Israel just concluded its celebration of 70 years of independence two hours ago. I’ve been here for 3 weeks, and today my thoughts went back to the 3rd day of the trip. On Saturday evening, after Shabbat (and the first day of Passover) ended in Jerusalem, I was at the sites of two terror attacks for which there are direct connections to Israel advocacy in my home, the San Francisco Bay Area.
On January 29, 2004, just before 9 AM at the corner of Azza and Arlozorov, Bus 19 was exploded by a suicide bomber . Eleven people were killed and over 50 injured. The shell of the bus was brought to the US the following year, and was displayed at two pro-Israel/anti-terror rallies in January 2005, one in Berkeley and one in San Francisco. Our group, San Francisco Voice for Israel, organized the second one, pictured below:
A wave of youths wearing keffiyehs attacked the crowd during the speeches at the Berkeley event. I remember seeing Paul Larudee (Northern California head of the terror support network International Solidarity Movement, later on the Gaza flotilla that included the Mavi Marmara) counterprotesting the rally, looking at the shell of the bus — in which 11 lives were ended by a mass murderer — with an expression that looked like pride.
Just a few minutes’ walk eastward from that corner is the SuperSol market. On February 21 1969, a bomb planted there killed two young students, Leon Kanner and Edward Joffe. The leader of the cell that planted the bomb was a member of the terror group Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Rasmea Odeh, who confessed one day after her capture; her accomplice Aisha Odeh (no relation) discussed the plot on PA TV in 2013 and freely implicated Rasmea. Rasmea Odeh was stripped of her citizenship and deported from the United States last fall, after pleading guilty to having lied about her conviction in Israel on her application for admission to the US.
Odeh is also the terrorist who Reem Assil proudly honors with a giant mural in her Oakland restaurant, and at which members of the Bay Area pro-Israel community have stood in opposition (and have been both physically attacked and legally threatened, the latter of which was resolved thanks to intervention from StandWithUs).
Imagine, if you will, an Israeli restaurant in the US featuring a giant mural of the terrorist Baruch Goldstein. The condemnation from all corners, including from Jewish community institutions —especially from Jewish community institutions — would be deafening. Or imagine an African-American coming across a restaurant featuring Southern cuisine, only to find that it included a tribute to Dylann Roof, who gunned down nine African-Americans in a church.
(and please, let’s not get distracted by claims that any of this has to do with the occupation. The ISM, Rasmea Odeh, and Reem Assil, as well as their supporters and enablers, all vehemently reject ending the occupation by means of peace between the Jewish state of Israel and a future Arab state of Palestine. Their goal is the elimination of the Jewish state within any borders whatsoever.)
On the first night of Passover, Jews all over the world read in the Haggadah “in each and every generation there are those who rise up against us to destroy us.” And today I had the privilege of joining the people of Israel, who celebrated 70 years of independence after surviving several all-out wars by those who sought to destroy them, as well as the sustained attack of murderous domestic terror of which the Bus 19 explosion was just one incident. So tonight I say to Paul Larudee, Rasmea Odeh, and Reem Assil: those attempts failed, as you have failed, and as those who come after you will also fail. Am Yisrael Chai — the people of Israel live!