The other night, the frustration of missing a play we really had wanted to see, and losing close to $60 worth of tickets for nothing, not to mention the inconvenience of being stranded, among thousands, on a cold highway for close to an hour, made me write of how it felt being stuck. A day or two later, another thought came to mind.
First, let me tell you about something that happened many years ago. Elie was on call on an ambulance. A pregnant woman in an Arab village nearby, an Arab woman, was in the car with her husband and children when the car was rammed from behind by a truck, a truck driven by an Arab. The family was not wearing seat belts and the results were – predictable. Though everyone was shaken, people were most concerned about the woman, who was in the advanced stages of pregnancy, a bit hurt and very upset. It was decided to rush her to a hospital to check on her condition and that of her unborn child.
The Israeli ambulance from Maale Adumim was called; Elie inside. They went running, these medics and volunteers, without any hesitation. A hurt, pregnant woman pushed them to drive the speed limitations of the road and beyond – they sped through the city, to the front entrance, made a left turn, rather than the right to Jerusalem I always take.
They traveled mere moments to get to the entrance of the Arab neighborhood, and stopped. Stopped? I asked Elie – yes, stopped.
“We had to wait for an army escort,” he explained. Arabs have stoned ambulances, set them afire. Seeing to the safety of the ambulance crew is drummed into every volunteer. An injured medic isn’t of much value. First, you secure the safety of the team, whenever possible. You don’t take careless or unnecessary risks. And so they are not allowed to endanger their lives by entering an Arab village without an army escort to protect them. The alternative was for the Arabs to bring their wounded out to the road, and this is what happened. An Arab ambulance took the injured woman to the main road and she was transferred to the Israeli ambulance.
But why, I asked Elie, if she was already in an ambulance, why did she need to be transferred to another? And so he explained. When the Arab ambulances get to the army checkpoint just before entering Jerusalem, they have to be searched. Many times, Arabs have used their ambulances to smuggle weapons, even explosives into Israel.
And so, by moving her to an Israeli ambulance, the medics were ensuring she would get to the Israeli hospital faster for treatment. I heard this story with much anger. This is what the Arabs have done to themselves, I thought to myself. They have harmed their own interests, in addition to ours. Our ambulances are endangered, but so are their own lives.
And now, days after being stuck on a road because an Arab man went up to the entrance of Maale Adumim and tried to enter, another thought occurred to me. When stopped, the man told the guards he had planned to attack Israelis – a terror attack – because he has an argument with another Arab. The guards, rightly, did not hesitate to sound the alarm. The city was shut down, traffic diverted. The result was equivalent to thousands of cars attempting to enter a huge traffic circle. Those coming up from Jerusalem were unable to enter the city and there was no where for them to turn. The traffic that caused, reached several kilometers, all the way down to the back entrance of Maale Adumim. As we tried to drive up to Jerusalem, long before the turnoff, we ran into the tail of that traffic. A huge circle.
Within the city – by single file, cars entered circle after circle – merging from as many as three directions – all trying to go back into the city because the front was closed. More cars, unaware the front of the city was closed, were moving forward – in short, no one was going anywhere.
That was the result – but for a moment, consider a different angle. Were I to go to the front of Maale Adumim and tell the guards that I wanted to launch an attack – they’d laugh. Perhaps, they would search my car. They would most likely not sound the alarm and freeze hundreds, thousands of people and cars in a frustrating jam.
The Arabs have proven themselves credible. Yes, they are capable of attacking with the intent to kill and so, days after a bus exploded in Tel Aviv, yes, we believed they would do something somewhere, so why not here?
This time, there was no attack – the time my son might have gone into the village, it is possible the residents wouldn’t have attacked the ambulance – but a culture that accepts and even praises violence is one that is to be believed.
Yes, I was stuck but the guards did what they had to do. All of Maale Adumim and all of Israel does what it has to do. We’ll have those checkpoints and we’ll search cars and pocketbooks. We’ll watch our buses and guard our schools and accept that I’d rather live on this side of that great divide. I’d rather live in a society that sends ambulances than one that stones them. I’d rather live in a country that guards its people and its children than one that encourages them to murder innocents.
The UN has voted to allow the establishment of a Palestinian state. If you think about it, it was a dumb vote. They’d already approved that in 1947. It was the Arabs who decided against the plan; who went to war and chose the route to violence. No, I don’t believe there will ever be peace; that they will accept Israel’s right to exist. What they lost in violence in 1947, they will never get in 2012 or 2013 or 2014.
The path to this mythical Palestine they crave, has always been in the one place they refuse to go – peace. In peace, they can live here with us; in peace, neighbors can survive. In war, there is no freedom – not for them and, to an extent, not for us. We were imprisoned in a wall of cars Thursday night because what that Arab from Nablus did was a terror attack. And so long as the Arabs choose violence and terror – the fact is, we are all stuck.