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My week in Jerusalem when rockets fell on the Holy City

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    Nov. 17, 2012: Explosion and smoke rise following an Israeli strike in Gaza, seen from the Israel Gaza Border, southern Israel. (AP)

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    Nov. 16, 2012: Israelis take cover inside a staircase during a siren alerting from a rocket thought to have been fired by Palestinian militants from the Gaza Strip, at a hospital in Jerusalem. (AP)

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    Nov. 16, 2012: Israeli security forces search for a rocket thought to have been fired by Palestinian militants from the Gaza Strip in Jerusalem. (AP)

Jerusalemites have an age-old custom of ushering in the holy Sabbath a full 36 minutes before sunset -- earlier than anywhere else in the world. So last Friday eve, I rushed through the Old City's Arab Souk, weaving my way past Christian pilgrims, Korean tourists and Israeli bargain hunters to reach the Kotel, aka the Western Wall. There, under the joyful guidance of a Jerusalemite Rabbi who spends the other six days tending to autistic children, I was about to usher in 25 hours of cellphone and Facebook-free bliss.

At the wall, the only remnant of the Second Temple, Friday night prayers are all about joy, singing and yes -- even dancing -- co-mingling black-frocked Chasidim, with freshly scrubbed students from across Europe and North America.

Lecha Dodi is the medieval poem with which we welcome the Sabbath Queen.

"Come in peace... come in joy accompanied by you faithful..." rings out its final line.

But this Friday night, any thoughts of peace or spirituality was erased in a nanosecond. First a piercing siren, followed by escalating bullhorn pleas from police prodding hundreds of the faithful to leave the open plaza of prayer and rush for cover in the entrances to the ancient underground Western Wall Tunnels.

There we were, two grandfathers looking at each other for a long moment silently reflecting on the same question:  What will it take for our grandchildren to be able to live peace?


On this Sabbath at least, the profane defeated the Holy. Hamas had chosen to add to its deadly rocket barrages a city sacred to three faiths.

Later that evening, when I reached my daughter's home in West Jerusalem's Rehavia neighborhood, we adults were suddenly confronted with pointed questions from five clearly shaken grandchildren.

"Zeide, why did Bubbie and Eema rush us to the bottom of the staircase?"

"Why are the sirens so loud?"

"When will the next Azaka (alert) come?"

"Why are they trying tohurt us?"

Why indeed.

Go explain Hamas to a child in Sderot, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Beersheba, and now, both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Go ahead adults, explain to them, why did the world allow these religious terrorists to amass thousands of rockets and to deploy them from amongst their own unwilling civilians; how it is that NGOs, Christian activists and tenured professors still bestow the mantel of victimhood on thugs who hide behind the skirts of women and in bunkers under hospitals; how come so many in the international media depictsuicide bombings and thousands of Hamas rocket attacks as legitimate responses to Israeli "occupiers" who occupy not one millimeter of the Gaza Strip?

Most of all, where to begin to explain to children the ferocity of the  Muslim-Brotherhood's-inspired genocidal screeds against Jews and Judaism, a hatred not seen in the world since Nazi Germany.

But this is not 1938 or 1942. In 2012, the Jews have a democratic state and a military that deploys drones -- not to carpet-bomb the innocent and guilty -- but to efficiently target murderous terrorists.

Clearly, the Israeli street has had enough. Having a million citizens under constant threat of Hamas bombardment for months, even years, help account for unprecedented 95% support--left, right, and center-- for Prime Minister Netanyahu's bold Gaza move. 

But the horrors unfolding next door in Syria and the targeting of minorities in the region have also deeply impacted Israelis. The attack on Hamas' terrorist infrastructure signals the world that Israelis will not subcontract the safety of their kids or mortgage their future to the whims of a cynical and uncaring international community...

The morning after the two rockets fell in the Jerusalem area, I spoke to a friend who is the maître de at the King David Hotel. I asked him what his Friday night was like in East Jerusalem. He lamented how his granddaughter started shaking with fright by the wailing of the sirens.

There we were, two grandfathers looking at each other for a long moment silently reflecting on the same question:  What will it take for our grandchildren to be able to live peace?

I wish I had the magic formula but I don't. But this past Friday eve in Jerusalem confirmed one unshakeable truth: Peace will never be possible in the Holy Land unless and until the evil that Hamas personifies is uprooted and their power to unleash needless death and destruction among Jews and Arabs, is permanently removed.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper is associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. Follow the Simon Wiesenthal Center on Facebook and on Twitter.