Staff Sgt. Noam Apter was a handsome 23-year-old officer in the
Israeli Defense Force. A scholar and warrior, Apter studied for his rabbinic
degree at the yeshiva in Otniel, a Jewish settlement in the south hills of
Hebron. On Dec. 27, 2002, Apter was learning at the yeshiva with his friends
and comrades while on unpaid leave from the IDF. That night, as the Jewish
Sabbath began, the entire yeshiva sat down to the traditional Friday night
meal, a joyous meal of song and dancing. Apter was on kitchen duty and
brought out the food to over a hundred assembled students in the dining
hall. Three other students, Zvi Ziman, 18, Gabriel Hoter, 17, and Yehuda
Bamberger, 20, were also on kitchen duty.
There was a knock at the back door of the kitchen. Two men in
IDF uniforms and bulletproof vests, their faces obscured by shadow, asked
for a bit of food. The yeshiva students often gave meals to hungry IDF
soldiers guarding the settlement, so the request was nothing unusual. When
the students assented and opened the back door, the two men, armed with
M16s, burst in and began firing -- they were Palestinian terrorists,
disguised in IDF uniforms. Apter, Bamberger, Ziman and Hoter were
immediately struck by bullets.
Noam Apter saw that the door to the dining room was unlocked; if
the terrorists made it to the door, dozens of yeshiva students would be
murdered. With his last burst of strength, Apter sprinted to the door,
locked it and threw the key into a dark corner. The terrorists shot him in
the back. Dying, he fell to the ground and blocked the door with his body.
As Gideon Shaviv, a visiting student from another yeshiva, stated: "The
terrorists murdered four people who were unable to defend themselves.
Apter's actions saved our lives."
Zvi Ziman, Gabriel Hoter and Yehuda Bamberger were buried the
day of Dec. 29. Noam Apter was laid to rest at midnight on Dec. 29 in his
hometown of Shiloh.
On Nov. 21, 2002, Nael Abu Hilail, a 23-year-old Palestinian,
approached an Israeli bus in Bethlehem. Hilail, a member of the Palestinian
terrorist group Hamas and a man with ties to Islamic Jihad, boarded the bus
at a little after 7 a.m. Hilail wore a belt, packed with explosives, as well
as nuts and bolts to aggravate the injuries of the soon-to-be victims. At
7:10 a.m., Hilail detonated, blowing out the bus. Blood and body parts
splattered the bus and the surrounding area; a disemboweled torso lay in
front of the bus -- in all, 11 people died on the spot, and 50 were severely
wounded. Seven of the dead were adults, three were teenagers, and one was an
8-year-old boy on his way to school.
The bomber's father, Azmi, ecstatically proclaimed pride at his
son's "achievement." His 10-year-old daughter stood next to him as he
expressed his joy. "Our religion says we are proud of him until the day of
resurrection," said the terrorist's father. "This is a challenge to the
Zionist enemies." Azmi Abu Hilail expresses the opinion of a vast majority
of the Palestinians. According to the most recent poll, from the Jerusalem
Media and Communication Center, 62.7 percent of Palestinians advocate
suicide bombings, 63.5 percent advocate "military operations" inside
pre-1967 Israel, 75.3 percent agree with armed struggle against Israel, and
47 percent, a plurality, believe the end goal of the intifada is the
complete destruction of the state of Israel.
The contrast between Noam Apter and Nael Abu Hilail is a stark
one. Apter sacrificed his life because he loved life and wanted to preserve
it for others; Abu Hilail murdered 11 people and crippled dozens more
because the Palestinian culture loves death and slaughter.
Israeli settlements are points of light in a vast sea of
darkness. In Hebron, Noam Apter studied in order to teach about God, and
died in sanctification of His Name. In Jenin, Nael Abu Hilail and thousands
like him plan the murder of innocents. Who is the liberator, and who the
The accommodationist left, which does not believe in evil even
while it continues to perpetuate it, feels that light must be restricted
because darkness must be appeased. And so, The New York Times writes in its
New Year's editorial: "Given a magic lamp, we might wish for stable,
responsible democratic regimes in Iraq and North Korea for the new year. But
for an idea that's doable, our foreign policy choice is dismantling Israeli
settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip." France refuses to recognize
marriages conducted by rabbis who live in Judea and Samaria.
The battle over Israeli settlements, and the Arab-Israeli
conflict in general, is about those who love and value life, and those who
worship death. Noam Apter and Nael Abu Hilail personify that struggle. The
rest of the world must choose sides.