June 25, 1999
A short time ago we called friends of ours in Kiryat Shmona. D. has lived
there all her life. Her husband A. has lived there since they married
nineteen years ago. I know Kiryat Shmona fairly well, as my wife lived and
worked there for two years, before we met.
I'll never forget my first glimpse of Kiryat Shmona, on the northern border
of Israel. Ensconced by the greens and browns of the Naftali mountains,
the scenery is breathtaking. The air is clean and pure, filled with the
fragrances of flowers and freshness. Looking from the border of the city
down into the lush Hahula valley, your head spins. The fields and the
fish ponds are quite unlike the sticky swamps once covering the area, to
be dried out by Jews decades ago, when they started returning to
The Jews of Kiryat Shmona are a special breed of people. Living on the
border of Israel and Lebanon, these brave folk have suffered
terror attacks and numerous Katusha rocket attacks. Time after time,
frequently without advanced warning, Katusha rockets blast through a living
room ceiling or explode in a school room. Fortunately miracles are common.
Stories of near-misses abound. Unfortunately, with all the miracles,
sometimes tragedy strikes. A pregnant women lost twin fetuses as the result
of a Katusha exploding next to her. And last night two men, Shimon
Elimelech, aged 45 and Toni Zanna, aged 36, both working late at night in
the emergency center at the Kiryat Shmona Municipality were killed
instantly when a Katusha ripped into the room where they were sitting.
Ironically both men lived in the same building elsewhere in the city. The
two of them leave six orphans.
The present state of affairs is a result of an agreement between the
terrorist Hizbullah organization and the State of Israel following a
military escapade called 'The Grapes of Wrath" a few years ago. This
agreement should be taught in military academies around the world under
the title, "Treaty of Farce." In short this agreement allows Hizbullah to
kill Israeli soldiers patrolling in Lebanon, and allows them to launch
Katusha rocket attacks on Israel if any Lebanese civilians are killed, or
are reported to be killed during battles between Israeli and Hizbullah or
Lebanese forces. Otherwise they are supposed to refrain from shooting
A few days ago Hizbullah terrorists, in the midst of a battle with Israeli
forces, took cover in a civilian house. They later reported that, as a
result of continued Israeli attacks, two civilian women in the house were
killed. That night Katusha rockets flew through the air.
That was expected. What happened last night was unexpected. Without any
seeming reason, again, Katushas began exploding in different northern
Israel communities. At about 1100 a Katusha landed in the Kiryat Shmona
municipality building, killing the two men. In retaliation Israel bombed
Hizbullah bases in Lebanon.
The situation in North Israel and South Lebanon is intolerable. Our
citizens are being held hostage by a relatively small group of guerilla
terrorists who are backed by Syrian terrorist president Hafez el-Assad.
Assad's whose first goal is to regain the Golan Heights, captured by Israel
after Syria attacked in 1973. He might not be around to try and accomplish
his second goal, but having the Golan back in Syrian hands will make the
job easier for his successor.
What is Israel supposed to do? I won't try and conjure up a swift solution.
There are solutions, but Israel is, as of yet, unwilling to do what is
necessary. But there are lessons that can be learned from this fiasco in
the north. Just to list a few
1. If the Golan Heights are abandoned to Syria, Israelis in Kiryat Shmona
won't be the only Jews being attacked by rocket fire. Back in the 1960's
Israelis on the Israeli side of the Kinneret were picked off by Syrian
sniper fire from their side of the Sea of Galilee. Following abandonment of
the Golan, sniper fire will be the least of their worries.
2. Hizbullah has already announced that an Israeli withdrawal from Southern
Lebanon will not bring an end to their attacks. Once they can get closer to
the border without having to be concerned with running into Israeli
patrols, they will be able to launch Katusha rockets deeper into Israeli
3. If Israel does not know how to stop Katusha attacks originating over the
border in South Lebanon, what will we do when they start flying into Petach
Tikvah, Kfar Saba, Netanya, and Tel-Aviv. These won't be launched from
Lebanon, but rather from Kalkilya. The proposed palestinian state, almost
a forgone conclusion amongst most Israeli politicians, even those on the
right, will host terrorists more sophisticated than the Hizbullah
guerillas. What response will the Israeli government have after those
There are many lessons to be learned from the debacle in the North. The
most important one is that we should not repeat the same mistakes, which
will lead to similar, if not more serious catastrophes throughout the
country in the not very distant future.
Our friends in Kiryat Shmona are just as dedicated as anyone I know living
here in Hebron, or anywhere else in Israel. But they are starting to wear
down. Continued rocket attacks on your homes and schools doesn't make for
an easy life. Living and sleeping in bomb shelters, (as they did
today and will be doing this Shabbat) is not a pleasant way to live. Many
good people have left Kiryat Shmona for this very reason. If the Israeli
government doesn't solve the problem soon, others too are going to leave
for the center of the country. When terrorists in 'palestine' start
launching missiles into Tel Aviv, where are they going to go then?