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Wednesday, June 30, 2004

A Quiet Sabbath

by Naomi Ragen
"Can I come over for Shabbat?" my daughter asked. Her husband had been called up for reserve duty. Again.

"Of course. But didn't he just do reserve duty?" I asked her.

"Yes, and they promised they wouldn't call him back this year. But they did anyway. This is something special..."

I was happy to say yes. What could be better than having my three grandkids and my daughter spend the weekend? I was just sorry my dear son-in-law couldn't join us too. My five year-old granddaughter missed her father terribly. She even kissed the chair around the Sabbath table he usually sits in. The two boys, ten and eight, were busy with their latest dungeons and dragons game, regaling their eighteen year-old favorite uncle, who will be going into the army at the end of the summer, with their plans for including him in their magic wars.

The phone rang right before we lit Sabbath candles. My daughter spoke to her husband briefly, then let my granddaughter speak to her daddy.

"Where is he? It's not dangerous, is it?" I asked her. My daughter
shrugged. "He never tells me. But I hope not..."

I thought of my son-in-law, modest, quiet, studious, a financial consultant with a large bank. He had a wife and three kids, but he was still being called up every time the army needed him. And he never complained. He just went.

The day passed peacefully, a cool wind blowing through Jerusalem, making it pleasant to walk to synagogue and play in the parks. We ate ice-cream, and the kids chased each other around. We took long naps, and short walks, until the sun sank over the hills, and the street lamps came on. My husband took out the candle and wine and spices for the ceremony marking the end of the Sabbath and the beginning of the new week.

And when the Sabbath had ended my daughter picked up the phone to call her husband. It was a short call.

"He said he can't talk right now."

"Did he say where he is?

She paused. "He's in Nablus."

I held my breath. All week long, the army had targeted Nablus, the center of training and deployment of suicide bombers in the last few months. Soldiers were going house to house searching for terrorists.

"Put on the news!"

We learned that as we were sitting around the Sabbath table, the Israeli army had found the secret weapons slick beneath the houses in the Casbah in Nablus. They had blown it up. And in so doing, they had found the hideout of all the leaders of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigade (who were- it turns out- all hiding out together, so much for propaganda about rivalries, etc.) All the bomb belts, all the enormous weapons they had stored up to kill our children blew up in their faces. Ten terrorists. One of the dead was
responsible for the death of 23 Israelis in Neve Shaanan in Tel Aviv; another for the death of two Israelis in Kfar Saba. Just last week they had sent a suicide bomber to Jerusalem on orders from Hizbollah, a bomber who was intercepted. They had even terrorized fellow Palestinians in Nablus as well.

Over our quiet Shabbat, fathers and brothers and sons had risked their
lives to deliver what Palestinians themselves are calling a "fatal blow" to the terrorist infrastructure that has cost so many innocent lives.

When my daughter arrived home, she called me. Her husband had called her back. He was out of Nablus. He'd be coming home in a few days. And if I know him, he won't tell us a thing about how he spent his reserve duty.

But this time, unlike all the other times, we'll know, and hopefully, so will you when you open your newspapers and television sets and hear the inevitable ugly spin that will be put on this heroic achievement of the modest, quiet,wonderful men and women of the IDF. God bless them all.

Israeli soldiers operate in the Old City of
the northern West Bank city of Nablus, Saturday
June 26, 2004.(AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

See also French FM meets Arafat, calls for end to Israeli 'repression'
"Peace needs to be built together, by both sides, and it requires parallel and reciprocal efforts, and this also means efforts on the Israeli side," Barnier told reporters following an hour and a half of talks in Arafat's battered Ramallah headquarters in the West Bank.

For there to be peace, Barnier said Israel must "lift its blockade (on the Palestinian territories), end repression, end the construction of the separation barrier" in the occupied West Bank.

The French minister also called for Israel to put a stop to Palestinian "evictions and to a certain number of (property) destructions".

French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier shakes hands with
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in Ramallah, Tuesday,
June 29, 2004.(AFP/Abbas Momani)
Barnier, who said he was "sincerely touched to find (himself) in the heart of the Palestinian territories", said he hoped that peace was within reach, despite the current cycle of violence between Israelis and Palestinians.

If the world were mine to do with as I pleased, I would condemn Barnier to spend the rest of his life where he is so "sincerely touched" to find himself, in "the heart of the Palestinian territories" - and I would condemn/deport Arafat to Paris in exchange.