Pitt’s teachable moment

Pitt’s teachable moment

There have been 50-plus bomb threats at the University of Pittsburgh since February and not a single bomb has been found, let alone gone off.
Good thing we live in Pittsburgh and not Israel. There, actual explosives would have been planted. Israeli authorities would have done a very good job of finding and disarming most of the devices, but some might have exploded, killing and maiming many people.
The recurring bomb scare at Pitt has made national headlines. Students have been lining up outside the Cathedral of Learning and other buildings waiting to pass through security checkpoints, just so they can take the classes they pay their hard-earned tuition to attend.
That’s a tragedy. As Pitt spokesman Robert Hill told NPR, “There hasn’t been a bomb. There hasn’t been even a device detected. Still, it’s unsettling to have been subjected to the threats.”
Unsettling? Yes, but nothing compared to actual bombs going off and causing horrendous damage and loss of lives.
Israel has some experience along those lines, thanks to the Second Intifada.
Here’s our point: Jewish Pittsburgh has a golden opportunity to teach the students and faculty of Pitt what it’s like to be an Israeli — the threat of terrorism forever hanging over you.
Earlier this year, Students for Justice in Palestine targeted Pitt as one of this year’s campuses for an anti-Israel campaign, pushing the university to divest from Israel and painting the Palestinians as the only victims in this struggle.
But their argument was misleading, as any Israeli who has ever lost a friend or relative in a terrorist attack knows all too well.
We want a just settlement for both sides, but we also want Israel’s story fairly stated. Now is the perfect time.
In the past, Jewish Pittsburgh has brought to town Israelis who have survived suicide bombings, not to mention Israeli soldiers scarred for life by fighting the enemies of the Jewish state (another such group will be here later this month).
But such speakers and visitors wouldn’t have quite the same impact they would now. Now, thousands of Pitt students and professors have tasted terrorism. It’s not so abstract to them. They have some idea now what it’s like to open their purses and book packs to a guard before entering a classroom, student center or dorm. Thankfully, none of the bombs were real.
There may finally be a light at the end of this very dark tunnel for Pitt. U.S. District Attorney David Hickton announced last week that his office has identified “potential suspects” in the case — an achievement for which he credited the Pitt community and the information it has provided authorities to date.
We hope an arrest is imminent. What is happening at Pitt is a crime. We would go so far as to say a violent crime, because causing an entire academic community mental anguish surely is a form of violence.
But this experience is also a teachable moment, a chance to repudiate some of the propaganda used to smear Israel while giving a segment of the city population a chance to walk in the shoes of Israelis.