It was a tragic coincidence that Monday, April 1, 2013 was both the last day of the Jewish celebration of Passover and the 34th anniversary of the 1979 referendum establishing the Islamic Republic of Iran, under the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Ironically as well, it was the day after Western Christendom’s Easter Sunday.
At noon that Monday, a Liberian-flagged freighter passed out of the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean, ostensibly en route to Italy with commercial cargo. It took just under five minutes for the missile that was launched from its deck to reach Tel Aviv, 300 miles away. The missile detonated 2,000 feet above Israel’s second most populous city as lunchtime crowds thronged the sidewalks.
The blinding flash of light on that clear day fried eyeballs that locked onto it from several miles away, and gave flash blindness to those whose eye contact was indirect. The thermal pulse out of an explosion generating several million degrees centigrade — vastly greater than the 5,500-degree centigrade surface temperature of the Sun — inflicted third-degree burns close in, and lesser burns out to several miles. The supersonic blast shockwave obliterated structures within a half-mile radius, with structural damage out to a radius of five miles. Glass was shattered out to a radius of 10 miles. Radioactive dust spread over a 20-mile radius. Virtually no one within a half-mile radius survived.
Moments later a second missile slammed into western Jerusalem, the warhead bursting on the ground, to minimize blast radius damage to Muslim-controlled East Jerusalem. But the ground burst threw up thousands of tons of highly toxic radioactive chunks, scattering them over the entire city, making it uninhabitable for generations. The wind picked up, and the toxic cloud blew across the River Jordan, poisoning tens of thousands of Palestinians, Jordanians, and Iraqis. Many thousands of people in countries further east (following the normal prevailing wind direction) suffered radiation sickness in various forms, with many dying of their wounds.
A third missile burst over Haifa, inflicting damage comparable to that in Tel Aviv in the area close to ground zero, but with less population loss due to Haifa’s lower density.
Over the next month, fatalities would double. Hospitals were so overwhelmed with casualties that civilian facilities had to be converted into emergency centers, but tens of thousands died before ameliorative care could be applied. Economic life in Israel ground to a halt.
The human toll in Tel Aviv alone, in a span of 30 days, reached 100,000. If adjusted for relative population size, this would translate into more than 4 million Americans killed — equal to some 1,500 times America’s loss due to the September 11, 2001 attacks. The Tel Aviv figure alone equated to more than the total killed and wounded suffered by the United States — 3.7 million — in all its wars from the Revolutionary War to the wars of today. Add in the toll in Jerusalem and Haifa, and 300,000 Israelis were killed, another 300,000 wounded — equivalent for the U.S. to 12.5 million dead and 12.5 million wounded. The Jewish state had suffered what its leaders promised would never happen again, what its allies promised not to allow again: a Second Holocaust. Compounding Israel’s agony, though Jewish law generally prohibits cremation, with hundreds of thousands of rotting corpses posing a potentially lethal public health hazard, it was necessary for the authorities to conduct mass cremations. That these were done to save lives, not cruelly take them, did not dispel the Holocaust imagery.