Berhanu and Kidist Bogale are Ethiopian Christians who made Jerusalem their home after fleeing the regime of Ethiopian strongman Haile Selassie nearly 20 years ago. Ethiopians, both Jews and Christians, form a large ethnic community inside Israel. The exiled Christian community, numbering in the hundreds, has several churches in Jerusalem, including two chapels in the Old City's revered Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The Bogales found a haven in Jerusalem's Jewish neighborhood of Gilo after moving out of a predominantly Ethiopian section in the center of town. Israeli neighbors welcomed their two children into local schools.
Now Israel for them is a sanctuary no more. After more than 10 years working at the same hotel, Kidist was laid off earlier this year and he has not been able to find another job. Suicide bombers have chased away tourists, leaving many hotels with too many vacancies. The Bogales' 11-year-old daughter Galila complained that she was afraid to ride the bus to school alone because of terrorist attacks. The Bogales began to make plans to emigrate again-this time to America.
Three weeks ago Galila boarded the Egged 32A bus near the family's home in Gilo for what was to be one of her last days of school. Classmates planned a farewell party for her that day, and she went early, and alone. Her older brother would take a later bus. At an intersection at the bottom of the hill, a Palestinian suicide bomber strapped with explosives boarded the bus and blew himself up, killing 18 others, including Galila.
It was the first suicide bombing in Israel's capital since April, and the most lethal since 1996. Seventeen of those killed on the bus and many of the wounded lived in the Gilo neighborhood, a section of Jerusalem persistently targeted by Palestinian gunmen posting themselves in the nearby predominantly Christian neighborhood of Beit Jala. Conflict in that section of the capital began more than a year ago (see "Unfriendly fire," Sept. 15, 2001). Apartment balconies in Gilo are stacked with sandbags and walls are pockmarked with holes from sniper fire and mortar shellings.
Since Palestinians began their latest intifada, or "uprising," against Israel in September 2000, 2,400 people-nearly all workaday civilians-have been killed. The Palestine Monitor names over 1,700 Palestinian deaths from fighting with Israeli Defense Forces. As of June 30, according to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 563 people have been killed by Palestinian "violence and terrorism."
But the demographics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are not simple. Israel's emergency medical services division reports treating over 4,000 casualties of the terrorism: 483 killed, 358 severely injured, 486 moderately injured, and 2,795 lightly injured (including 11 medics). Israeli Defense Forces report 153 of its own soldiers dead from the fighting in the first six months of conflict this year.
Nor are all victims of Palestinian suicide attacks Israeli Jews. Some have been Arab Christians who live side-by-side with Palestinian Muslims and some-like Galila-are ethnic minorities whose families left behind persecution abroad and once dreamed they had arrived in a new Jerusalem.
The list of dead includes Russian, Ukrainian, and South African immigrants, as well as Bedouins and Arab residents of East Jerusalem. Foreign workers from Romania, Switzerland, and China have been among the victims. In June 2001 Palestinian gunmen killed Greek Orthodox monk Georgios Tsibouktzakis, 34, who was driving in the Judean desert from St. George Monastery.
Last week Mr. and Mrs. Bogales met with an American delegation that included former Republican presidential candidate Gary Bauer. They discussed their ordeal and led visitors in a time of prayer. Since Galila's death, the family reported that Jewish neighbors have offered meals and condolences. Thousands turned out for Galila's funeral, including hundreds of Ethiopians in traditional dress, which was held at a Christian cemetery in an Arab neighborhood of Jerusalem. Nonetheless, the Bogales say it is time to leave Israel for good.
Mr. Bauer told WORLD he hopes to sponsor the Bogales through his church so they may complete the steps for emigration to the United States: "They have a clear need for help beyond what's been done. The people who survive these attacks physically are marred psychologically and their lives are changed dramatically."
Aid to victims of terrorism does exist. But for families caught in the trauma, and particularly for minorities like the Bogales, it is sometimes hard to search out. Israel covers most medical needs through its national health insurance program. And its social security system now provides some stipend to victims of terrorism. Private groups, like the Terror Victims Association, also step in but on a selective basis. With casualties mounting, both government and private charities want to do more.
The city of Jerusalem is now setting up its own program to offer help to victims. Mr. Bauer, who heads the Institute for American Values and the political action committee Campaign for Working Families, said he is part of a coalition "looking for ways to help" in the Middle East conflict. This was his first trip to Israel. He hand-delivered a letter to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, signed by 26 Christian conservative activists, expressing solidarity with Israel in its own war on terrorism. The letter stressed Israel's right to exist and said, "We believe terrorists cannot be appeased and we reject all pressure on Israel to do so." It also said "the suffering of Palestinian Arabs is due to the failure of their leaders to provide any vision for the future, other than hatred of Israel and self-destruction."
Other signers included Focus on the Family president James Dobson, Prison Fellowship Ministries chairman Chuck Colson, and Jerry Falwell. They believe this year's escalation in violence demands that American Christians stand with Israel. "I am puzzled why Americans seem hung up on moral equivalency here," Mr. Bauer said. "I think there is a pretty clear moral call to make, even though there is obviously suffering on both sides."
That show of support from Western Christians will further alienate Arab Christian leaders. They are more likely to side with the Palestinians, who are predominantly Muslim, because, as longtime inhabitants of land inside Israel's borders, they also view Israelis as occupying territory that once belonged to them.
"If it is a God-given state, it cannot start by occupation and by violence," said one evangelical currently pastoring a church in Beirut, who asked not to be identified because of pressure from both sides in the conflict. "Muslims who look at us as evangelicals will assume we are against Palestinians. We are looked at in a politicized way, as if we are pro-Israel because of the loud voice of the pro-Israel lobby in America." On the other hand, he said, "Israel should recognize that it was not established on a violent act of God but by an act of grace."
Outside support is likely to increase-and exacerbate the conflict. Saddam Hussein now pays $25,000 to families of "successful" suicide bombers. Other Palestinians are compensated by the Iraqi dictator, too. Rawhiyya Ilayyan, mother of seven, said she received $10,000 from Iraq to renovate her home in Rafah refugee camp after her husband was killed last September during fighting in the Gaza Strip. Palestinian officials say Saddam Hussein has provided a total of $5 million in aid to Gaza families that have lost family members as "martyrs" in the intifada.
Ibrahim Al-Zaaneen of the Arab Liberation Front said, "I lost a son in clashes with Israeli occupation forces. I received $10,000. Families of martyrdom commandos receive $25,000."
Saudi Arabia is also aiding Palestinians. UPI reports that the government of Saudi Arabia has paid out at least $33 million to families of Palestinians killed or injured in the nearly 2-year-old intifada. The Saudi Committee for Support of the Al-Aqsa Intifada distributes payments of $5,333 to the families of the dead and $4,000 to each Palestinian receiving medical treatment in Saudi hospitals.
At the same time, pro-Israel Christian leaders are stepping up their support for Israel and the Sharon government. The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews is spending $2 million in a grant to assist Jewish immigrants. The first newcomers, 400 immigrants from the United States and Canada, arrived last week (July 9) at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport. Most intend to settle south of Jerusalem at Beit Shemesh. International Fellowship of Christians and Jews founder, Jewish rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, co-chairs Stand for Israel, a media enterprise formed with Ralph Reed, former head of the Christian Coalition. The group is spending $400,000 in print and radio ads targeting conservatives and Christians "to foster greater unity on the paramount issue of Israel while we also shatter the stereotype of Christians as adversaries of the Jewish community."