Biblical David’s lamentation over the loss of his beloved friend Jonathan is one of the most poignant in all the Bible:
And David lamented with this lamentation over Saul and over Jonathan his son and said…Thy beauty, O Israel, upon thy high places is slain! How are the mighty fallen!…Ye mountains of Gilboa, let there be no dew nor rain upon you, neither fields of choice fruits; for there the shield of the mighty was vilely cast away, the shield of Saul, not anointed with oil. From the blood of the slain, from the fat of the mighty, the bow of Jonathan turned not back, and the sword of Saul returned not empty. Saul and Jonathan, the lovely and the pleasant in their lives, even in their death they were not divided; they were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions. Ye daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, who clothed you in scarlet, with other delights, who put ornaments of gold upon your apparel. How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle! Jonathan upon thy high places is slain! I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan; very pleasant hast thou been unto me; wonderful was thy love to me, passing the love of women. How are the mighty fallen, and the weapons of war perished!
When I read stories like the following from yesterday’s Haaretz, I feel such a sense of emptiness and utter hopelessness that I think back to passages like the one above to help make a small amount of sense out of such senseless loss of young life:
A day after the Asliyeh sisters, Samah, 13, and Salwa, 18, were killed in an Israel Air Force bombing, their grandfather, Mohammed, was hospitalized Sunday. His blood pressure rose and his sons were afraid he would collapse.
The horrifying images of the girls’ charred bodies were broadcast over and over Saturday on Al Jazeera, and Mohammed found himself the unwilling center of Arab and Palestinian media attention. TV cameras were rolling when he and his wife, the girls’ grandmother, reached the smoke-filled room, minutes after the blast, and were pushed back by the men inside to keep them from seeing the terrible sight.
…The father, Zidan, 42, still cannot digest what happened. For years he lived there with his 12 children, next door to his brother Diab’s family. They had almost no trouble. Diab even has a work permit for Israel (which he can expect to lose, now that he is in the category of those whose relatives were killed by the Israel Defense Forces). Like many of his relatives, Zidan used to work on the other side of the border, and still has many Jewish acquaintances.
“Plasterer. That was my profession by you, in Rehovot, in Ashkelon. I always thought you wanted peace, but what did you do? What did you do?! You slaughtered my two girls,” he says.
He bursts into tears. Salwa had begun medical school this year and dreamed of becoming a doctor. Samah stayed home from school because of the situation.
…Zidan and his wife were away from home, in Jabalya, when it happened…I got a phone call from my sisters, who told me, ‘Come quick, they bombed the house and your two daughters were killed.’ I saw their bodies when I arrived. What can I tell you? It’s horrific.”
He describes the sight in detail, then says: “Did they shoot at anyone? Where they armed? Jewish friends from Israel telephoned me with condolences, but the Jews bombed us when the girls were sitting at home. It’s inconceivable.”
Zidan’s brother describes the events: “We kept hearing planes in the air and tanks, so we decided to bring the whole family, mine and Zidan’s, down to the courtyard between the two houses, where we felt safer. But the two girls took too long upstairs. We heard a first ‘boom’ when a missile landed near the house, followed by a second missile that hit the bedroom window.”
He ran upstairs and saw the carnage. “I shouted, ‘Samah, Samah,’ but there was only severed limbs. If you had seen the sight you would’ve wept. The missile burned everything there.”
Diab, a former volunteer with Magen David Adom in Ashkelon, cannot grasp what happened. “There are no gunmen here. We wouldn’t let them near. There are more than 20 children here. We don’t want trouble and don’t like it, but why did they shoot at us? What did we do to deserve this?”
Indeed, what did they do to deserve this? All I can say in echoing David is “how the innocent have fallen.” And if you haven’t had your fill of heartbreak, read this equally moving story about another Gaza family which lost two young children in equally disturbing ways. Israel has lost one civilian in recent rocket attacks and a young child has lost a limb. Compare that to 100 Gazans killed in five days with somewhere near half being civilians. And Olmert chafes at Ban Ki Moon when he calls Israel’s actions “disproportionate?” Who is he kidding except himself?