On this day in 1974, three PFLP terrorists took over 100 students hostage at a school in Ma’alot and killed 31 when security forces attempted a rescue.
MA’ALOT, ISRAEL – If I were to ask you what your high school (or secondary school) years were like what would your response be?
- Hell on earth;
- I have no idea how I survived;
- Please don’t remind me;
- Great, thanks! Loved ’em!
As an aside please don’t email me with your answers: the question was meant to be rhetorical. Bur for the record, my answer would be d) – seriously!
I am fairly sure that for many high school was a tough slog. We enter at the beginning of puberty, a difficult time to be sure, and have to navigate hormones, relationships, rivalries, cliques and a whole bunch of other stuff. Oh and school courses too – almost forgot!
High school can be a tough time for a teen: imagine having your school attacked by a terrorist group.
I would imagine that for most of us serious violence was not part of our average day at school. Sure, there were fights at school (fight! fight! fight!) and, at least at my school, the odd drug deal (marijuana I assume), but nothing to tremble at. Then again I went to Catholic Central in pedestrian London (Ontario) in the 1970s where not a lot was going on (channeling my inner Corner Gas).
In other places there may have been knife battles or even gangs with guns. But terrorism? Rare I’d bet. Except in a land like Israel.
1974 Ma’alot massacre
On this day in 1974 three members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a radical anti-Israel group, snuck across the border into Israel from Lebanon. Dressed as Israeli soldiers, they made their way to Ma’alot, where they killed three members of the Cohen family — apparently chosen at random — before entering an elementary school that was hosting more than 100 teenagers and teachers from a religious school in Safed for the night.
The terrorists held 115 hostages, including 105 students, and threatened to kill them if Israel did not release 23 prisoners being held on terror charges. For more than 12 grueling hours the young Israelis huddled in a booby-trapped classroom, abandoned by their teachers, until the terrorists turned on them with guns and grenades during a bloody rescue effort by the military. In all 31 students were killed and 70 injured: all three terrorists were shot dead by Israeli forces.
I have given up trying to understand the Israel-Palestine conflict. I think there is enough blame to go around on all sides. But taking students hostage and then killing them? Nope, not acceptable in any circumstance.