When we arrived in Israel in 2003, she had just come through several years of terrorist attacks. This became known as the Second Intifada—when Yasser Arafat rejected the incredibly generous (some say suicidal from the Israeli security side) offer from Prime Minister Ehud Barak to create a Palestinian state. He had given every indication that he was a good-faith partner. During several days at Camp David, Arafat—the father of modern-day terrorism and suicide bombings—was seen playfully engaging with his Israeli counterpart. And then, he stunned both Prime Minister Barak and President Bill Clinton by rebuffing the offer and going back to Israel to start a war.
Thanks to the erection of the security fence, bus bombings and restaurants blowing up are a thing of the past. But in 2003, terrorism was still a very serious problem in the Holy Land.
One of my greatest joys, about which I can get very nostalgic, was my almost daily bike rides that I took through the pardasim (orchards) behind our city, Ra’anana. Many of those orchards are now home to apartment buildings. But at the time, there were miles and miles of orange groves. Most afternoons I would take my mountain bike for an hour and exercise.
Sometimes, I would ride up what I and my girls affectionately called trash mountain. It was actually a trash dump that had olive trees on the top and an incredible view of not only the orchards but Tel Aviv.
On one of those excursions, I was about 200 meters from an obscure road between two farms. Suddenly, a scene came into view that terrified me to my core. It was Saturday afternoon, Shabbat, and I saw two men with guns strapped around their shoulders, and three Orthodox Jews in front of them next to a car.
I am not sure how I have this picture and it is not from the day in question, but that is exactly where it happened and that was where I was riding!
I slammed on my brakes, turned my bike around, and started pedaling as hard as I could. You know how they tell you that you get superhuman strength when you need it? Well, apparently, I didn't need it, because I was quickly out of breath, and my legs turned to Jell-O. I just knew that at any moment, bullets would start whizzing by my ears and maybe one would hit me.
Even as I was panicking, I had a thought. It's Shabbat... Orthodox Jews don't drive. Why would they be next to a car? A few thoughts went through my head, maybe they were camping, maybe they got stuck there from yesterday...something didn't add up. But I reasoned, that can be sorted out later, right now I need to get help.
After about a minute of frenzied peddling, I was on the other side of the small hill, out of their sight. I pulled out my phone to dial 911, and then realized there is no 911 in Israel. At that moment another biker approached, and I asked him for the Israeli equivalent of 911. That's how new I was in Israel; I didn't even know the emergency number (It is 100, in case you ever need it here).
I explained to him the scene that I had just witnessed. That was when he calmly explained to me that he had just passed the same site and they were shooting some sort of a movie.
While I felt a bit silly, it just underscores what it's like to live in a country where your first reaction is not, “Oh, clearly they're shooting a movie,” but, “Terrorists are going to kill those people.” In a future post, I will share about the life and death of my cousin, Daniel Cantor Wultz, who not long after this event was murdered while eating a shawarma at a famous shawarma restaurant in Tel Aviv—it was his last bite of bread before Passover. A Palestinian terrorist made sure it was his last bite of bread period.
Israel doesn't have many families where there isn't at least one serious scar, if not a fatal one, from the hands of Palestinian terrorists. For a long time, the world didn't really care that Israel suffered through Black September or plane hijackings, such as the one that led to the Raid on Entebbe—both of which have been made into movies. But ever since September 11th and the wars that ensued, terrorist attacks have become commonplace not only in the United States and in the West, but even in Muslim-majority countries against their own people.
Ironically, many of these nations now come to Israel to purchase technology on how they can protect their citizenry. While the story of me mistaking a movie shoot for Islamic fanatics is humorous, it only underscores the seriousness of the day in which we live.