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Emily Hauser

I first arrived in Israel in September 1982, as the First Lebanon War entered its fourth month. I was made aware immediately and constantly that the Jewish State lives in a regular state of siege, forced to be in a state of hyper-awareness at all times.

In the meantime, that war eventually ended, as did the occupation of Lebanese lands that followed it. The first intifada came and went, the Gulf War came and went, waves of suicide attacks, the second intifada, the Second Lebanon War, 2006's virtual war in Gaza, 2008's actual war in Gaza, and countless escalations and de-escalations, each with its share of suffering and bloodshed and dashed hopes.

It's frightening, occasionally terrifying, to live like that. Given that the Palestinians face this sort of thing to a greater or lesser degree on a daily basis, I can only imagine that it's terrifying for them, too.

But I never really felt under siege. My own life, and that of those close to me, and those close to them, proceeded apace: army, university, travel, marriage, kids.

Many of us took an active role in the peace movement, occasionally arguing with friends and loved ones, weathering the occasional nasty comment from strangers, but we knew that we were free to take part in the democratic give-and-take and try to save our home from the insanity of the endless wars. That if we and our Palestinian counterparts could get past our painful history, we could end the wars. That we could complete the work of Israel's founders and establish a safe, thriving home for the Jewish people.

Now, though, what stands in the way of those who would work toward that reality is not decades of regional enmity, but other Israelis. Israelis (and their supporters) who threaten and frequently carry out acts of violence, who threaten and attack not only peace activists but members of Knesset, cabinet members, and - once an unthinkable thing - soldiers serving their country. If people like me are no longer safe in their own home because saying the wrong thing could get them killed - what is left of the dream of a Jewish democracy?

I will admit that while saddened, I'm not truly surprised that we've been reduced to this. I was also witness to the lead-up to the Rabin assassination, and I know that when people fear the dismantling of their most fervent dreams, they often lose their moorings. The struggle to establish a truly democratic homeland for the Jewish people suddenly seems less important than the immediate threat, or, in fact, was never really a priority and so can be jettisoned in a moment.

But that dreadful November night in Tel Aviv is a moment that should stand before every Israeli and Israel-supporter as they consider their words and their actions. After weeks and weeks of vile smears and ugly accusations, the Prime Minister of the State of Israel was gunned down by an Israeli Jew, the words to a peace song tucked in his pocket.

If we establish peace with the Palestinians, we will have secure borders and the sort of freedom to grow and develop that only peace can bring - but if some Israelis and their supporters act to derail any and all attempts at peace, stifling dissent through violent means, then we will, I fear, be witnesses to a slow-moving self-destruction for which we will truly have no one but ourselves to blame.