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Peaceful Coexistence in Efrat
Last uploaded : Thursday 4th Apr 2002 at 15:38
Contributed by : David Bedein



Why was the Arab suicide attack in Efrat different from all other suicide attacks? Because it was directed against the medical services that Arabs receive from the community of Efrat.

Late in the afternoon of Sunday, March 31, 2002, which this year was both the fourth day of Passover and on Easter Sunday, an explosion rocked Efrat. My wife, typing away yet another e-mail to one of many corresponding women from the world over, looked around the living room to see that the children were okay and resumed her correspondence, including the boom she heard in her closing paragraph.

Elchanon, our almost-sixteen year old son, who helps me in every aspect of my work, ran to the scene of the blast, cell phone in hand, stood on a hill overlooking the evacuation of the wounded so that he could report to me at the press center in Jerusalem. Our office was able to place the story on the wire services – and, of course, to Elchanon’s brother Noam, now a soldier on the Lebanese front.

Elchanon’s first words said it all. This attack was different from all the other attacks. This time, an Arab blew himself up at the emergency mobile medical unit that dispatched medical staff to treat him. As the terrorist blew himself up, a medic that came out of the unit, Assaf Perlman, was riddled with shrapnel, sustaining injuries in his head and chest. Assaf is fighting for his life. Assaf is the same medic who risked his life at the Tomb of Joseph compound in October 2000 to try and save the life of an Israeli soldier, Madhat Yusef, who ultimately bled to death in Assaf’s arms. Five other paramedics were also hurt, including Elchanon?s tenth grade classmate, Netanel, whose parents, old friends of mine, came from New York to settle in Efrat.

After many threats, this attack was clearly aimed against Efrat?s policy of providing medical services for the two Arab villages that are contiguous to Efrat. As a matter of policy, the Chief Rabbi of Efrat, Shlomo Riskin, raised substantial funds from liberal Jews for medical clinics and schools in these nearby Arab villages. It was a policy that earned the wrath of Arafat?s Palestinian Authority. Rabbi Riskin made such a policy decision in the spirit of the Torah, which states 36 times that a non-Jew who lives at peace with you in the Land of Israel must be treated with dignity, respect and service.

In January, without warning, Channel One of Moscow filmed footage in the Arab villages near Efrat, expecting to hear stories about the ‘Israeli occupation’ and tensions between the small Arab village and the 16 expanding Jewish settlements of Efrat and the Etzion bloc. However, the Russian TV crew heard the opposite message. They heard only praise for the people of Efrat and the Etzion bloc of settlements and seething anger against Arafat and the “PLO occupation” of their fellow Palestinian Arab brethren in the Bethlehem region. Family after family in these Arab villages told Russian TV that they were getting the best medical treatment possible from their friends in Efrat, while their families in Bethlehem had to bribe officials just to get the basics of treatment from the PA. They also spoke with pride about the school that Efrat had built for them.

All of this was aired on Russian TV Channel One very recently. It would seem that the PA was watching. The clear purpose of the recent suicide bombing attack was to disrupt the existing, proper relationship between the Jewish city and the nearby Arab villages. Yet, despite the threats to their lives from Arafat and the Palestinian Authority, the people of the Arab villages near Efrat gathered in an emergency town meeting to issue a statement denouncing the attack in the strongest of terms.

It surprised nobody in those Arab villages that Arafat?s police force took credit for the attacks.
David Bedein is the Bureau Chief for Israel Resource News Agency in Jerusalem



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