Thursday, September 11, 2008

11-Sep-08: Remembering the victims of terror

At the UN this week
One of this blog's two authors addressed the United Nations this past Tuesday, September 9, 2008, at the United Nations Secretary-General’s Symposium on Supporting Victims of Terrorism in New York:
Mr Chairman,

Until the Secretary-General's invitation reached me, I never imagined having the extraordinary privilege to speak from this place and to invoke international solidarity while raising my voice in condemnation of terrorism and in support of the campaign against it.

I don't know a more fitting way to reflect (using the words of your invitation) on the human face of the consequences of terrorism than to speak about my daughter.

Malki, my child. Your life ended in a crowded pizza restaurant filled with mothers and children in the center of Jerusalem - the capital city of our country.

Your school holidays were nearly over. You spent them by helping children with special needs, children with disabilities, to enjoy their summer. The pleasure you gained from simple, practical, concrete actions to help others was reflected in the way you looked. The loveliest aspect of your pretty, optimistic face was the smile that almost always adorned it.

And then a young man, not very different in his external appearance from other young men but burning with an inner religious passion to maim and hurt and kill, walked into that restaurant. Unlike today, there was no security guard on duty at the entrance. In those simpler times, we still had not realized the depths to which hatred and intolerance can take a man or a woman.

As a talented musician yourself, you might have noticed him walk alone into the pizza restaurant with a guitar case on his back. Perhaps you were thinking that here was a person capable of bringing pleasure to others, as you yourself so often did. But he was not that sort of person.

Acting in the name of a cause in which he had been instructed to believe, the terrorist faithfully exploded the package on his back. He had no intention of taking strategic control of the pizza restaurant. He did not ask for political concessions from our family, and not even from our government. You and the 130 others who were maimed and murdered by his exploding guitar case were not collateral damage. You were not caught in any cross-fire. You and the other children and mothers were precisely the target of that man and of those who sent him. You were 15 years old.

Malki, your mother and brothers and sisters and I, your community and your nation can never comprehend hatred and intolerance as vicious and powerful as those that ended your life.

We learned from your smile. We were inspired by your love of helping children with disabilities. We established the Malki Foundation in your memory. It gives practical, concrete support to families from every part of Israel's social spectrum - Christians, Jews, Moslems, Druze and others. The more than 2,000 families we have helped in these past few years have in common one thing only: the passion to help their special-needs child.

Like you, the Malki Foundation has no politics. Like you, it optimistically celebrates life, tolerance, the human spirit.

Dozens, hundreds, of other Israeli families who have suffered like us have responded by following the ancient tradition of the Jewish people: when something truly awful enters our lives, we undertake actions that we intend to be constructive and life-affirming.

This does not stop the terrorists. They keep coming. And we know that we absolutely must remain constantly vigilant against them by every possible means.

These personal, positive, humanitarian actions give us a moral basis for continuing our lives. For getting out of bed each morning. For going on after the most unthinkable, man-inflicted tragedy.

Your death, Malki, and our pain were not the end of the struggle to stop the terrorists. They are not even the beginning of the end. Today, terrorism infects nearly every corner of the world. It belongs no less to the present and to the future than to the past.

The challenge to the nations is to find and adopt policies that will end it.

The challenge to individuals, to the victims who endure terrorism, is to find and adopt ways to survive the evil of the perpetrators of terrorism. To reaffirm our humanity, our dignity, our generosity, and our optimism.
The entire proceedings were webcast. Arnold Roth's speech can be viewed via the link below.

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