Too Much Snow is Blinding

While the Almogs and Zer-Avivs were enjoying their day and the people of Trondheim were reveling in the stunning beauty of the Geiranger fjord, which UNESCO had named as a World Heritage site, sinister events were unfolding that would change Oren Almog's life forever.

Angela Bertz

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Thirteen-year-old Oren Almog will never be able to enjoy the scenic beauty of the Geiranger fjord in Trondheim. He will never be able to gasp with awe as his vehicle makes its way around hairpin bends on the Trollstigen Road. He will never be able to sit spellbound on the Rauma railway as it passes through magnificent mountain scenery. He will never see the beautiful forested hills, or the ancient Nidarosdomen stone church that is one of the town's main attractions.

Oren Almog today is blind.

On Saturday, October 4th 2003, as the people of Trondheim were probably deciding which of the beautiful attractions their city had to offer them that day, Oren Almog would also have contemplated his day. It would have been charged with excitement, worthy of any 11-year-old boy. He lived thousands of miles away from the land of the midnight sun and the pristine fjords of Trondheim, although in an area of the world no less blessed with beautiful scenery. He would have woken that Saturday morning, together with his parents and nine-year-old brother and six-year-old sister. The family would probably have enjoyed a family breakfast together before setting off to join their grandparents and 11-year-old cousin for a day on a sun-soaked Mediterranean beach in Haifa, Israel.

Oren Almog was not blind that morning.

As the Almogs were enjoying a family day at the beach, another family in Israel was also enjoying a day together. Bruria Zer-Aviv was with her son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren. They were shopping that same morning in Haifa. Her grandson, Liran, was scheduled to celebrate his fourth birthday the following day at nursery school, and her granddaughter was just over one year old.

Liran was not destined to reach his fourth birthday.

While the Almogs and Zer-Avivs were enjoying their day and the people of Trondheim were reveling in the stunning beauty of the Geiranger fjord, which UNESCO had named as a World Heritage site, sinister events were unfolding that would change Oren Almog's life forever.

Hanadi Jaradat, a 29-year-old female lawyer from the Palestinian town of Jenin, was also busy that morning. Despite the construction of a security fence between Israel and many populated Palestinian towns, Hanadi, dressed in Western clothes to allay suspicions, successfully managed to bypass Israeli checkpoint border guards. Once inside Israel, she headed for Haifa. At that moment, an 11-year-old boy's fate was sealed. He had but a few hours left to enjoy the sight of his family and the beauty of a late summer's day.

On the southern end of the coastal town of Haifa sits Maxim restaurant. That Saturday afternoon, it was, as is usual, packed with families and people enjoying the ambience of a sunny afternoon and good food. This popular, jointly owned Arab-Jewish restaurant had for 40 years played host to hundreds of families, many of them regulars. Despite the seemingly peaceful coexistence between the Jewish and Arab populations of Haifa, and Amram Mitzna's statement that "living together alongside each other is the backbone of the city," Haifa had suffered four Palestinian bomb attacks in the previous two years, claiming the lives of 64 people.

Haifa and Oren Almog were yet again in for a devastating awakening.

The gruesome events that took place that afternoon in Haifa would certainly have reached the ancient town of Trondheim. They would probably have seen the scenes of destruction and devastation unfolding across their television sets. They may even have shaken their heads for a few moments in stunned disbelief, but that, sadly, is about it. How could the people of Trondheim possibly understand, living such seemingly safe and protected lives, thousands of kilometers away from the daily threat of Palestinian terrorism, what it feels like to see such horror on your own doorstep?

At 2:00pm, Hanadi Jaradat had been able to get past the male guard at the restaurant, who is sometimes reluctant to search women too thoroughly. She made her way to the center of the restaurant and detonated an explosive belt. In that instant, Oren Almog was not only blinded by the blast, he lost two of his grandparents, his father, his brother and his cousin. The Zer-Avivs were all killed. Two families, three generations and 11 more innocent people - killed. Sixty more were wounded.

Both the Almog and the Zer-Aviv family would make painful statements.

"I'm trying to figure out what kind of suffering we're going to go through in the future, because as time goes by, it will be more painful," said a relative of the Almogs.

"I don't have any grandchildren left," said the grandmother to the two Zer-Aviv children.

Compare this to the statement issued by Hanadi Jaradat's father: "I will accept only congratulations for what she did. This was a gift she gave me, the homeland and the Palestinian people. Therefore, I am not crying for her. Even though the most precious thing has been taken from me."

Even more atrocious is the constant media bias to portray these mass murderers in some comparable human capacity to their innocent victims. They are often depicted as blameless, forced to take desperate measures. Any action Israel takes to defend itself against thousands of Palestinian terrorist attacks - by building a security fence or setting up checkpoints - is seen as an affront to the poor, humiliated Palestinians and a violation of G-d-knows-how-many ridiculous United Nations resolutions.

One need wonder why purposely blinding an eleven-year-old boy is never against the Geneva Convention. One needs wonder why the UN, rotten and biased to the core, would pass a resolution protecting Palestinian children; however, it would not adopt the same resolution to protect Israeli children.

For the seemingly pricey cost of defending itself, Israel has now been turned into some sort of pariah state. A never-ending stream of pseudo-romantic intellectuals have, for years, perceived Palestinian plighthood as a fashionable outlet for their desire to latch on to some sort of noble cause.

In recent years, this has manifested itself in any number of boycotts. The most recent being declared the Tr?ndelag County council in Norway, which includes Trondheim, the country's third largest city. Despite no feasible comparison, the council considers the Israeli occupation similar to the apartheid policies adopted by South Africa. One needs ask why the Tr?ndelag County council would consider tainting their beautiful part of the world by getting on the even more pseudo-Palestinian terrorism-apologizing bandwagon.

Oren Almog is 13 today and stands not only as a testament to the resolve of the human spirit, but is just one of the many reasons why Israel deserves its place as one of the most innovative nations in the world. Despite the tragic loss of most of his family on that fateful Saturday afternoon, Oren recently became the youngest competitor to sail his own boat in the first world championship for blind sailors that took place in Italy this July.

Oren said the following of his disability: "For the first time since I was injured, I understood that my challenge in life was not blindness, but sailing. Suddenly, I understood that I could do everything even without seeing. I began hearing sounds I never heard before, to smell smells, to listen and to feel people. I discovered in myself forces I didn't know existed."

Oren will never be able to see the wonders of the Geiranger fjord for himself. Palestinian terrorism took care of that. Many more Israeli children have lost limbs and have prosthetics, which, in some cases, will deprive them of the thrill of learning to ski in the spectacular mountains of Norway.

The Norwegians are probably like most people that live in areas of breathtaking beauty, prone to taking these wonders just a little for granted. The mountains of Trondheim will be covered with snow in the winter. This can, in extreme cases, cause snow blindness, a painful condition usually occurring when unprotected eyes are exposed to too much glaring sunlight reflected from snow. One of the symptoms is loss of vision. Thankfully, it is not usually permanent.

Maybe, if a council member should fall victim to this usually harmless and temporary form of blindness, then they will give a thought to Oren. Palestinian terrorism causes permanent blindness.