The story of Hannah and her seven sons is among the most famous of Chanukah. This Chanukah we have another mother, another seven children: Esther Galia was shot dead by Palestinians and her seven children just concluded shiva.
The American media ignored Galia’s death; so did the Jewish media. Even the Israeli papers of Nov. 19 pretty much ignored it: Maariv had the killing on page 8; Yediot Achronot, page 9.
Ten years ago the death of one Jew, Yankel Rosenbaum in Crown Heights — albeit with the added punch given to issues of race in this city — was a front-page shocker, reverberating in newspapers for months, and every anniversary after. Now, as we see from poor Esther Galia, a Jew murdered for the crime of being a Jew isn’t news anymore — even to Jews, even in Israel.
Dead Jews are now only a big story if several Jews die wholesale in one attack; if the dead Jews are children, preferably small; or if Jews are murdered in a new way, like in African flames.
Several papers saw the bombing of the Kenyan hotel, owned by an Israeli, as not just another phase of the Israel-Palestinian war but as part of a global war against the Jews. The New York Post and Newsday (Nov. 29) gave front-page recognition to the murder of “Jewish vacationers” in a “Jewish hotel.”
“This is like the Holocaust, in slow gear,” said one friend of a grieving Israeli family to The New York Times (Dec. 2).
Boycotters, take note: the Times deserves praise for devoting more column inches to this story than any other paper in the free world, outside Israel’s own. The Times quoted the warning of one Israeli father, at the graveside of his two murdered sons: “Everyone who thinks of going to Africa, to Kenya, you’re only in God’s hands.”
Nevertheless, Israeli officials reacted to death in Africa the same as they do to death in Israel: Insist that any place where Jews are killed is safe for Jews to visit. Now it’s one thing to insist that we won’t abandon Hebron or Jerusalem, but the doctrine of the defiant Jewish tourist is now extended to Africa.
A major Kenyan newspaper, the Daily Nation (Dec. 2), quoted Yaacov Amitai, Israel’s ambassador to Kenya: “I hope Israelis will continue flocking to Kenya the way they used to before the tragedy.”
After all, Kenya is safer than Israel. And Jewish leaders are constantly saying that Israel is much safer than the media would have you believe. In fact, the media doesn’t tell you the half of it. Last week, Israel announced that in 27 months of war there have been 4,822 Israelis injured in 15,378 terrorist attacks (through Nov. 24, before Kenya, before the shootings at the Likud polls), an average of 19 attacks a day, more than 200 injured Jews a month. On Kenya’s worst day, Kenyans were going to work, to school, to shop, just like in Israel, and there were only two attacks, so Kenya must be safe.
But while the Israeli ambassador was shilling for Kenya, the pages of Kenya’s own newspapers were filled with ominous warnings every bit as chilling as “Surrender Dorothy” in the sky over Oz.
Does the Israeli ambassador read the Kenya papers? The day before the bombing, Kenya’s East African Standard (Nov. 27) ran a story on Kenya’s lawlessness and corruption, with allegations that Kenya is used as an escape route by genocide suspects from Rwanda, and “drug dealers, gunrunners, tricksters [and] fraudsters” operate in major towns.”
And in the next day’s Standard: “A Muslim cleric who supports Osama bin Laden said on Thursday that Islamic militant groups sympathetic to al Qaeda warned of an attack on Kenya one week ago on Internet chat rooms and e-mails … and they mentioned Israelis.”
The Daily Nation (Dec. 3) revealed that Kenya’s security agencies were warned four times this year about an impending bombing along the Kenyan coast, where the hotel was located, and that Lloyd’s of London insurers reportedly asked whether there was security within a 10-kilometer radius around the airport, where the missile was fired at the Israeli plane.
Yossi Melman in Haaretz (Dec. 1) reported that Germans and Australians were warned to steer clear of Kenya, but “Israel’s advisory process in this field is very flawed,” stated one Israeli official. Warning Jews about Kenya, said Haaretz, had to be balanced with the reality that “Israel must take care not to insult or hurt an African country with which it maintains vital diplomatic, economic and intelligence links.” According to this doctrine, better that Jewish tourists die before Israel “insults” Kenya with a warning.
But in Kenya itself, the threat to Israelis was open. On Nov. 30, Daily Nation columnist Wycliffe Muga described a visit earlier this year to a Mombasa office building where many tenants were moving out because of “frequent bomb threats” made to an Israeli company that shared the premises.
“The owners refused to evict the Israelis,” Muga wrote, so the other tenants were packing up on their own.
An East African Standard columnist, Kwendo Opanga, observed Dec. 1 that everyone in Kenya, “local and foreign, must begin to wonder about their safety,” with “war-ravaged neighboring countries,” with “guns and goons” coming through porous borders, and America and Israel — considered part of the same “snake” by the Arab world — offering choice Kenyan targets.
Yet even in that climate, the Israeli-owned hotel, reported the Daily Nation (Nov. 29), apparently didn’t invest in endearing itself to its Kenyan neighbors. The hotel, said the paper, was embroiled in a lawsuit with locals; was not a member of the Mombasa Coast Tourist Association or the Kenya Hotels Keepers and Caterers; and everyone knew it “exclusively caters for an Israeli clientele.”
Nairobi’s John Munyua wrote in a letter to that same paper (Dec. 2), the terrorists “wanted to kill Jews,” but “it is Kenyans who bore the brunt. … Why do Kenyans have to die for them? The American and Israeli embassies and other areas of interest should be closed immediately.”
An official of the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims said in The Jordan Times (Dec. 1), “if this was done to Israelis alone, it would be a worthy cause.” But the governments of Israel and Kenya say to tourists, wish you were here.
Newspapers like to give readers news you can use, so here’s a tip for tourists from the Associated Press (Nov. 21): When a bus is bombed, “the back of the bus is safest.” Knowing where to sit saved the life of Maor Kimche, 15, who was only wounded, not killed, when the No. 20 bus was bombed in Israel two weeks ago.
The dirt is still fresh on the passengers’ graves, beards are still scratchy on mourners’ faces, but that bus is old news now when Jews are dying so fast.