Mentors to Mass Murderers
By Steven Zak
Students in classrooms were taking exams. Others were registering for classes for the coming semester. Still others enjoyed snacks or meals, alone or in the company of friends. Just an ordinary day on an ordinary university campus. But something wasn’t ordinary. On this day, there was a monster about.
July 31, 2002, the monster left a bomb packed with bolts, screws and nails in a bag on a table in the crowded cafeteria of the Frank Sinatra International Student Center of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. When the bomb exploded, its contents shattered glass, smashed wooden chairs, and ripped through bodies, ultimately leaving 9 dead and 85 injured. The dead included 4 Israelis and 5 Americans. Their names were David Ladowski, Levina Shapira, Maria Bennett, Benjamin Blutstein, Dina Carter, Janis Ruth Coulter, David Gritz, Daphna Spruch, and Revital Barashi.
April 16, 2007, on another campus in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, another monster lurked. Armed with two pistols and deadly intent, he first entered a coed dormitory on the campus of Virginia Tech University and shot and killed two people. Later, he entered an engineering building and killed 30 more and wounded still more.
The motives of the two monsters no doubt differed as did other details of their crimes. The first, an employee of the Hebrew University, also acted at the behest of Hamas, terrorists supported by Iran and now the duly elected “Palestinian” “government.” The second, a brooding student majoring in English, acted alone and had some grievance with “rich kids” and “debauchery.”
This does not make the two crimes or those responsible fundamentally different.
Mass murders all differ in their particulars. And motive isn’t even an element — part of the definition — of the crime. The key element is intent. And the intent of abovementioned two murderers was similar — to bring about mass deaths and mayhem against innocents. The results of such intent were, in both cases, similar: scores dead, injured, distraught, anguished, traumatized.
But while the crime of April 16 feels real, the one of July 31 may seem distant and abstract. Not for reasons of time — one event recent, the other nearly five years ago. But because similar events in places like Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and Madrid and London and Bali and Moscow are reported virtually every day. You read about them in your morning paper. Mass murder has become a daily fact of life.
Some have denied that the phenomenon of mass murder, at least in the United States, is any different now than ever before. They’ve pointed out, for instance, that as far back as 1927, an anti-tax zealot dynamited a schoolhouse in Michigan, murdering 40 children and several adults. Yes, monsters have always lived among us and always will. But 1927 is a long way back to dig for an example.
Consider, by contrast, the ordinariness of mass murders against Israelis, and in particular, a few of many murderous events surrounding the Hebrew University massacre of July 31.
Just weeks earlier on May 7, a mass murderer detonated a bomb in a crowded game club in Rishon Lezion, southeast of Tel-Aviv, killing 16 people and wounding 55 more.
Two days later on May 19, a mass murderer detonated a bomb in a market in Netanya, killing 3 people and injuring 59 others.
Three days later, May 22, a murderer detonated himself in the Rothschild Street pedestrian mall of Rishon Lezion, killing 2 people and wounding 40.
May 27, a murderer blew himself up near an ice cream parlor outside a shopping mall in Petah Tikva, killing a grandmother and her infant granddaughter and injuring 37 others.
June 18, a mass murderer detonated a bomb on an Egged Bus traveling from Gilo to the center of Jerusalem, killing 19 people and injuring 74 others.
The next day, June 19, a mass murderer blew himself up at a bus stop and popular hitchhiking post in northern Jerusalem, killing 7 people and injuring 50 more.
Four days following the Hebrew University massacre, August 4, yet another mass murderer detonated a bomb on an Egged bus traveling from Haifa to Safed in northern Israel, killing 9 people and wounding 50 others.
These acts of mass murder, along with at least a dozen and a half others, all occurred in a single summer.
Many in the United States and elsewhere view such relentless acts of mass murder as somewhat of an abstraction — as if universities and malls and ice cream parlors in Israel are different, alien and, after all, in the center of that age-old “conflict.”
But when it happens here in the USA, so close, in a place so ordinary, reality can’t be denied.
And so TV reports of the multiple murders in Virginia were, understandably, nonstop. Newspapers would soon trumpet headlines like BLOODBATH, underscoring the horrific reality of what had occurred, on an ordinary campus, here at home.
We ought to solemnly remember the victims of the massacre in Virginia. But remember, too, who tirelessly sets the example that makes such slaughter so easily imagined as to — who knows — one day become almost unremarkable .