Israelis Reflect on an American Tragedy

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- When terrorists struck the heart of America on 9/11, Israelis knew just how it felt. Some understood it was a declaration of war.
Israel was a year into its own war on terror in September of 2001. Palestinian terrorists were aiming guns at passing motorists and suicide bombers were blowing themselves up in public places.
In August 2001, Rachel Ginsberg was living in New York and planning to return to Israel. She was pregnant and her son was due on Sept. 11.

"We were actually buying our plane tickets in Manhattan on the same exact day in August when the Sbarro pizza (restuarant) blew up here in Jerusalem," Ginsberg said. "And my mother said don't go back, don't go to Jerusalem, it's very dangerous."

It was dangerous. More than 170 Israelis and others had been killed in Palestinian terror attacks in the year before September 2001.

Fifteen of those victims were killed in an attack on a crowded Jerusalem eatery, including seven children and an American woman.
The Sbarro pizza place was on a busy corner in downtown Jerusalem. When a suicide bomber blew himself up there, many wondered if it wasn't a dual-strike -- killing Israelis in an American food chain.

A month later it was clear. America was also under attack.

"My reaction was immediately that this is the beginning of a war. It's clear after the attack on the heart of the United States symbolic targets, it will be a war," said Ely Karmon, counter-terrorism expert with the International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism.

CBN News asked Israelis about that day. Ginsberg went into labor on Sept. 11 and then she heard the news.

"It was absolutely surreal because me and my husband are born in New York and we totally didn't believe it," she recalled.

"It was like unbelievable and all the labor stopped and my baby did not come out on Sept.11. I was just in shock and it (my baby) was actually born that Saturday on Sept. 15," Ginsberg said.

Shaul was painting a bathroom that day. He was watching television when he saw the attack on the Twin Towers.

"I got into my van and drove to my friend's house. They live on a mountain top overlooking Manhattan and I watched the tower burn," Shaul said.

"And we were just in disbelief because just a week before we were at their house enjoying the view, and now it was this fiery mess," he said. "Then all of a sudden the tower fell right before my eyes and at that moment I knew the world had changed."

Michael Gross was in Europe at the time.

"I think it brought the reality of Islamo-facist-terrorism home to the rest of the world. We knew a lot about it," he said.

Karmon said after 9/11, al Qaeda trained its sites on Israel.

"At the beginning it didn't influence really Israel. but after the demise in Afghanistan and the Hamas successes in the intifadah (uprisings)  -- suicide bombings -- al Qaeda decided to put the Palestinian problem at the head of their priorities and attack Israeli and Jewish targets," Karmon said.
Karmon said the West has had success in quelling major terror attacks. The question for the future, he said, is whether the uprisings in the Arab world this year will bring more Islamic violence into the region.

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CBN News
Julie Stahl

Julie Stahl

CBN News Mideast Correspondent

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