Tel Aviv is the best-known example of Israel’s strenuous tension towards being a “normal” country.

This is particularly true in the area of ​​last Thursday’s terrorist attack on Dizengoff Street, which is characterized by its restaurants, pizzerias and shops. It’s the liberal and democratic hub where Tel Aviv’s youths hang out and meet up for a beer on Thursday nights. The clothes. The dogs with colored coats. The enormous ice cream cones. It’s simple, it’s normal, it’s Israel—in its most Westernized iteration, punctuated by the mix of religious youngsters and secular adults, each with his own ideas and way of life. This is what Israel as a whole could be if it weren’t besieged by an ideological Islamic fervor, which is defined by hatred of Jews and Western democracy.

Barak Lufan, who was injured in the attack last Thursday, died on Sunday. Lufan, 35, a resident of the central city of Givat Shmuel, grew up on a kibbutz in northern Israel. He was the beloved father of three, and an athlete. The first two Israelis killed in the attack were Eytam Magini and Tomar Morad, childhood friends in their 20s who grew up in Kfar Saba. They were shot in cold blood while sitting at a bar after a concert they attended, while others ran around trying to escape the terrorist’s gunfire. Other young adults like Magini and Morad, who were wounded in the attack, are now lying in the hospital fighting for their lives.

These young adults are all born in Israel. They are soldiers of Israel and students of Israel. They are a testament to tolerance, sympathy and adherence to the fundamental rules of liberal idealism—which are part of the Jewish history and way of life. They remain perpetually tied together like brothers after the very tough and often-heroic military service, in which all Israeli youths mature and become lifelong friends who, like Tomer and Eitan, live in a country under constant threat.

The aspiration to live in peace in a free society—a Western and democratic society—are words we’re hearing constantly these days about Ukraine since Russia’s invasion. Meanwhile, Israelis are killed in the thousands because we are Jewish and democratic. Let’s remember that during the second intifada, almost 1,500 were killed, and hundreds of others were murdered in 2015 and 2016 during the “knife intifada.”

Tel Aviv, which essentially serves as a manifesto of the free West, has been besieged during this latest wave of terror that has seen four attacks resulting in 14 deaths across 10 days. It has been a real act of war. Residents of Tel Aviv were locked up in their homes for long hours while security forces searched for the escaped terrorist last Thursday. They were literally made prisoners by the anti-Semitic bullying that reigns within Islamist culture, inspiring terrorism.

Terror has nothing to do with the “territories,” as it has attacked men, women and many children since 1920. In addition, it has nothing to do with a “Palestinian state” that never existed, and continues to be offered and refused countless times. And it has nothing to do with the pretense of Jewish colonialism. The Arabs know very well that Jerusalem belonged to the Jewish people long before the Arabs were here. The Jews simply, one by one, returned home when that was their only possible homeland. They never brought war. They only defended themselves through the decades.

The terrorism of recent weeks has to do only with the ideological and religious determination to eradicate the Jews and destroy Israel. In fact, at a Jaffa mosque, the terrorist behind last Thursday’s attack is exalted as a hero and martyr. In Jenin, Raed Hazem’s father has declared that he is happy to have had such a brave son, who contributed to efforts to bring the end of the Jewish state.

In Arab towns, sweets are being distributed as symbols of joy and celebration. It’s time for the world to realize that this hatred is not part of the “Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” There’s no Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It’s a myth. These attacks are Islamist and genocidal. They also go far beyond the Middle East. They pair the rejection of the culture of democracy with anti-Semitism. Just like nazism, they mark the exaltation of the worst of human aspirations—cultivating hatred and nourishing it with bloodshed.

Last Thursday’s attack displayed not only the bewilderment and desperation of Tel Aviv, but also the absolute determination and ability of Israel’s security forces to eventually find the terrorist, even if he disappeared after the attack. We witnessed how they managed to carry out, in the midst of unspeakable confusion, a near-impossible operation of finding the terrorist and ultimately, neutralizing him.

This is also Israel’s story. Life here is difficult. It’s a battle and often a cruel one. Three wonderful lives have again been lost, but in the end, this tough fight continues to be a victorious battle. Residents of Tel Aviv are already returning to the bars and restaurants. There are so many places that have been attacked in this wave of terror, but all have been reconstructed and reopened quickly.

Journalist Fiamma Nirenstein was a member of the Italian Parliament (2008-13), where she served as vice president of the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the Chamber of Deputies. She served in the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, and established and chaired the Committee for the Inquiry Into Anti-Semitism. A founding member of the international Friends of Israel Initiative, she has written 13 books, including “Israel Is Us” (2009). Currently, she is a fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

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