Eye on the Middle East Jul/Aug 2004
The family finished their evening meal and gathered in the living room to sing and enjoy a relaxing time exchanging pleasantries and stories. Later Esther put four of their young children to bed before she and her husband, Yaakov, retired for the night.
Hani, fourteen, the eldest of the six children, remained awake. At about 1 A.M. she was alarmed to hear the sound of gunfire outside the house and ran to awaken her parents. Hani realized immediately that a terrorist had infiltrated the community, and she ran through the house screaming for the children to get under their beds. Even more terrifying was the sound of the terrorist attempting to break into their house through a window.
Yaakov picked up his handgun and ran out the door to confront the intruder. He was immediately shot and killed. Meanwhile, Hani picked up her 3-year-old sister and began running toward the secure area inside the house. Before she could reach the room, a bullet struck her Despite her injuries, the 14-year-old managed to drag herself and her younger sister to safety.
The terrorist’s encounter with Yaakov alarmed neighbors who, with Israel Defense Forces security people, shot the man as he ran up the street spraying bullets in every direction. The Hamas terrorist organization quickly claimed responsibility for the attack and extolled the terrorist as a martyr.
While terrorists expressed elation, the seven remaining members of the family of Yaakov Zagha were left without a husband and father. And the legacy of that awful night will be with them for the remainder of their lives. Hani recalls the tragedy:
We understood immediately that it was a terrorist and I screamed to my father. I tried to continue running for the shelter room, but I couldn’t walk anymore because I was injured, so I fell down and crawled to the shelter, with my little sister Tehiya in my arms. If my father hadn’t gone outside, maybe none of us would be alive. People tell me that I saved my ittle sister, but my father was a hero and saved the whole family.
Esther, Hani, and the children stayed in the shelter for twenty minutes waiting for him to return and tell them it was safe to come out. At the time they had no idea what had happened to him.
“He didn’t return the whole time we were waiting,” said Hani. “Slowly I realized . . . ” Her voiced trailed off.
Through this atrocity in April in the Israeli community of Avnei Hefetz in northern Samaria, Yaakov Zagha, 40, an immigrant from Argentina, joined the host of nearly one thousand innocent civilians killed since Yasser Arafat and his terrorist colleagues declared war on Israel more than three years ago.
Such terrorism is not a cottage industry confined to Israel, the Middle East, or Africa. It has become a global business with tentacles spreading all over the world. And while those of us in the West may derive some degree of comfort because the phenomenon appears relegated to half a world away, there is actually no place of refuge. No safe rooms, if you will.
Upon taking office as head of the Hamas, the late Abdel Aziz Rantisi joined Osama bin Laden and other terror kingpins in declaring war on the United States and its citizens. Judging by what happened to the Zagha family, the kind of war Hamas wants to wage is in the living rooms of Americans and our western allies.
The Zagha family in northern Samaria, Israel, is six thousand miles from America. But as things stand in the world today, the Zaghas are practically the people next door. On September 11, 2001, our neighbors died in the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York, on the fields of Pennsylvania, and in the halls of the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
The War on Terror is a real war— relentless, deadly, and personal. And the next time the enemy strikes, it may not be at a neighbor six thousand miles away. It may be in your front yard or mine.