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Hope's Passing 

Wednesday, Mar 13 2002
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TEL AVIV, ISRAEL -- FOURTEEN ISRAELIS WERE killed in terror attacks and more than a hundred injured last Saturday. The number of Israeli dead in the past two weeks totals nearly 50, just about the same number of Palestinians killed in the Israeli army campaign in Tul Karm. So far, almost 400 Israelis have been killed in the terror attacks of the past 18 months; the Palestinian toll is even higher. In terms of personal tragedy, the pain is beyond human comprehension; in national terms, however, it involves less than a thousandth of a percent of the population. For the sake of comparison, almost twice as many were killed in car accidents in the same period in Israel.

So much hate, so many bombs, missiles and bullets -- yet we have barely managed to scratch one another. The subjective feeling experienced by the members of both nations is absolute fear, not only of dying, but also of being eradicated as a nation -- a longtime Jewish fear, transferred in the past 35 years to our Palestinian neighbors.

Simple arithmetic shows that neither side is going to be erased that quickly. If this war will end only after one of the sides has been destroyed, the two nations would have to repeat the cycle of violence of the past year and a half for 1,500 years. And that wouldn't do it, either. In the meantime, more Israeli soldiers and new Palestinian suicide bombers would have been born. Therefore, despite the fear, we really have nothing to worry about. As far as history is concerned, both sides can bleed the other dry for ever and a day, and still continue to survive. Nations tend to survive. What seems to be gone forever is hope for coexistence. It has been suffering mortal wounds for more than a year, but after the past week, the fearful on both sides are finally willing to confirm its death.

  Etgar Keret is the author of The Bus Driver Who Wanted To Be God & Other Stories. This piece was translated from Hebrew by Rachel Avital.

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