JWR Wandering Jews

Jewish World Review May 29, 2002 / 19 Sivan, 5762

ITAMAR DIARIST



Giving "sudden death game" a new meaning


http://www.jewishworldreview.com | The world continues to focus on whether the LA Lakers will make a last minute come back in the NBA playoffs. Some would call theirs, a "life or death" situation.

It's isn't, of course. At least, not really.

On the other side of the world, in this hamlet in what used to be the desert, the nightly study session (seder) for the 10th and 11th grade boys at the Yeshiva High School here ended about 10: 30 PM last night. Dovid, 14, had just finished his daily Talmud study in the lecture hall. Like virtually all Jewish religious schools, these teens' curriculum includes Bible, ethics, and spirituality; works instructing one to be upright, kind and compassionate.

Some of Dovid's fellow students had missed the regular 8 PM Maariv (evening) communal prayer. Instead of skipping the set recitations -- or uttering them privately -- the boys decided to convene their own service at their high school.

It may have saved their lives.

While the services were being held, another student, Eitan, 15, had organized a basketball game between the 10th and 11th graders at the outdoor court. Nobody would confuse it with the beauty and splendor of the LA Staples Center, where the Lakers were trailing the Kings. But the boys did not mind playing on the asphalt -- and broken -- court with no net. There simply is no other area here to play on that's illuminated.

At 11 PM, the basketball match began in Itamar, about the same time that the Lakers were practicing for Game 5 on the West Coast. For the boys, it was a time to "let loose" some energy. For the Lakers, there was big money -- and more fame -- at stake.

As the boys were guarding each other on the basketball court, Eitan tried to shoot a 3 pointer. There were cheers. There was excitement And then there was shooting.

Bullets, not baskets.

From the shadows, a terrorist appeared and opened fire with his Peres-issued M16 rifle.

He took aim at the yeshiva boys --- both on and off the court.

The terrorist killed three players immediately. The other boys began to scurry, just as their great grandfathers used to run from the Nazis in Europe. This was Israel 2002 and Jewish boys were still running from Nazis.

As if he were on a human fox hunt, the terrorist gave chase and attempted to kill as many teens as possible.

Four of the boys from the game were able to make it to their teacher's house. They hid in closets and under beds.

Eitan, the game's organizer, was wounded. But he managed to dial his mother on a cell phone. ''A terrorist is shooting at us. I've been hit," he forced himself to moan.

He was not finished. Eitan then ran to the soldiers in the adjoining building who did not know what was happening until his screams alerted them.

Itamar's security guard, Arieh Kleiman, fired at the terrorist but "only" managed to wound him.

The school's dean, (Rosh Yeshiva), Rabbi Nitzan Yamin, is a Major (res.) in the Israel Defense Forces paratroopers. It was he, who got close enough to take out the terrorist.

The PLO has been under "pressure" to stop its terror attacks inside the Green Line. Last night's basketball game massacre was not the only terrorist act of the day. Avraham Maloul, 50, was murdered on the road near Ofrah, as he traveled in his cousin's car en route to Jerusalem, leading one to presume that the PLO strategy of the endorsing the killing of Jews beyond the "Green Line" is active again.

As it happens, one of the murdered boys was visiting Itamar for the first time. He had come to the religious school here to "try out" for next semester. In fact, he had told his parents that morning that he decided he wanted to enroll. He just wanted to stay overnight to see if the dormitory would be to his liking.

He will be buried, as will the other two teens, before Maariv prayers are recited tonight in Israel. Killed, were they, by a terrorist who has given "sudden death game" a new meaning.

  —   Harvey Tannenbaum

Comment on JWR contributor Harvey Tannenbaum's dispatch by clicking here.


© 2002, Harvey Tannenbaum