Glorifying a cult of death and murder, even at the cost of one's children

By Robert Sarner, Canadian Jewish News, Dec. 12, 2002

JERUSALEM - To hear his parents tell it, Nael Abu Hilayel is nothing short of a hero. They hope their other 12 children will follow in his footsteps.

In late November, on a clear, crisp autumn morning, Hilayel boarded a bus in Jerusalem's working class neighborhood of Kiryat Menachem not far from my home. Young people heading to school and adults going to work filled the bus that two of my oldest daughter's classmates also usually take to school.

A young man on a mission, Hilayel was dressed for the occasion. He wore loose-fitting clothes to help conceal a belt packed with explosives and shrapnel. Just after 7 o'clock, while standing in the front section of the bus, Hilayel detonated the bomb strapped to his waist.

For his efforts, Hilayel murdered 11 Israelis, wounded 50 others, lost his life - and won the hearts of his people. "Of course, I am proud of him and all the other martyrs," said his mother about her son and all previous Palestinian suicide bombers. "It's all because of Israel's daily atrocities against our people."

Hilayel's father also showered his son with glory. "I thanked God when I heard that my son had died in an operation for the sake of God, Islam and the homeland," Azmi Abu Hilayel told reporters hours after the massacre. The father claimed he did not know that his 23-year-old son was a member of Hamas but that it made no difference. "We are all one people fighting against the common enemy, the Jews," he added.

Following the bombing, many residents in Hilayel's hometown of El-Khader near Bethlehem openly expressed their joy over the carnage. There was similar celebration elsewhere in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Never mind that several children were blown to pieces in the Jerusalem attack, that dozens were maimed and traumatized for life, that such terrorism inevitably leads to retaliatory actions by the IDF and further undermines Palestinian aspirations for statehood.

If only this were an isolated case. On the contrary, following many suicide bombings against Israel, the parents of Palestinian terrorists pay tribute in front of TV cameras to the evil deeds of their offspring. Try to imagine a more despicable performance. I watch these parents and my blood starts to boil. Their words trigger in me unspeakable thoughts.

Sanity check, please. We are speaking here of the premeditated mass murder of innocent men, women and children. The Palestinians, of course, would not describe it this way. They don't see it this way. They seem incapable of seeing it this way. For them, such bloodletting constitutes "resistance" and "martyr operations."

For Israelis, whose Jewish tradition holds that life is the most precious thing, the Palestinian glorification of death and murder is bone-chilling. It's a stark example of the gap between the Israelis and Palestinians, in their conflicting perception and different narratives; a divide which is gigantic, if not unbridgeable, and growing all the time.

Far be it for me to profess any deep insight into the Arab/Islamic mindset so rife with hatred against Jews. I'm at a loss to comprehend a society that weans its children on unbridled hostility toward its neighbors and gleefully uses young people as murderous vehicles.

Last winter, the mother of Wafa Idris, the first female Palestinian suicide bomber, said she was proud of her daughter's attack in Jerusalem and hoped more women would follow her example.

Mariam Farahat was equally proud of her son Mohammed who killed five Israeli students and wounded 23 others with an assault rifle and grenades last spring in the Gaza Strip before he was gunned down. "I don't want condolences," she told reporters after the attack. "I want congratulations. I encouraged my son to sacrifice himself. It is a victory."

A long time ago, former Israeli prime minister Golda Meir trenchantly said, "Peace will come only when Palestinians love their children more than they hate Jews." Sadly, decades later, with Palestinian teenagers volunteering to carry out suicide atrocities against Israel with their parents' approval, Meir's words are more applicable today than ever.

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