair would weaken Clinton and deter him from pressuring Israel on the peace process, the congressional elections extinguished that hope and stamped it into the ground.

Not only has Clinton emerged hugely empowered, but Netanyahu’s staunchest foreign ally — the Republicans — has been knocked spinning. Newt Gingrich, with whom Netanyahu conducted a mutual admiration society, has become the lamest possible duck. The net effect of the elections on the peace process is that Netanyahu, for lack of leverage, is now likely to be a much more agreeable partner.

With the Wye accord, the American role is greater than ever, placing it in the position of referee when Israel and the Palestinians disagree — as they always do — on who is to blame for holding up progress. This leaves Netanyahu with less room to maneuver — for instance, on the issue of the Palestinian Covenant.

Even before the Mahane Yehuda bombing, Netanyahu was coming under attack from many members of his Cabinet because the Wye accord did not require the Palestinians to undergo the full, drawn-out procedure for amending the covenant that Netanyahu had claimed he’d forced Arafat into accepting.

After the bombing, Netanyahu said that the Cabinet would not take up ratification of the Wye accord until Arafat promised to meet his demands on the Palestinian Covenant. However, the Clinton administration refused to back Netanyahu on this issue, saying the prime minister was demanding something Arafat had never agreed to at Wye.

With the West Bank settlers and their political patrons breathing down Netanyahu’s neck, the prime minister has been talking up his plans to build thousands of apartments for Jews in the disputed Har Homa area of Jerusalem. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright protested to Netanyahu — reportedly in the kind of tone that Albright might not have taken with the Israeli prime minister when Newt and Monica were still around.

Between the Clinton administration, Israeli public opinion, and the seemingly reformed ways of Arafat and the Palestinian Authority, Netanyahu, even if he’d like to, cannot let one or even three botched terror attempts stop him from giving up land. If, however, Hamas or Islamic Jihad bombers do succeed in killing a number of Israelis, then the delicately fitting pieces of the Oslo puzzle will be tossed up into the air.