It has often been said that the most appropriate definition of a terrorist is “simply an individual that is willing to give your all for his cause.” Once again this became painfully true in two African cities thought to be far and away from the focus of international politics and the accompanying parasite of urban terrorism.
In the midst of this carnage there are acts of compassion that give hope.
The August 17 issue of Time magazine depicts the latest episode in its article “Terror in Africa.” “When terror strikes, it always tears through the comforting screen of normality. One moment, mid-morning shoppers and workers bustle along Nairobi’s Haile Selassie Avenue at the downtown corner where a bronze eagle and a fluttering flag mark the five-story U.S. embassy. The next, the earth trembles as a thunderclap unleashes a mighty shock wave. Seconds later, black smoke plumes into the sky as the tarmac ignites, flashing fire to parked cars and passing buses. The blast shatters every window in a quartermile radius into lethal slivers, blows the bombproof doors off the embassy, sucks out ceilings and furniture and people, pancakes a seven-story building next door into a mountain of rubble.
Thousands of innocent people are injured, and more than a hundred die, including 11 Americans. Nearly 450 miles away in Tanzania, at almost exactly the same time, a vehicle drives into the sunny grounds of the U.S. embassy in a residential quarter of Dar es Salaam and explodes, wrecking the entrance, blowing off parts of the building’s right side and setting cars ablaze. Seven Tanzanians are killed, and 72 hurt.
Two bombs with a single message: don’t forget the world’s superpower still has enemies, secret, violent and and determined. America is ever a target, it’s embassies and installations abroad inviting symbols of its power.
“See,’ say the bombers, “despite your enormous wealth and strength, we can still inflict a great hurt.’”
Author Johanna McGeary concludes her report with the sober assessment, “That is the nightmare message the terrorists intended to stamp upon the minds of Americans.
However hard you come looking for us, we will always be out there, planning and plotting to hit you again, sometime, someplace!”
Israeli Specialists Join Rescue Effort
But the good news out of a sad story is that once again, surrounded by adversity, some people made a specific choice to make a positive difference. In the midst of this carnage there are acts of compassion that give hope. One of the great dramas taking place has been the miraculous precision-like rescue effort of the Israeli Rescue Squad that has saved a number of victims from a suffocating death. As Marjorie Miller, Los Angeles Times staff writer stated in her August 10 entry: “Israeli troops began arriving about 4 p.m., Saturday, having obtained a rabbi’s sanction to work on the Jewish Sabbath in an effort to save lives. They came with years of experience, truckloads of high-tech equipment and eight working dogs, each with a Star of David emblazoned on its leather harness.”
What truly makes this remarkable is the timing! Currently, Israel is suffering major diplomatic setbacks around the world—including Africa—because of it’s perceived slow initiation of the Oslo Accords pertaining to its relationship with the Palestinians.
No “welcome mat” is laid out on the African continent for the Israelis. Even more significant is the fact that both of the victimized countries have a large Muslim presence.
Some skeptics say the reasons for the Israeli entrance is merely political, while other kinder observers sense that it is a form of “payback time” to Kenya for long ago allowing Israel to use it as a base for the daring raid on Entebbe Airport to rescue Jewish highjack victims back in 1976. But as Marjorie Miller brings out in her article:
To the average Kenyans, the “why’ of the Israeli effort is beside the point. To them, the important fact is that about 200 Israeli soldiers arrived to help before anyone else did.”
Unselfish Israeli Action Touches Kenyans
“ISRAELIS STEP IN,” the Nairobi Times heralded in a huge front-page headline. “We are grateful for these guys,” said Elizabeth Njoroge, a Red Cross volunteer who had been wringing her hands over the poor rescue attempt the day before. She goes on to say, “We could not have done anything single-handedly.
In our culture, when you lose someone in the family, people come to stay with you. The Israelis have come to stay with us.”
The Israelis’ ability to serve others did not come all at once. The Los Angeles Times article goes on to share how they honed their skills after earthquakes in Mexico and Armenia, bombs in Argentina and scud missile attacks at home in Israel. Now, world experts at rescuing the living from rubble and recovering the dead, Israeli “know-how” has rescued three lives. “Know-how” cannot be overstated.
As some front line rescuers shared: “Our first mission was to get them out. The situation was delicate. If you touch one beam, you can kill someone 5 meters away.”
Nothing came easily. There were no floor plans of the Ufundi building, but they studied a hand-drawn map of the top floor that someone had made, then brought in the dogs and heavy equipment. They raised lights that would allow them to work through the night and turned on listening devices so sensitive they could detect a buried finger tapping or the whispered cry of a dying man.
Making a difference does not come easily. One rescuer observed that many of the victims died from the sheer force of the blast. “It tears you up inside” was the lament of another rescuer. It also takes time and sensitivity. “Most of the digging you do by hand,” Lt. Alon Seren said. “You have to dig by hand so you won’t drill into someone underneath.
I was digging by that ladder over there. I saw some blood, dug some more and saw some more blood. That’s how you find people.”
Not Heroes—Just Doing Their Job
Last Sunday one of the Red Cross volunteers shouted at the Israelis, “You are heroes.” One of the officers, Major Ofer Pomeranz answered with a modest shrug, “We are not heroes. We are only working.”
As Christians each of us have a work to do. Our good example always speaks louder than our good arguments.
The apostle Peter put it this way in 1 Peter 2:15 1 Peter 2:15For so is the will of God, that with well doing you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:
American King James Version×, “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.” Sometimes that doesn’t happen over night. Sometimes it is built up over a period of time, “brick by brick,” with the same caring sensitivity that the Israeli Rescue Team exhibited in dealing with the broken lives of those hurt in the terrorist blast.
Good relations don’t happen overnight. The Israeli aid to Nairobi did not just happen.
It developed over a period of time in Buenos Aires, Tel Aviv and Armenia. Their “knowhow” was essential. They were ready, and more importantly they made themselves available.
Zechariah 8:23 Zechariah 8:23Thus said the LORD of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you.
American King James Version×states: “Thus says the LORD of hosts: “In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying,”Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.”’” Why will they grab his sleeve? Will it be because of what he knows because of his training in the future Jerusalem, or will it be because of his practical ability to relate with the immediate needs of others? Let’s notice that in the future it will not simply be individual Jewish men, but Israel as a nation will be in a goodwill alliance with nations that have been its historical enemies.
Isaiah 19:24-25 Isaiah 19:24-25 24 In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the middle of the land:
25 Whom the LORD of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my inheritance.
American King James Version×describes a different world order— the real New World Order—in which God is fully involved, “In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria and the Assyrian will come into Egypt and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians will serve with the Assyrians. In that day Israel will be one of three with Egypt and Assyria—a blessing in the midst of the land, whom the Lord of hosts shall bless, saying, “Blessed is Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My Hand, and Israel My inheritance.’”
What a wonderful time to look forward to when such acts of cooperation are not isolated, but will become the “norm” among nations. We see that what the Israelis and the Africans experienced is a type—a small type—of the reality of the world under the guidance of Jesus Christ.