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Naomi Ragen is an American-born novelist and playwright who has lived in Jerusalem since 1971. She has published seven internationally best-selling novels, and is the author of a hit play.


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PostWed Aug 20, 2003 9:10 am     Jerusalem night out    


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Jerusalem night out

By Naomi Ragen
August 20, 2003


Let's go out to dinner tonight, my husband suggested about five p.m. yesterday. Great, I told him. I've been stuck in the house all day working on my book. Making dinner seemed like mission impossible.

I wanted to go someplace new, so I went to a website listing all Jerusalem's kosher restaurants and found this little French place in the center of town I'd never been to before. I called to find out if they had a security guard, and then, while I was on the phone, asked if I needed to make reservations. Actually, I did. "We've only got one table available, out on the patio," the staff told me. "Otherwise, we are booked for the whole evening." And I thought, wow, after all the restaurants in town center have been going out of business after two years of Intifada, this place must be something special.

Even before we parked our car, I saw it. Downtown Jerusalem was packed with people. Families out for a stroll. Holiday-makers on tours. People going to the downtown food festivals. The open air flea markets were re-opened, and full of buyers. I couldn't believe my eyes. Just a year ago, Jerusalem was a ghost town. It was almost the feeling of a rebirth, I thought. People throwing off their fears, beginning to live again.

We sat down to eat about ten to eight. The food was great. The service wonderful. Lovely antipasti, and foie gras with pears, served on a little table out in a vine-covered courtyard. It was quiet and pretty. And I thought how fortunate this little place had weathered the terrible days when no one came to Jerusalem.

We finished about ten past nine, and decided to join the milling crowds enjoying the summer evening. As we walked down Rechov Rivlin and reached Jaffa Road, I didn't suspect anything as I saw the young boys who ran down the street. Youngsters letting off steam, I thought. Then I saw the police cars, and overheard someone say: Pigua. Terrorist attack.

All at once, I heard the sirens. More crowds of people were gathered on corners, listening to car radios. Someone said "Shmuel HaNavi street." It was a street in the heart of Jerusalem's ultra-Orthodox neighborhood.

Suddenly, the lively street scene turned almost surrealistic. People were still sitting in outdoor cafes, smiling and laughing, while streets away children lay burnt and dying. There were no loudspeakers, and if you weren't paying attention, you could keep on telling yourself that everything was the same; a lovely summer evening in Jerusalem.

We headed back to the car, and put on the radio. A double bus, standing room only, packed with religious families coming back from a visit to the Western Wall, blown to bits. It had just happened.

We headed home, wanting to see the television reports. As I opened the door, I called out my son's name. But he didn't answer. He hadn't said he was going out. He probably hadn't heard me. I walked up the steps. His room was empty. My stomach lurched. My God, where was my son!

But soon I heard his voice from another part of the house. And I thought of all the families going through the same thing with different results.

I watched the television reports, the bloodied faces of crying children. The grandmother led from the carnage. The bodies lying in the streets. The tiny little girl on her back as medics worked over her...

And I thought of the people still sitting in coffee houses and restaurants all over Israel, and all over the world, still trying to pretend that we are at peace, or we are in some kind of peace process, or that we have people to speak to among Muslim Palestinians, or Muslims in general, who are in a position of power who actually want to reach a peaceful compromise on any subject. And I thought of all the months our government has allowed itself to give in to American pressure to abandon its war on terror, to let out prisoners, hand over security control in the West Bank and Gaza, allow terrorist organizations to bring in more and better weapons, train more bombers, in a process of self-delusion that looked at every concession as a step towards some positive goal. I thought of all these things which had led, inevitably, to that tiny girl lying bloodied in the street fighting for her young life.

And I thought of myself, as a citizen in a democracy, and how tired I was of fighting her enemies and her own government, and most of her own press, and the country of her birth -- the greatest democracy and lover of freedom in the world today, the United States -- all of whom have been totally wrong every step of the way in facing a threat to mankind that can only be solved by force of arms with useless words, and self-destructive appeasement.

I thought, I'm to blame for that little girl. I shouldn't have been going out to dinner. I should have been standing with picket signs outside the home of my Prime Minister, my government, the American Embassy, telling them that the lives of the people of Israel were not a bargaining chip. And that that little girl's life, her blood, is on all our heads. I should have been screaming: anyone who doesn't fight terror 100% of the time, is a collaborator in the death of victims of terror.

That very same day, I had watched television footage of a terrorist bomb as it blew up the head of the UN delegation in Baghdad. I had heard UN spokesmen say, finally, after two years of having them blow up Bar Mitzvahs, and discos and Seder nights: "Terrorists know no boundaries."

Those of us who wish to rid the world of terror should learn from our enemies. Our opposition to terrorism, to leaders of the free world that accommodate it, to an indifferent public that has learned to tolerate the deaths of others by it, should also know no boundaries. We are not allowed to get tired, to take time off. We need to be as relentless and uncompromising and single-minded and unmerciful and determined as Hamas, and Islamic Jihad. We need to fight for our lives now, so that our children will not have to fight for theirs in the middle of the street beneath the ministering hands of medics as their blood washes the road.

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Posted by cooker212

  
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PostWed Aug 20, 2003 10:22 am     jerusalem night out    


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I agree wholeheartedly with the writer of this article.

I am tired of being held hostage to these people, who think they can kill innocent people whenever they feel like making a point.

They are the scourge of the earth!!

I would like her to reply, what does she want us to do?

Thank you.


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Posted by chavera

  
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PostWed Aug 20, 2003 10:44 am     Jerusalem Night Out    


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So well written. So well said!

This is a struggle of biblical proportions, requiring uncommon strength.

All day, when I was hearing representatives from the different 'peace' organizations comment on how shocked, saddened and angered they were about the bombing in Iraq, I couldn't help it, I just got angry. Aren't they ashamed of themselves? Don't they notice that this has been happening to innocent Israeli's for 2 years?

Deep in my heart I feel that God's finger was on that UN building yesterday, as if to say "Who are you? To turn your face away from My people."

I'm sorry more innocent people had to die. But surely, others will somehow make the connection and wake up.


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Posted by doug grundman

  
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PostWed Aug 20, 2003 11:21 am     night out    


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advocating fighting violence with violence is not the answer to peace. painting the peace process with a generlization that terrorist attacks are proof that negotiations are futile is not logical.
the peace process must continue - terrorism is a weapen against peace and should not be used as an excuse to hate the general population of any people.
comparing terrorrists to all palestinians or all muslims is narrow minded and again illogical.


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Posted by ontime9

  
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PostWed Aug 20, 2003 12:24 pm     Peace Process?    


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Saying that fighting violence with violence doesn't work, sounds good but it is liberal touchy-feely nonsense. When you are dealing with savages who are more than willing to sacrifice their own children to kill innocent Israelis of all ages and genders in the name of destroying Israel, violence is all you have that they will understand. As an American-born jew who has never been in Israel, all I can say is that I am disgusted with the Israeli government for not dealing with these atrocities in the way it must. They have two choices. The first is to respond to every terrorist bombings like yesterday's by indiscriminately dropping the largest bomb they possess on a palestinian neighborhood. If that is the only language these sub-humans understand, then so be it. The second choice is to forcibly banish all the palestinians from this land and let them take up residence in one of the far larger arab countries in the region a long distance from Israel. It is disgusting and ridiculous that in a region so large, the palestinians have to try to make claim on the tiny sliver of land called Israel. The palestinians are a non-descript group of arab refugees from all over the region who never attempted to establish an independent state prior to the establishment of Israel. It is time for Israel to give up on the notion there can ever be peace with the so-called palestinians. Too many of them are solely intent on the destruction of Israel, not the creation of a peaceful palestinian state adjacent to Israel. In light of that fact there will never be peace as long as palestinians have access to Israel.


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Posted by PuttsB

  
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PostWed Aug 20, 2003 1:13 pm     Terrorism    


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I have to agree with this writer! Terrorists have respect for only one thing, power! They will only listen when force is used! Their ears are closed to any other voice. [/b]


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Posted by JayLipman@nyc.rr.com

  
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PostWed Aug 20, 2003 1:13 pm        


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It is quite clear to me, but apparently not to the US State Department, the US Administration or the left wing in Israel, that there is little, if any, difference between Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hizbullah, al-Aksa Martyr's Brigade, Tanzim, the PLO or the Palestinian Authority. Their sole objective is the utter elimination of the State of Israel. No one can convince me that Abu Mazen is any different than Yasser Arafat, except that he wears a suit and tie. And all, it is common knowledge that the aforementioned terrorist groups are being assisted financially and militarily by the Iranians, Egyptians, Saudis, Lebanese and Syrians. These countries are all united in their hatred of Jews and Israel. That is what they have most in common besides their language, culture and religion. I really wonder how much more Jewish blood must be shed, how many more innocent men, women and children must be blown to little pieces, before the government of Israel realizes that they must protect and defend its citizens, regardless of what the US, the UN, the Russians and the EU say. When 6,000,000 Jews were led to slaughter 60 years ago, there was no IDF to prevent it from happening. Now that there is a Jewish army, navy and air force, it must be given carte blanche to destroy those that seek to destroy us. There is no other way. There is no other solution. It is the only answer.


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Posted by Guest

  
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PostWed Aug 20, 2003 6:19 pm        


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Brilliant article. And so true!

Every day we waste away trying "logic," "negotiation," "reasoning," and "discussion" is another dead Israeli child, man or woman. Facts and logic don't matter. The Arabs (yes I'm generalizing) are raised to simply hate. You can't fight illogic with logic.

Golda Meir said it best: "We will never have peace until they love their children more than they hate ours."

Until the day the Arabs (I hestitate to use the term Palestinian since it is no true ethnicity and is only a recent term made up to use in the war against the Israelis) find peace within themselves and stop relying on Hate as a solution for their own problems created by their own governments, there is no such thing as negotiation, discussion and the like.

We should be relentless in defending innocent Israelis. Job One is protection of Israeli citizens.


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PostThu Aug 21, 2003 9:56 am     Naomi Ragen    


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Were I a computer and an internet expert I'd send this article to every single e-mail address on this entire planet!

Were I a parent, a teacher, an educator or a spiritual leader, I would take this articel and read make it today's single event.

EVERYONE must understand the horror of terrorism and human communication is the key to such an understanding. This is why this article must be headline news today on Earth.


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Posted by JoeG

  
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PostThu Aug 21, 2003 12:04 pm        


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Let's hope your words, beautifully written, reach the people who can undo the mistakes of the past. Moreso, let the sentiments reach their hearts.


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Posted by ljacobs1@juno.com

  
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PostThu Aug 21, 2003 1:34 pm     Homicide Terrorist Bombers    


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My question to you and the Israeli govenment is:

Why don't police carry pig blood with them and pour it on the bodies of the homicide bombers to show the Islamic terrorist that their myrters will NOT go into paradise with pig blood on them. That would deter any future human bombs coming out ot that demonic world!

That act alone would deter any future terrorist from becoming a myrter for allah.

Carmel Jacobs


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Posted by determined7

  
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PostThu Aug 21, 2003 5:09 pm     enough    


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It's time for Israel to "convince" its Arab neighbors that it is not in their best interest to harbor, support, ignore, aid and/or abet the terrorists. This might best be accomplished by taking 1,000 Arab lives for each Israeli non-military life that is slaughtered. Or 10,000. Or 100,00. Even if we are talking nuclear weapons. Enough is enough.


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PostFri Aug 22, 2003 1:02 pm     Art by N. Ragen    


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My feelings precisely!


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PostMon Aug 25, 2003 5:23 am     Thoughts from a Jewish Australian    


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Mazeltov, the literal translation. As a Jewish Australian, know that our hearts bleed as deeply as yours do, for the children, mothers, fathers, sons and daughters lost in this most deadly and despicable crime... The peace process.

Although I do not understand why the Israeli government has chosen the route it has for the fence/wall to follow, I hope with all my heart that with the wall comes some respite from the carnage from the Arabs.

I can't remember where I saw it, Yad Vashem, I don't know, but we are Jews, we will always be Jews, NEVER AGAIN- we must rely on ourselves.


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Posted by DianaCarter

  
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PostMon Aug 25, 2003 4:01 pm     What the mental health field knows    


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In a recent Jerusalem Post editorial calling for a Palestinian civil war, the writer said, The idea that people who are willing to die to kill Israeli children can be sweetly talked out of their beliefs is not credible.

That statement hit home to me, a Licensed Professional Counselor. I have counseled many suicidal people, and, while a counselor on a psychiatric unit, participated in take downs of those would be violent toward others. I know from first hand experience what it takes to turn around a suicidal person with talking. It is a very arduous process when dealing with somebody with teen or adult onset suicidal ideation, when the person has enough life force left to know that way of thinking and feeling is wrong. It can only be effectively done by highly skilled and compassionate professionals who know that personality quite well. I doubt the average head of state has that training. With somebody who has had suicidal ideation inculcated from childhood as an appropriate and healthy way to feel, Im not sure talking has any hope at all.

I find this heartbreaking, since Im part of the profession that uses talking to solve interpersonal problems, and therefore, I know the power of talking. That means I also know the powerlessness of talking.

Traditionally, an out of control psychiatric patient has to be forcibly taken down when he has been given reasonable opportunities to respond to verbal cues, and has repeatedly refused to do so. The hospital is legally and morally obligated to provide a safe environment for other patients and staff, so this action is necessary. Terrorist bombers are multiples more disturbed than anybody Ive professionally served, and therefore, multiply more difficult to reach through talking.

Its time Israel started applying the wisdom of the mental health profession to this conflict.

Everybody who thinks talking can work with persons with such superlatively violent attitudes is somebody who never personally or professionally dealt with the violent. Therefore, when talking to people who naively think talking can work, I strongly urge those who know its limits to ask, have you ever personally or professionally dealt with a violent person? What do you know from life experience about how to deal with them? They will have to admit, at least to themselves, the limits of their knowledge. Admitting the limits of ones knowledge is the first step in conquering those limits.

Perhaps the worldwide problem of violence will be solved when we learn to talk about it appropriately, effectively and honestly on the personal level.

Diana L. Carter, M.S., L.P.C.


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