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Understanding the Bat Mitzvah Attack

Understanding the Bat Mitzvah Attack

Our response to this terrorist tragedy must be activism, not despair.


Our daughter's Bat Mitzvah won't come for another eight years. At age 4, she's just starting to get over the Alef-Bet hump. Still, when we see a Bat Mitzvah taking place we can't help but fast-forward in our imagination to what our own daughter's Bat Mitzvah will look like: Studying the significance of becoming a Jewish woman, choosing a hall, sending out invitations. It's a combination of pride, gratitude, and personal fulfillment. So innocent, so joyous.

I'm not sure if I'll ever allow myself the luxury of those daydreams again. On January 17, a 12-year-old girl named Nina Kardashov celebrated her Bat Mitzvah in Hadera, Israel. Her Bat Mitzvah was visited by an uninvited guest: a Palestinian Terrorist firing an M-16 and loaded with grenades.

He screamed out in Arabic and began shooting. He didn't know who he was shooting at -- only that they were Jews. He left six Israelis dead and 30 wounded.


Despair is easy to slide into. A Bat Mitzvah?? Can people be that depraved? Nina remembers someone pulling her down to the ground and saying, "I can't let you be killed at your own Bat Mitzvah celebration." Things like this can easily challenge our hope in humanity, or destroy our faith that people are essentially good.

(As I am writing this, my daughter has come over to sit on my lap. This is one time I'm thankful that she doesn't know how to read.)

What were the terrorists trying to accomplish by attacking a Bat Mitzvah and not a military installation?

What were the terrorists trying to accomplish by murdering people celebrating a simcha? Why attack a Bat Mitzvah and not a military installation?

Simple: By attacking a Bat Mitzvah, they were trying to kill our children's future. They were trying to kill our dreams, for ourselves and for our children. A Bat Mitzvah is no longer a sanctuary of innocence that can't be touched.

Now comes the relevant question:

Are we going to let them?

It is time that we as a Jewish community must fight back for our dreams, for the future of our children. The Torah tells us how we must fight. It doesn't start with anything that you do or say, it starts inside each of us.

When we have resolve, nothing can stop us.

The first step is to find within yourself the unbreakable resolve that no one and nothing will break our commitment to living our values. Our return to Israel is nothing short of a miracle that took 2,000 years to happen. Israel must do everything ensure its survival no matter which way world opinion is blowing.

A thousand distortions in the media doesn't change reality. It is an incredible privilege to be part of the Jewish people and its legacy that has brought great goodness to the world. We will not be bystanders in the face of Israel's crisis and the rise of global anti-Semitism.


Why is this resolve so important? Because when we have resolve, then nothing can stop us. When we have resolve, we figure out what needs to be done and then we do it.

Imagine you were at last night's Bat Mitzvah, and the terrorist was coming after your child. Would you let anything stand in your way of saving her? Can you feel how resolved you are about that? This is the level of resolve we must have in the face of Israel's crisis.

"Ain davar omed bifnei ha'ratzon" -- "Nothing stands in the way of resolve." If we care deeply enough, if we feel it in our bones, then we won't take this sitting down. We will begin by educating ourselves, and then we will move on to the rest of the world.

If we care deeply enough, if we feel it in our bones, then we won't take this sitting down.

How do you know if you have resolve about solving Israel's crisis? If attacks like last night make you even more determined to work harder for Israel, then you have it. If you feel nothing but despair, you are not there yet. Change the “despair” into “resolve to make a contribution,” and the Bat Mitzvah attack, as horrifying as it was, will only but make us stronger and more unified.

I wish I knew the specific action we could all take to ensure there will be no more attacks at Bat Mitzvahs. But I do know that if we respond to the attack by deepening our own conviction and commitment, by deepening our resolve, then we will have thousands of people trying in their own way to help our beleaguered brethren in Israel, and tremendous good will come out of it -- both for them, and for us.

Rabbi Chaim Levine is the director of Aish Seattle.



By Louis Rene Beres

22 January 2002 -- On January 17, a Palestinian terrorist entered a banquet hall in Hadera and opened fire with an assault rifle, killing six people and injuring thirty during a bat mitzvah celebration. The Al Aqsa Brigades, an element of Yasser Arafat's Fatah, claimed responsibility for this heroic "military" action. In Tulkarem, more than a dozen Al Aqsa Brigade "fighters" marched proudly through the streets after the attack, shooting into the air in manly celebration of their latest "victory" against old women and young children.

Six killed and thirty injured. But what does this really mean? Statistics don't bleed. People do.

Here is a less anesthetized version of what happened in Hadera. It comes from a dear friend of mine in that city, Dr. Moshe Rosenblatt, a skilled general surgeon who has had far too much experience in treating Jewish victims of Arab terrorists. Not long after the attack, and only a few hours after he had returned from ministering to the wounded, these were his words to me:

"Dear Lou. The terrorist attack took place at the other end of my street, some 800 meters from my building. I've been many times in this wedding hall, so I could easily have been one of the people there. I would be dead now, and/or my wife and children. Fortunately, this time at least, it didn't happen.

"Despite the fact that I'm the director of a surgical outpatient clinic, on these events I always go to Hadera's hospital to help my colleagues. That's what I did today. I ran to the operating room where I entered into an almost heroic operation to save the life of a middle-aged woman. One of the terrorist bullets had ruptured her liver, stomach, bowels and major vessels. We couldn't stop the bleeding. So we opened her chest to cross-clamp the aorta, while undertaking direct heart massage. All in vain. She died of massive hemorrhage, blood and feces strewn everywhere.

"I then changed my surgical clothes and entered another operating room to begin, with my colleagues, another operation. This time the patient was a young guy with an abdomen full of shrapnel. We had to resect the lower part of his ruptured large bowel, but at the end of the operation he was still bleeding profusely through his wounded hip. I left the room while the orthopedic surgeons began to operate on his right hip. I believe he will also die. He is bleeding too much, likely because of a disastrous medical problem called DIC (Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation) which depletes all of the coagulation factors, leaving the patient bleeding everywhere. The anesthetists and intensive care teams will try to overcome the problem; I'm praying for this young man.

"Many other patients were treated by other surgeons. My surgical dress was full of blood. I took a shower and here I am, at 4:00 in the morning, writing to you, my friend. I just can't sleep now. Although very tired, I'm too excited because after all these years of seeing blood and death on my hands, I never quite get used to it."

This is what lies behind the sanitized numbers and statistics. Individual lives. Individual Jewish lives. Tortured, maimed and murdered by Arab killers of the most perversely barbaric insurgency in contemporary history. No other insurgency in memory has been as intentionally monstrous, cruel and cowardly as the Palestinian war against Israel. No other insurgency has been so entirely captivated by the sheer joy of deliberate violence against the innocent.

Louis Rene Beres is a Professor of International Law, Department of Political Science at Purdue University


January 19, 2002

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The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 28

(28) Anonymous, March 29, 2012 7:21 PM

plain-speaking , unadorned, brings it home

could protect the dignity of the murdered better, despite my summary.

(27) Anonymous, April 7, 2002 12:00 AM


i cant belive what the palistinians are doing. its being in canada it feels alot diffirent but i still feel it in my heart. may the family of israel be in peace forever


(26) , March 8, 2002 12:00 AM

Israel must defend itself

It appears that I am reading these articles much later than everyone else. However, I feel compelled to write. The articles are moving and disturbing and I need to comment.

People seem to forget that Hamas, Hizbollah and the Fatah movement (created before 1968, so their hatred and terrorist activities can not be attributed to settlements and occupation), all want the total destruction of Israel. In their mind, the Israeli "settlement" and "occupation" is on EVERYTHING west of the Jordan River.

Therefore, if the Palestinians truly want peace, they have to show it be clamping down on these movements. The PA refuses to do this for more than a minute period.

If Arafat and the PA do indeed refuse to use their position of authority to stop Palestinian terrorism against Israel then someone has to appropriately take action.

Israel realizing its responsibility to protect its citizens is acting. They are attempting to limit the civilian casualties as much as possible with focused assassinations against hardened terrorists or punishing the PA by destroying their empty buildings for their refusal to crack down on the militants.

When terror continues, Israel must close off the West Bank and Gaza Strip and prevent terrorists from entering Israel. This seems to make sense, despite its unfortunate harmful effect on nonmilitant Palestinians. It appears, Israel is not part of a simple "tit for tat" approach.
It seems, Israel is attempting to minimize casualties on both sides.

One would think that the Palestinians would finally "get it" and realize that it is the terrorists which are the obstruction to peace. And, this is exactly what the terrorists want to be- obstructors of peace! They are against a peaceful solution with Israel in every form and place. They just want the Jews out!
I hope this is clear to everyone.

One major problem is that Palestinians are taught from birth to hate Jews and Israel. It is taught in their Quranic teachings/ Mosques, in their schools, in their press.
Personally, I work hard not to hate. However, I am exquisitely afraid of their hatred.

Unfortunately for Israel, the nonmilitant Palestinians and Peace itself- Hamas, Hizbollah, and Fatah have no intention of easing up their assaults on Israel. And, Arafat has no intention to stop them.
Why should he? They hurt his enemies. They pressure Israel to act. They further international observation and awareness of the crisis and condemnation when Israel "retaliates". In addition, Arafat would have to battle hard to crack down on the hardened Hamas movement et. al., most likely being forced to kill many of his own people. This would even lower his dismal approval ratings among Palestinians.

To the nonreligious, nonzionist and/or uninformed the only real answer to the crisis is to dismantle Israel. This would bring instant peace to the region. Without Israel, at least for a moment, the mideast would celebrate, uniting a multitude. Not too many would cry for the loss of Israel. And after the mourning period, perhaps there could be a United Nations sponsored holiday or various national moments of silence commemorating the State of Israel.
G-d forbid this.

Fortunately, this route is not an option for those who believe that Israel has a right to exist and should defend herself. Israel has proven that she can make peace and give up territory as she did with Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey etcetera.

One can NOT make peace unless both sides want it badly enough. When one side wants land more than peace, peace is impossible. I do not believe that Arafat wants peace, we all know he wants land.

The concept of "Land for Peace" is frightening.
The phrase implies that the Palestinians/Arabs/Muslims do not seem to be asking for peace from Israel. They just want land.
Like a marriage, if one wants out, you can't MAKE it work.
I believe only when the discussion is "Peace for Peace" can land be on the bargaining table.
If this never happens then we will have to wait until the Messiah comes, may he no longer tarry.
In the meantime, if Arafat and the PA will not crack down on the terrorists, Israel must do so for the sake of its citizens and for the sake of a future peace. Israel must be able to defend herself.

Whatever happens, Israel should not have to wait ad infinitum for the Palestinians to wake up. Israel should annex parts of the West Bank as deemed appropriate.
Israel must secure her borders. This includes dismantling those settlements that can not be well protected, according to those with the expertise to determine.

Israel has a moral responsibility to act justly and mercifully when dealing with her own citizens and others. But, it must act.

Lastly and firstly, we must realize our own moral responsibility and turn toward G-d and His righteous commandments. If this doesn't happen then we should not expect things to get better any time soon.

(25) B** W***, January 31, 2002 12:00 AM

What's the point?

In response to Rabbi Levine's article, anyone would agree that this attack was horrifying. Levine says to fight back. What do we tell children who fight? That they're both wrong. Does it matter who threw the first punch? The fighting has been going on too long already. When will it end? This article fails to address this, the big issue. The question that will persist until the apocalypse. No answer will be found before humanity wipes itself out.

(24) Yolanda Canfield, January 31, 2002 12:00 AM

I resolve to support you

Even before I had access to the article about the Bat Mitzvah attack, I had my heart and my prayers dedicated to help Israel. After sharing the article, I am more resolved than ever. I know that your stand is right. As a catholic I feel that your cause is mine too. Your plight has to move into action anyone who is capable of feeling love for their brothers and sisters.

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