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Allau Akbar and a Bang
By Ilya Feoktistov

A rare rain falls, wetting the ancient dust of a holy land and the sun rises as people gather at the entrance of a mall. Many are mall employees late for work, forced to drive through checkpoint after checkpoint set up along all the Israeli roads like beads on strings. The checkpoints are temporary, a first response to a terror alert from the territories, but so many other checks and searches are as integral to Israel as Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. They might be annoying and oppressive, but they are the lesser evil to that which emanates from nearby.

The mall security guard checks everyone's bags, prying into their private lives, violating them for the sake of preserving life. Some think to themselves, "Jews don't blow themselves up at the mall. Why are we searched?" A fleeting thought that appears instinctively after a lifetime of searches. Everyone gets checked in Israel. Both Jew and Arab will have to wait.

The throng loiters, unsuspecting, as they do every morning. Yet this morning is different. A physical manifestation of the collective hatred of people living only kilometers away, an embodiment of a collective desire to annihilate their neighbors, a suicide bomber has reached his target. The bomber knows he cannot enter the mall because the well-trained guard will stop him, but no matter. There is enough flesh and blood for him to rip and spill on the outside. In a savage irony, people are put into harm's way by the very process that is supposed to make them safe.

No one has noticed the Arab's zombie shuffle, the glazed look in his eyes, the self-imposed abnegation of all traces of humanity as he comes closer and closer to self-annihilation. It is too late. He springs forth, suddenly completely animated, never more alive as he fulfills his destiny as a murder tool in the hands of his handlers, in the hands of his organization, in the hands of his people.

Allahu Akbar and a bang.

The bomber's head flies toward the skies, hoping to reach paradise but landing into a muddy puddle, as ball-bearings and nails, dipped in poison and intermingled with his entrails, fly toward the people around him. Blood is ubiquitous, covering motionless bodies, torn limbs and the personal effects of the victims -- a mobile phone soon to ring with the frantic calls of relatives, a purse with a picture of a lover, a baby carriage lying on its side.

Israel mourns.

A few kilometers away there is a celebration. Towns, villages, neighborhoods and streets are teeming with happy Palestinians -- dancing, giving out candy, laughing. The sounds of "Allahu Akbar," "Death to the Jews" and a potpourri of other vocalizations of pure hatred, pure blood-lust and pure sin reach toward a weeping heaven.

In a few weeks, something will be named in the bomber's honor. Perhaps a border crossing like the newly-opened one between Gaza and Egypt, named after the 2004 killer of five Israelis, Moayed al-Agha. Possibly a national poetry collection like the one published in Aug. 2005, in honor of Hanadi Jaradat, who killed 21 Israelis in a Haifa restaurant. Maybe an elementary school soccer tournament, like the 2003 Abdel-Basset Odeh Games in honor of the bomber who murdered 29 elderly Israelis at a Passover Seder. Concerts, schools, parks, summer camps, ad nauseum. All have been honored with the names of the most glorious hero martyrs of the Palestinian nation.

Oh, and what a peaceful nation it is, most deserving of its own state. Before the checkpoints, the raids and the assassinations, before the demolished houses and the crippled economy, before the Israelis made them pay a price for every slaughtered Jew, 72 percent of the Palestinians supported suicide bombings. Today, after all the hardships and tribulations, the karma and the vengeance, fear has begun to overtake hate. "Only" 49.7 percent support them now. But it is not because the death of a Jewish baby is no longer seen as a glorious national achievement, or because the cry of its grieving Jewish mother has aroused a dormant sympathy beneath the hard crust of hate. It is because, as their moderate, peace-loving and Holocaust-denying leader insists after every one: "Suicide bombings hurt the national interests of the Palestinian people." Who else do they hurt, Mr. Abbas? Dear Palestinian people, who else do they hurt?

Two days after the bombing, a teen walks through an alley covered with posters of the latest glorious martyr. The feelings inside the teen's heart are as complex as were the efforts to create them by all aspects of his society. There is pride in the achievement of the national hero. There is satisfaction at the number of his Jewish victims. There is envy of the martyr's fame. There is determination.

He prays to Allah and heads west, hiding his heavy belt under a bulky jacket.

Posted on January 26, 2006
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