Nineteen is a wonderful age.
I have a beautiful 19-year-old daughter, whom I adore, and am blessed with two other children in their 20s.
A 19-year-old is still filled with the youthful wonder and exuberance of a teenager but has usually outgrown many of the other, less appealing qualities that make so many parents yearn for the teenage years to be over.
In most developed countries, a 19-year-old gets to focus that youthful wonder, exuberance and developing maturity on the excitement of being in college or deciding on a vocation, or on dating, parties and the like. And parents of most 19-year-olds in developed countries get to hear about their children’s exploits in college or vocational school, counsel them on their choices, and generally marvel at how wonderful it is to be 19 and have your whole adult life ahead of you.
But this past Sunday was a terrible day for the parents, families and friends of two brave 19-year-olds. Teenagers who, until they were called upon to respond to a terrorist attack, were beautiful, young, exuberant young people with their entire adult lives just beginning to unfold. They were in the first quarter of their lives, with three quarters left to play.
On Sunday, two Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists armed with automatic rifles, knives and over a thousand rounds of ammunition started shooting up a busy intersection in the coastal Israeli city of Hadera. They would likely have killed dozens but for the bravery of these two kids.
Because when the ISIS terrorists—wearing bullet-resistant vests with skulls on them—started firing their automatic rifles at a bus full of civilians, Yazan Fallah and Shirel Aboukaret were fatally shot as they ran, along with a number of their brave comrades, toward the terrorists.
Yazen, a beautiful 19-year-old Druze boy, and Shirel, a beautiful 19-year-old Jewish girl, could both have chosen an easier path in the army than they did.
But they both chose to serve in Magav (Mishmar Hagvul, Israel’s Border Police) because, like my son, who also served in Magav, they knew that in Magav they would regularly be called upon to run toward danger to save lives and stop terrorists. And when the bullets started flying, Yazen and Shirel backed up their difficult choice, which so many Israeli teenagers are required to make, with another even more difficult and immediate choice: to put their fear aside and run toward gunfire. It was a choice that cost them their lives—and likely saved so many others.
Since the news first broke of this terrible ISIS attack in Hadera, I have seen numerous articles posted on social media referring to the murdered Israelis as “two police officers,” as if that somehow makes it more palatable or less painful for their families. As if it somehow makes it less horrid that two 19-year-olds were murdered.
The other painful part for me, as the father of a 19-year-old, and as the father of a child who also chose to run toward danger in order to protect civilians, is how all of these articles ignore why Israeli kids like Yazen and Shirel have to keep facing these terrible choices at such a young age, and don’t instead get to choose between state or private colleges, like average kids their age in America and other countries.
These articles ignore that 19-year-olds like Yazen and Shirel have been getting drafted into the Israeli army after high school for more than 73 years because since 1937, the Palestinian Arab side of this conflict, initially led for nearly three decades by Nazi collaborator Haj Amin al-Husseini, not only violently rejected the very existence of a Jewish people, but also said “no” at least eight times to the creation of the first-ever independent Arab state west of the Jordan River (since saying yes to that twenty-third Arab state meant saying yes to one tiny Jewish state).
These articles ignore that 19-year-olds like Yazen and Shirel, unlike most of their counterparts in the world who get to choose between college and vocational training at this age, have to serve in the military because an extreme Arab supremacist ideology, paired with a toxic combination of Islamist supremacism and systemic anti-Semitism dating back centuries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), makes it seemingly impossible for the Palestinian Arab leaders to agree that Jews are entitled to sovereignty and self-determination in their indigenous, historical and religious homeland.
As these articles try to lessen the horror of two 19-year-olds being murdered—by just referring to them as “police officers”—they also ignore that the ISIS terrorists who murdered them, just like the purported godfather of Palestinian Arab nationalism, al-Husseini, do not have as their ultimate goal the creation of a Palestinian Arab state. Nor do they seek even the creation of an Arab state that “only” eliminates Israel between the river and the sea. And they certainly don’t believe in creating a state that would be remotely pluralistic or tolerant. Instead, they want an Islamist Supremacist caliphate throughout the region.
As these articles either expressly or implicitly try to make the loss seem less horrible by referring to them just as “police officers,” these articles ignore all of this history.
But more importantly, these articles ignore Yazen and Shirel. They ignore that two 19-year-old kids who should have been able to go to college or choose a career but were in uniform were murdered this past Sunday. This is the natural result of centuries of Arab and Islamist colonialism and supremacist hate, which for centuries has also led to the violent rejection of sovereignty and self-determination in the MENA for any non-Arab peoples.
Yazen and Shirel. You were heroes. You shouldn’t have needed to be heroes. You should have been able to be kids deciding on what club to go to, who to ask out on a date, or what class to take.
Yazen and Shirel. Baruch Dayan Emet. May your families and friends find comfort in their memories of you and may they know no more sorrow.
Micha Danzig served in the Israeli Army and is a former police officer with the NYPD. He is currently an attorney and is very active with numerous Jewish and pro-Israel organizations, including StandWithUs and the FIDF, and is a national board member of Herut North America.
This article was first published by the Jewish Journal.