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by Judy Lash Balint
March 22, 2002

If I told you I'd just come home from watching a performance of the musical, "You're a Good Man Charlie Brown," would you think I was a callous person with no regard for the suffering of my fellow Jews?

On a day that saw three Jerusalem shoppers murdered in mid-afternoon, what was I doing going out to dinner and a show with friends? Up until eighteen months ago, before the slaughter grew so frequent, I would never dream of doing such a thing after learning of a terror attack involving the loss of life. Today, it's the only response that seems to make any sense.

This is a struggle for the continued existence of the Jewish state, and existence means the pursuit of a normal life. Going to cafes, shows and movies; shopping in malls and markets. Walking down the main street, taking the bus. These simple acts are acts of courage, defiance and faith these days--and it's the least the average citizen can do. We're doing the easy part compared to our IDF, police, border patrol and medical workers who are stretched to the absolute limit in their efforts to defend us all.

Yesterday, a 40 year old Magen David Adom paramedic who rushed to help the victims of the bus bomb on the Wadi Ara road, suffered a heart attack. Just a few weeks ago, Jerusalem Police Chief Mickey Levy, 52, underwent an angioplasty after he admitted himself to hospital with chest pains while directing operations at one of the Jaffa Street bombings.

Eli Bin, assistant director of MDA, said he had no doubt that the paramedic's condition was brought about by stress and pressure of work. He noted that the current situation is "imposing a terrific and almost intolerable strain on MDA staffers and volunteers. Our people are literally collapsing under the pressure of having to deal with regular duties and terror attacks." Thousands of MDA workers are volunteers with full time jobs. The same goes for Border Patrol personnel. Several Anglo immigrant volunteer Patrol personnel from the Beit Shemesh area were involved in the operation at Moshav Aviezer two nights ago, helping to track down Arab terrorists who infiltrated the moshav and went on a shooting spree there.

Radio public service ads featuring the voice of a veteran Russian immigrant call for volunteers to sign up for additional reserve duty. Galei Tzahal, the IDF radio station, broadcast an open line show this afternoon hosted by a psychologist who called on people having difficulty dealing with the situation to phone in. Those taking advantage of the public therapy included a 23 year old experiencing insomnia while her husband completes his reserve duty, and a father of six living in Gush Etzion who asked about any residual psychological effects of having his kids lie on the floor of his vehicle as he drives them along the Tunnel Road to Jerusalem.

Israel's soccer fans did not allow today's murders to prevent the broadcast of a much anticipated international match. More than 10,000 Israelis decided to take a break from things to head off to Milan to support Hapoel Tel Aviv in their bid to reach the final four in the UEFA Cup. Sadly, their expectations were dashed when the team lost to home team AC Milan.

Meantime, a flurry of emails received today announce the observance of Solidarity Day with Israel in communities across the US this coming Sunday. Despite the exhortations of organizers to "Stand with Israel..." it will be a passive, sit-down, ticket holders only event almost everywhere. Live video messages from PM Arik Sharon and Foreign Minister Peres will be augmented by a live feed from the remains of the Moment Cafe in Jerusalem. You could see it all on CNN anytime.

Where's the passion, the public expression of outrage and empathy, the actions that would truly signify that American Jews are crying out on behalf of their fellow Jews in mortal danger?

Israelis have thus far also reacted in muted manner. But the stirrings of mass protest have begun. Large banners in bold black and red letters have sprung up reading: A Strong people Will Overcome The Terror. One hundred thousand people poured into Rabin Square in Tel Aviv a couple of weeks ago to demonstrate their resolve and to press the government to come up with a viable plan to demolish the sources of terror. Tonight, hundreds of demonstrators stationed themselves at major junctions across the country calling for destruction of the Palestine Authority.

Come here and walk the streets, stay in a hotel, eat in a restaurant and yes, go see a musical with me. The message to Yasser and his men will be loud and clear.