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Welcome to Israel
by Judy Lash Balint
New York Post
September 13, 2001

AFTER every terrorist attack in Israel, concerned Americans call to check up on their friends and relatives in Jerusalem. Tuesday, the tables were turned as horrified Israelis watched from afar the unfolding American tragedy of almost unfathomable proportions. This time it was we who feared for the safety of our loved ones living in Washington and New York.

The frantic calls to check on relatives; the race to tune into any available news source; the stunned disbelief as lives are altered in a chilling instant. Here in Israel where we have become so familiar with the macabre routine of the post-terror minutes and hours, it's almost unbearable to watch as tens of thousands of Americans have been made to suffer the same agony.

Unlike in America, however, where Starbucks shuttered all their facilities and shopping malls and office buildings all over the country were closed to the public, the Israeli response to terror is to act with resolve. Streets are cleaned immediately and it's a return to business as usual as quickly as possible. Every bombing or drive-by shooting reinforces the national sense of unity and purpose - precisely the opposite reaction the terrorists hope to evoke.

Over the past year of intensified attacks against Jewish civilians, many Israelis felt that the world did not fully comprehend the extent of base hatred that motivated young Arabs to blow themselves up in shopping malls and train stations, outside discos or in pizza parlors. Why couldn't we explain that while we stand on the front line of the fight against radical Islamic fundamentalism, the United States and Western values are the larger target?

As the Western media labeled the perpetrators of attacks against schoolteachers and infants as "activists" or "guerillas," we shook our heads in disbelief. As the U.S. and Israeli flags burned together at violent protests in Ramallah and Nablus, we wondered who was paying attention. As U.S. State Department officials criticized Israel's policy of targeted killings of known terrorist leaders, we didn't understand why the rest of the civilized world wasn't marveling at the precision of our military intelligence in taking out terrorist thugs with minimal loss of civilian life.

And we couldn't comprehend how world leaders could call on Prime Minister Arik Sharon to exercise "restraint" in the face of the mounting death toll.

Tuesday, as Israelis learned of the tragedy unfolding in America's power centers, a solidarity demonstration took place spontaneously outside the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv. The defense minister ordered our special IDF disaster evacuation unit to fly to the United States and a call for blood donors was answered by hundreds of citizens.

Meantime, our Arab neighbors were handing out candies and dancing on Sultan Suleman Street in eastern Jerusalem and in Nablus as they heard the news.

Their reaction had little to do with Israeli "settlements" or the "occupation. Those who took the lives of so many Americans, and those who sympathize with them, no longer have a cover for their intolerance and hatred of Christians and Jews. Tuesday they took off the mask. Is the world looking?