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Saturday, 11 June 2016

Terrorism –Then and Now

It was Wednesday last week and I’d barely assimilated details of a terroristDigital Camera attack from the 1970s when I was assaulted by a barrage of fresh news headlines about the murders at the Sarona Market, Tel Aviv.

I’d been in Nahariya, northern Israel to hear the story of Mottie Zarenkin, whose entire family was wiped out during a raid in June 1974 by three men from the Palestinian Fatah terrorist group.

This was the first time Zarenkin had ever discussed his experience in public and when I later compared his account with that published online, it made me consider once more how time may heal but can also blur the distinction between actuality and the personal recollections of those involved in such incidents.


David.HazonyOn Friday, David Hazony, Managing Director of The Israel Project who also edits The Tower magazine, wrote to supporters thus:

Dear TIP community,

Wednesday afternoon, like many of you I was following closely the terror attack in Tel Aviv. At around 3 pm, I got a call from my wife that her dear cousin Ido Ben Ari had been shot twice in the back. She could barely speak. Two hours later we learned that he was dead. His wife Tal was also shot twice and is still in serious condition. His two teenage kids, had been there too but escaped unharmed.

Ido Ben Ari was a wonderful friend, a consummate prankster, a sales executive for Coca-Cola, a decorated reservist for the elite IDF Sayeret Matkal special forces, and a loving father. I got to know him and his family over the years. His father Avi, a retired air force commander, was in charge of the honour guard that received Egyptian President Anwar Sadat at Ben-Gurion airport in 1977 - you can see him in the old photos. It was heartbreaking to see Avi yesterday, on the news, eulogising Ido, held by his loving daughter, surrounded by other members of my wife’s family.

The loss is devastating, and not just for those who knew him: for Ido embodied much of what I love about Israel.

In every grief cycle there's a phase of anger, and mine hit yesterday. The feeling of impotence, the frustration that I don't have the ability to personally get back at the people who did this to him, who did this to my wife's family.

And then I realised: I do. The work that I do at TIP is the greatest contribution I can make.

In Israel's history, the terror and the wars, and through centuries of persecution of Jews, violence was always coupled with a campaign of delegitimisation and dehumanisation. Blood libels, boycotts, lies. Without them, virtually none of the violence can happen; without it, Israel today could handily defend itself militarily and economically and could live in peace.

Sometimes it might feel like our small organisation is fighting an enormous, overwhelming combination of threats - threats to the West from those who hate America and democracy and liberal values; threats to Jews in France or Belgium or Britain or on American campuses; threats to Israelis from the stabbers, the shooters, the rocket-launchers and tunnel-diggers and boycotters. What unites them all is hatred, and a willingness to act violently against people whose only crime is to want to have dinner with their wife and kids.

For me right now, in the middle of this nightmare, I see my work at TIP being, first of all, about protecting the physical safety of many of the people I love: My children, my extended family and my wife’s, and the many wonderful friends I made over twenty years living in Israel. I know that TIP's fight is Israel's fight, and that we are playing a role that nobody else can.

Every one of you is vital. TIP’s blogging or research or coalitions or digital or work with the press and diplomats and partner organisations; every event we host, every anti-boycott bill we pass or viral video we produce -all of these, in my mind, are no less important for protecting Israeli lives than are Israel's own soldiers in uniform and diplomats in the field …

So I wanted to thank all of you …. In the thick of the events, it was hard to breathe much less communicate properly. Some have reached out with words of comfort in our grief, which were moving and irreplaceable. All of you, however, have earned my deep and enduring gratitude.”


Zarenkin, who lost his entire family in the attack, began by taking us to the scene of the massacre at 19 Balfour Street, where the terrorists arrived after sailing to the resort by an engine-run inflatable boat.

Digital CameraHis version is that the incident took place on the night of Sunday – Monday June 23 – 24 1974 when his wife and two daughters were murdered by the assailants and he was seriously injured by accidental military fire. One soldier was also killed in the attack.

The online report maintains that it began the following night “shortly after 23:00 on 24 June” and that Zarenkin, “who lived on the first floor of the building, feared that the militants would break into his apartment and had his wife, son and daughter escape the apartment from the bedroom window on a rope woven from sheets. 

“After reaching the ground, they began running toward the street, but were spotted by the militants, who shot at them and threw a grenade, killing all three of them. Zarenkin, who thought that he had saved his family, tried to escape the apartment as well, but was accidentally shot by Israeli security forces. Wounded, he returned to his apartment, where he hid until found by soldiers.” Digital Camera

Zarenkin, who still bears a deep scar from the bullet wound in his thigh, explained between tears that as he began to recover in hospital he determined to start life anew, remarried and had more children. I understand that his second wife also died and that he now lives in Haifa with his third wife.

But the truth is also that Mottie Zarenkin learnt how to remake his life from a very young age. As the four-year-old son of strong-minded east European Holocaust survivors, he was dragged through much of war-ravaged Europe and spent time in internment camps in Cyprus after his parents’ thwarted attempt to enter Mandate Palestine illegally. The family moved to Israel once independence was declared. Quite remarkably, Zarenkin’s father still lives, aged 99.

Mottie Zerenkin’s talk, hosted by Nefesh B’Nefesh, the Anglo immigrant Israel aid agency was arranged in conjunction with Tamar Pinto, Demographic Growth Coordinator of the Nahariya, Galilee Development Authority.

© Natalie Wood (11 June 2016)

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