Page 6, 15th March 1996

15th March 1996
Page 6
Page 6, 15th March 1996 — Hatred explodes in the Holy Land

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Locations: Jerusalem, Tel Aviv


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Hatred explodes in the Holy Land

3RD MARCH, NINE PM. Friends and family crowd into the apartment of Shem Tov Sheich, 63, in a working class neighbourhood in West Jerusalem.

Eleven people from the same street have died in terrorist attacks in the past week, and neighbours wander from one mourning family to another. Sheich's son tries to describe how he had to identify his father after that day's suicide bus bombing. "The police called me to identify him. What can I say? He had a moustache. How can I identify my father?" he asks a friend.

4th March, 3pm. Friends and family of George Younan, 38, crowd into St Savior's Roman Catholic church in Jerusalem's Old City at the funeral of another victim of the 3 March bombing.

"This is a disaster", says his cousin Michael. "We are Christians and we were brought up on the love of Christ and the love of God. The law of God is peace and understanding. George always wanted peace. These people don't want it. There is a lot of hatred. They think that with hatred and bloodshed everyone can get their rights, but that is not so. We have to learn how to live together." 4th March, 3:50pm. A suicide bomber explodes a bomb in the middle of a busy intersection in the heart of Tel Aviv, killing himself and 11 other people.

4th March, 4:30pm. The streets of Bethlehem are quiet as mourners follow the casket of Angel Sirani, 45, from St Mary's Syrian Orthodox Church to her final resting place. Mrs Sirani, a mother of four, was a nurse in Jewish West Jerusalem and worked hard to raise her children, say neighbours. "Whoever does this is clearly against the Palestinian people. No one wants to see a bus blow up, a child die like this. Palestinians and Israelis have to work together to wipe them out. This is not good for us," says Bethlehem resident Hassan Taamiah. "Before we were enemies, but now there is peace, there is an agreement, there is the Palestinian Authority."

It was a week that began with funerals and ended with funerals — at a rate of three and four a day. Some 60 people were killed and almost 150 injured in five terrorist attacks in the bloodiest week in Israel's recent history. There were feelings of bewilderment, frustration and helplessness among Palestinians and Israelis. "More people have died here in this week than died during the entire Gulf War", said one young Israeli mother. "I will not go outside with my daughter tomorrow."

The attacks came as Israeli Jews prepared to celebrate the festive holiday of Purim, which commemorates the salvation of the Jewish residents of ancient Persia from the hands of Haman, who wanted to eliminate the community.

In Jerusalem, soldiers line the streets; two are posted at almost every bus stop in the downtown area. Traffic is halted while bomb experts are called in. Across the country, people protested the terrorist attacks. Prime Minister Shimon Peres called on religious leaders to say once and for all whether they would support or condemn the acts.

Christian leaders met last week to discuss ways to unite Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious leaders together to fight terrorism. "We are calling for this meeting" said Fr Adib Zoomot, chancellor of the Latin Rite Patriarchate, "not because Christians have died, but to call on all people... to give peace a chance."

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