While you were watching the devastating quake in Japan
Something hideous happened in Israel. A family of five were murdered in their home and that was just the beginning.
It was the wee hours of Saturday morning over in east Asia. Half a day earlier, an earthquake that measured 8.9 on the Richter Scale hit northern Japan. It triggered a tsunami within an hour that washed over the affected areas.
At that point in time, the damage done was still unclear. News was still trickling in. Fires were raging at the oil refineries. A dam had broken, aggravating the situation. There was some concern about Japan's nuclear plants.
At about the same time in Israel, the religious prepared for the Jewish sabbath. In Itamar, a Jews-only settlement, a family was at home. The father, the mother and their three children. Soon, they would be stabbed to death by intruders.
The Israeli media showed photographs of the victims in their reports. There was the old picture of four-year-old Elad with his tiny religious skullcap and wisps of dirty blond hair falling down the sides of his face, looking up at the camera, grinning. He looked like he hadn't even got his full set of teeth.
There was also Hadas, just three months old. That's when they are starting to recognise faces and be curious about the world around them. They are a joy to be around at this age.
The family of five was killed not long after they had finished their evening meal. A plate of chicken bones was still lying on the dinner table. It is hard to even begin to imagine how one lifts a knife and stabs a three-month-old, or a four-year-old, or even a ten-year-old, like Hada's and Elad's older brother Yoav. But someone did. It's suspected to be the work of Palestinian terrorists.
Tamar, the family's 12 -year-old daughter discovered the murders, when she came home to find her parents and siblings bloody and slain.
22 people have been killed in terrorist attacks in Itamar. This settlement is what is known by some as an ideological one, where residents live there to defend their claim to what is considered as the biblical land of Israel.
Located deep inside the disputed West Bank, Itamar is - for the Jewish people - part of Judea and Samaria, the land promised to their people by God in the Bible. To the Palestinians and international law, this is Palestinian land occupied illegally by Israel.
The scale of the killings is small compared to what was happening on the other side of the world in Japan. However it too was horrendous, albeit in a different way.
As time passed, like in Japan, it was all downhill from there.
Where's the leadership?
Israeli leaders were quick to make political capital from the murders of the Fogel family.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:
"(Referring to the Palestinians) A society that allows wild incitement like this, leads to the murder of children...
“Israel will not return to normalcy after a despicable murder such as this. Israel will act assertively to preserve the security of the lives of Israeli citizens, and punish the murderers"
According to the statement released by the Israeli Prime Minister's office in response to the murders: (italics added for emphasis)
I [Netanyahu]expect the international community to unequivocally condemn this act of savage murder.
The terrorists murdered a young family, a mother, a father, a boy of 11, a boy of 4, a baby girl of four months.
They all had their throats slit.
They were sleeping in their beds and they were savagely murdered by animals.
The ability of the Israeli leadership to craft official statements of such descriptive language during these hard times is impressive.
The Foreign Ministry too released a statement:
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman instructed the Israeli delegation to the United Nations to file a harsh complaint to the UN secretary-general and the president of the Security Council, following the terror attack in the Samarian community of Itamar on Friday night.
He also said that Israel is expecting to hear a strong condemnation from all democratic states, which, in the name of human rights, hasten to denounce every movement of a caravan in Judea and Samaria, but as of last night have yet to condemn the cruel murder of an entire family, including a three-month-old baby.
He added that the fact that the Palestinian Authority has yet to condemn the attack "says more than anything about the true nature of someone who is supposed to be a partner to negotiations.”
The ability of the Israeli leadership to craft official statements of such descriptive language during these hard times is impressive. Their willingness to forego something simple like truth? Not so.
According to Lieberman, the Palestinian Authority had not condemn the attack. Yet if he had bothered to look on the website of the Israeli Prime Minister's Office, a press release about Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ringing Netanyahu to express regret over the murders appeared even before Netanyahu's own statement.
But why let the facts get in the way of a good argument? Especially when the two leaders were forging a common front to get the international community to condemn the attacks. Outrage would serve their cause better.
As 20,000 mourners buried the Fogel family on Sunday, the Israeli government announced that it was approving plans for construction of 400 new units in the settlements. The discussion took less than 30 minutes.
Israeli parliament speaker Reuven Rivlin at the funeral:
"Build more, live more, more footholds – that is our response to the murderers so that they know – they can't defeat us."