The Arab-Israel Conflict: Heroes

Our heroes and theirs.

Paula R. Stern

OpEds Paula Stern
Paula Stern

At a recent ceremony, 53 soldiers were honored as heroes. I listened to a partial description of the actions that caused them to be recognized as I drove to a customer and thought about our heroes and theirs.

The highest honor was given to an Israeli officer who entered a tunnel armed only with a gun because a soldier had been kidnapped and Lieutenant Eitan believed he had a chance of saving him. What he saw, sadly, was Hamas fighters dragging the dead body of Hadar Goldin back towards the hell that is Gaza. He was not honored for killing, certainly not innocents - he was honored for having the bravery to risk his life and enter the unknown and in so doing, save a family from the psychological torture, the Hamas game they played with Gilad Shalit for five years and the Regev and Goldwasser families for two years.

Yesterday, there was a terror attack in Tel Aviv - one Arab stabbed 13 people after going into a bus during rush hour. There were 70 people on the bus. The terrorist, a Palestinian from Tulkarem, stabbed and critically injured the bus driver. Even hurt, 62-year-old Herzl Biton sprayed pepper spray at his attacker, and opened the back doors of the bus, allowing dozens to escape. As the terrorist left him to attack others, Biton slammed on the breaks of the bus, unsettling the terrorist for critical seconds that further helping others to escape. Today, Herzl Biton is our hero.

The army honored another soldier who used his body to protect a soldier from a fragmentation grenade and risked his life to help evacuate wounded soldiers.

Another soldier, in the midst of a battle, continued to shoot at the enemy while wounded soldiers around him were being evacuated. When he ran out of ammunition, he grabbed the gun of one of the wounded soldiers and continued to fire while also helping to treat the wounded. And, if that wasn't enough, he himself was wounded during these actions. He too is our hero today.

Another hero today is a young boy - only 13 years old. He was on his way to high school when a terrorist boarded the bus Herzl Biton was driving. After stabbing the driver, the terrorist made his way to the back of the bus, attacking passengers. Young Liel ran to the back of the bus, searching for a way to escape. As the terrorist approached him, Liel threw his backpack at the terrorist to slow him down - he too is a hero in Israel today.

These are the heroes of Israel - men, women, and children - people who reached out in time of crisis to help others. Good people, many of them seemingly in the wrong place at the wrong time and reaching beyond themselves.

And who are the heroes of our enemies?

Well, Hamas says their heroes are the ones who attacked the Charlie Hedbo newspaper headquarters in France and butchered 12 people; the man who murdered four innocent men in a kosher supermarket in Paris. Samir Kuntar is their hero...he murdered two Israeli children. The men who kidnapped and murdered three Israeli teens this summer - more heroes.

Who are the heroes of Islam?

Yesterday, once again, the Palestinians answered. Hamza Muhammad Hasan Matrouk is their hero, not because he did anything to help another individual, not because lives were saved. He's their hero because he went on a commuter bus in the heart of Tel Aviv during rush hour - to murder people simply because they are Jews, simply because they are Israelis. Because he did it with maximum brutality and minimum mercy.