Dance of Death: Palestinians and Israelis Are Locked in a Macabre Embrace

It's so tempting to place the blame for this tango of terror solely on the shoulders of one side.

Tomer Appelbaum

My heart is heavy and broken. And while many of those in this blood-soaked country of Israel walk around with hearts even heavier than mine as terrorist attacks multiply, they have each other for company and encouragement. Solidarity in the face of the enemy, the Palestinian enemy. Me, I feel pretty much alone.

One of my closest, truly beloved friends publicly dismisses as "politically correct" any interpretation resembling my own of the current hell in which we find ourselves. As though I adopted these views in order to please some nameless arbitrator of political opinion.

No, my dear, just as you have come to believe with your whole being that one side bears full responsibility for the bloody reality we are living in, I have come to the even more painful conclusion that we Israelis, too, bear significant responsibility for what I see as this dance of death. One time, they lead. Another time, we do. The years fleet by. Ours die, theirs die. Violently. But we can't seem to stop.

But to say that, yes, we too bear some responsibility is to be branded a traitor, a "self-hater," or at best, a fool.

Yet in contrast to many of my left-leaning friends and colleagues, I do not see us as fully responsible for this mess either. Yes, we continued to portray their moderate leader, Mahmoud Abbas, who appeared to do everything he could to rein in the extremists on his side until he lost almost all credibility with them, as "not a partner" for peace. And now that he has finally lost the last vestiges of control, he really isn't. A self-fulfilling prophecy.

We built more and more settlements, facts on the ground, to make it clear that they would never have a land of their own, even as our leader uttered hollow slogans, no more than transparent lies, about backing a two-state solution. We made their lives miserable with checkpoints and land expropriations and administrative detention. We enjoyed the "quiet" that gave us, those sporadic years when they stayed invisible like they're supposed to be.

And now, they're not.

Yet despite the sense of despondency we helped create, I still believe they had a choice. Every one of us does.

And what not one or two, but so many of them, chose was to brandish knives and turn every Jew – man, woman, child – into a target for their pent up frustration, boundless hatred, blind or calculated embrace of death. Ours and theirs.

I am not afraid (though my son has urged me to "take a knife with me when I head out to work in Tel Aviv"), but aghast. My jaw drops as I grapple with the image of a 13-year-old boy riding his bicycle home from school suddenly being bludgeoned nearly to death by another 13-year-old boy and his accomplice, a cousin a couple of years older. My jaw is agape again when I hear some official on their side denounce the death of the cousin, who was killed by our forces. Really? That's all you have to say? How dare we shoot him?

And yet I watch the footage of a would-be woman stabber in a bus station in Afula, standing frozen with a knife in her hand as a dozen armed security troops surround her, and after what seems like an eternity in which nothing moves, suddenly fire at least seven or more bullets until she crumples to the ground. Really? Couldn't all these trained soldiers and Border Police have wrested the knife from her hand? But then I also ask: Why couldn't she have just dropped the damned thing? And isn't there something more meaningful that this 30-year-old woman could have chosen to do that day than head out to stab a Jew?

I know the fact that I ask these questions in the same breath – how could they shoot her and what the hell was she thinking – will upset those of my friends who see the scene only from one angle or the other.

But I see it as all inextricably bound, like two partners entwined in a macabre embrace.

Which is how I see those two 13-year-olds, one determined to snuff the life out of the other, two boys probably not even old enough to shave, in a life-and-death struggle. 

And now I know that the choice that too many of their young people have made is filling our children with fear, poisoning them with hatred, making sure that for yet another generation we will continue our dance of death. Dancing. To the end of time?

Leora Eren Frucht is an editor at Haaretz and an award-winning writer for various publications.