- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 26, 2001

HEBRON, West Bank With each passing week, the adults bury another child, sometimes two, sometimes more.
Two weeks ago, there were eight. The youngest was 3 years old. He arrived decapitated at the hospital morgue.
Since fighting began 15 months ago, at least 196 children have been killed 36 Israelis, 160 Palestinians. They account for about 20 percent of all casualties. Some are rock throwers struck down by bullets, others are bystanders walking to school or to a place of worship or sitting on a father's lap.
In a place where hourly radio reports update the day's death toll, the children's stories often are told in a sentence. They are statistics, nameless victims discarded with tomorrow's news of more fighting and more deaths.
But the children are not soon forgotten by their parents or playmates, who are left to ponder why and how a young life could be wasted. The answers usually stoke the rage and hatred that fuel this bottomless conflict.
"There is grief in my heart. They killed my dearest son," said Muna Arafi, the Palestinian mother of 13-year-old Shadi, who was killed by an Israeli missile that missed its target, a Palestinian militant. Shadi was sitting in a taxicab on a thoroughfare in Hebron with his father, a cosmetics salesman, when the missile exploded on the pavement next to them. Shadi was hit in the neck by shrapnel and died seconds later. His father survived.
"God has chosen him. I ask solace from God," his mother said. "God should burn them as they burned my heart. I ask God to punish the Jews."
Her hazel eyes filled with tears.
She sat on her bed in a cramped apartment a few blocks from where the missile struck. Outside the bedroom door, about two dozen Muslim women, all wearing hijabs, traditional kerchiefs, and long robes, sat on plastic chairs in a circle, many silently reading the Koran. A framed Arabic script the 99 names of Allah hung on the wall.
"It was like the day of resurrection," Mrs. Arafi, 32, said of hearing the explosion from her home, then receiving word from the hospital a short time later that her son was among the dead. "The moon is falling down, the land is opened."
Another missile, fired seconds later, killed 3-year-old Burhan Himouni, but also spared the man the Israeli army was trying to assassinate.
Two days later, a 13-year-old Jewish boy was killed. Like Shadi, he was the second oldest of five children.
Yair Amar lived in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish settlement of Emmanuel, a poor, quiet hilltop community of 3,500 people in the West Bank, within sight of Arab villages.
The boy was sitting on a bus returning for a Hanukkah vacation from his yeshiva (Jewish religious school) in northern Israel, when Palestinian gunmen set off a roadside bomb, then attacked the bus with bursts of gunfire. Yair survived at first, but rescuers retreated as the snipers kept firing. When the shooting stopped, 10 persons, including Yair, were dead.
"We never get angry at the deeds of God. But we will try to ask what was wrong," Oren Amar, the boy's father, said from beneath his thick beard. Then he added, "The people who did it: These are not people this is how we think of them."
Mr. Amar, 39, his head covered by a tasseled prayer shawl called a talis, was sitting shiva a seven-day mourning period surrounded by male family members and friends in a tiny apartment with cracked plaster walls. A man with a long white beard sat near a window, murmuring recitations from the Torah. In another room, Mr. Amar's wife, Ora, 37, was also sitting on the floor, in a circle of Jewish women.
Their rabbi, Yitzak Anabi, was shuttling between the men and women, separate by religious tradition. Visitors brought sweets. A woman stood at the stove, stirring a large pot of chicken soup. A baby cried, and few people spoke at all.
"It will take a very long time to finish the hatred that has taken place. We're crying all the time for what has happened," said Mr. Anabi, an intense, bespectacled religious leader and educator, who serves the Emmanuel families who trace their roots to Yemen.
"There was a time that we thought we didn't have to make war. But peace we think will never happen," Mr. Anabi said.
Both boys, Shadi and Yair, were good students, their parents said. They also described an inner strength and generous spirit that made them favorite sons. Now, the families mirror each other in their mourning.
The parents and their friends and relatives at both homes said they now live in constant fear of when and where terror might strike next.
"Anybody who leaves the house is missing until he comes back," said a woman who was comforting Mrs. Arafi. "Shadi left and never came back."
But the stricken Palestinians and Israelis struggled to see beyond their own grief to those grieving on the other side.
"My son is innocent, and their children are innocent." Mrs. Arafi said, adding, "We cry more."
If anything, the deaths of the two boys seemed to deepen hostility and distrust.
"It gives me satisfaction that we as Jewish people can't do the things that they are doing to us," Mr. Amar said. "They die because of accidents, not because we come to kill them."
"It's difficult to live in coexistence with the ones who killed your son," Mrs. Arafi said. "I cannot live with killers." She said her people's struggle would continue until "Palestine is liberated."
"This is not their land, this is our land. They are not listening to us," she said.
Rabbi Anabi said the roots of the conflict are "something deeper."
"It's in their nature," he said. "They don't like Jews."
Only one family has left Emmanuel since the attack, Mr. Anabi said.
"We can't imagine living in another place because it's a big family," said Mr. Amar, the bookkeeper for the settlement council. "Even if they gave me a place free of charge, we would not move, even after all this."
A Hebrew blessing was framed on the wall. "In this apartment no troubles will come," it read.
"Now," Mr. Anabi said, "look what troubles we have."

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