Mary Katharine Ham

Note: America—and the West as a whole—cannot afford to ignore the battles waged, lessons learned and indignities suffered by the Israelis who share our values and fight to preserve them in the most inhospitable of climates.The following article is from the June issue of Townhall Magazine.  To subscribe to twelve issues of Townhall Magazine and receive a free copy of Andrew Learsy's Over a Barrel: Breaking Oil's Grip On Our Future, click here

In the hilltop neighborhood of Gilo in south-western Jerusalem, the chilly spring wind sweeps up through the town of Beit Jala below, bringing with it the stinging sands of the West Bank.

An eight-foot-high wall takes the brunt of the dusty breeze, as it wings harmlessly up and over the modern barriers of a conflict as ancient as the sand it carries. The wall was built in 2000 to protect Israeli children in their schools from sniper fire from the valley just 100 yards below.

In the days of the second intifada, Gilo was hit 400 times over a two-year period by Palestinian militants, injuring residents and causing major property damage. Palestinian terrorists, moved by Yasser Arafat’s call to arms, had forcibly overtaken the homes and schools of Palestinian Christians in the West Bank town of Beit Jala to send terror into Israel, as indiscriminately as the desert winds that whisper through the quiet valley.

Decorated by Israelis with cartoon animals and idyllic family scenes, the high, concrete sniper wall of Gilo embodies the struggle of a people to protect children while preserving childhood. The wall is a struggle to be both safe and free.

The struggle is the same in Metulla and Qiryat Shemona, where the goal of the Israeli Defense Forces’ Northern Command is to give Israeli citizens near the Lebanon border a “liveable life” within sight of the bright yellow flag of Hezbollah.

The struggle is in the small town of Sderot in southern Israel, where children play soccer on short fields, the better to rush to a bomb shelter. They have only 15 seconds to run when a Code Red alarm warns of another Qassam rocket from the Gaza Strip.

It’s in Tel Aviv, where parents let their children walk out the door, hoping they don’t walk into a club or a bus whose name will live in infamy, such as the Dolphinarium (21 dead, 100 injured in a suicide bombing, 2001) or Bus 5 (22 dead, 50 injured in a suicide attack, 1994).

A Shared Enemy

Mary Katharine Ham

Mary Katharine Ham is editor-at-large of, a contributor to Townhall Magazine.

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