The American Intifada

I made my first trip to Israel in 2003.  Israel’s tourism had suffered from the Intifada as suicide bombers blew up pizza parlors and bus stops.  Before we entered a mall, we were stopped for a security check by a young man in civilian clothes with a ponytail and an Uzi, and cars were stopped and inspected before they entered the parking lot underneath the stores.

There was a security check 20 feet before you entered a restaurant to avoid allowing a potential bomber from charging into a crowded setting.  Even McDonald’s restaurants had uniformed security guards.  Parts of East Jerusalem were off limits to us for security reasons.

Arafat and other Palestinian leaders encouraged and praised young martyrs, their twisted term for suicide bombers.  Dying for a cause became indistinguishable from killing for a cause.

Ambulances were made bulletproof, and BMW motorcycles were specially equipped to bring emergency medical aid through traffic to the victims.

When I returned in 2007, the scene was dramatically improved.  The border wall was largely erected under international protest, and not only did terrorist activity drop sharply, but other less serious crimes on the border towns dropped as well.  East Jerusalem was safe to visit, but we were still warned to stay out of Jericho, visible from the edge of the city.  Modern art sculptures memorialized sites where busloads were murdered during the Intifada.

We are witnessing in America in San Bernardino, Fort Hood, and Orlando a tiny sample of what Israel encountered.  In our country, the population is divided as to whether Orlando was a terror attack or another incident of gun violence.  There was no such lack of clarity in Israel.  As divisive and contentious as Israeli politics has always been, there has been remarkable unity in both identifying and addressing the threat.  Israel has long understood that foreign policy and homeland security must address the same threat.

I noted during my first visit how much the Israelis were like us: energetic, entrepreneurial, innovative, and adaptable.  If we want to contain the American Intifada, we should try to be more like them.

Henry Oliner blogs at