Last time I posted, it was with a spirit uplifted because of Yom Yerushalayim. I had not intended to post again until next week. For Shabbat is coming, and immediately after, Shavuot, the harvest festival that celebrates our receiving of the Torah and is marked by study into/or through the night, and a custom of eating dairy foods (cheesecake a specialty).
But pain and horror have intervened, and so I must write again now, because everyone must know:
On Wednesday night, two terrorists attacked in Tel Aviv, killing four innocent Israelis and wounding another sixteen, several of whom are in intensive care. The carnage took place at an outdoor mall known as the Sarona Market. It is immediately across from the Defense Ministry headquarters, the Kirya.
The four who were killed are:
Ido Ben Ari, 42, from Ramat Gan.
The father of two, he served in the elite Sayeret Matkal unit during his IDF service. His wife was injured in the attack. Their two children were with them; one of his sons was restless and didn’t want to be there.
Ilana Naveh, 40, from Tel Aviv.
The mother of four – including a daughter who had recently celebrated her bat mitzvah; she was out that night to celebrate her birthday. A neighbor said about Ilana,
“She was the best woman in the world…her door was always open.”
Michael Feige 58,from Ramat Gan.
The father of three, he was a highly esteemed professor at Ben Gurion University in Be’ersheva. A sociologist and anthropologist, he headed the Israel studies program at the university.
Mila Mishayev, 32, from Rishon Lezion.
She was engaged to be married, and her wedding was planned for the near future. She was waiting for her fiancé in the café when she was attacked. After having been shot, she actually called him before she died of loss of blood.
The killers have been identified as first cousins, Muhammad and Khalid Mehamara of the Arab village of Yatta in the Hevron Hills, in Area A, controlled by the PA. One is now in police custody, and the other, shot, in the hospital.
At first there were questions about how they got into Israel, but it has since been revealed by security that there were in Israel illegally for some months before the attack.
This immediately suggests the likelihood of collaborators. Terror is often a “family affair,” and it has come to light that the uncle of these terrorists, Taleb Mehamara, was a member of a Fatah Tanzim terror cell that killed four Israelis in a targeted shooting attack in 2002. He is currently in an Israeli prison.
I have my own unanswered question: Did they come into Israel illegally, sent by Hamas to plan, and wait for the “right” time to attack. Or were they here for other reasons and then recruited in the last several days?
The two, dressed in white shirts and black pants and ties, sat down at a table in the upscale Max Brenner café and ordered desserts. Then they rose to their feet, pulled out sub-machine guns, and began to indiscriminately shoot. When they were done, there was death, and injury, and a café strewn with blood.
MK Amir Ohana (Likud), who arrived at the scene shortly after the attack occurred, described “uneaten birthday cakes next to pools of blood.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu had just arrived in the airport following his trip to Moscow when this happened. Heading straight to the scene of the attack, he vowed a “decisive” response.
Thursday, after meeting with heads of the security agencies, Netanyahu said,
“We discussed a series of offensive and defensive steps that we will take in order to act against this serious phenomenon of shootings. This is a challenge, and we shall meet it.”
In this statement, he raised the issue of collaborators.
While our new Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, declared that Israel
“doesn’t intend to put up with the situation. I don’t think this is the time to issue pronouncements, but everything necessary we will do and we will do in a severe manner.”
To which I respond, all power to him.
At the time of this writing, the following actions have been taken, although more might follow:
The village of Yatta has been sealed off, and no one will be allowed in or out except for emergencies. The question is how long this will be sustained. Some members of the Mehamara clan have been taken in for questioning, and the work permits (allowing entry into Israel) for 204 members of that clan have been cancelled.
Additionally, 83,000 permits for entry into Jerusalem over Ramadan, for praying at the Al-Aksa Mosque at the Temple Mount, which had been given to residents of Judea and Samaria, have been cancelled.
Lieberman on Thursday called for a moratorium on the return of terrorists’ bodies to their families. We’ve been round and round on this one so often! Let us hope this is the last word on the situation now. Lieberman is also calling for the process of razing terrorists’ homes to be expedited so as to be completed in 24 hours.
“…none of those involved in the attack will escape justice,”
“Those who tried and succeeded in harming innocent Jews, at this very moment they and their families are paying and will pay the price. And those who sent them, directly and indirectly…who provide the ideological and operational infrastructure for these acts, will not be spared. We will catch each and every one of them.”
Late yesterday, the prime minister announced that a third suspect had been apprehended.
The question being asked is why this happened now after many weeks of relative calm in Israel.
Much is being made in certain media sources of the fact that Hamas has praised the attack without actually taking credit for it. But I’m not reading it this way. Hamas has said that the terrorists were members of their group, and has praised their actions as “heroic.” The village of Yatta is actually recognized as a Hamas stronghold.
Hamas has offered a “rationale” for the attack: unspecified “Al-Aksa violations.” This is a standard charge as part of the incitement against Israel, and in that sense it is not connected to Hamas exclusively – it is the constant cry of Abbas. But this charge is particularly ironic now considering that permits by the tens of thousands had been granted to Palestinian Arabs to make it easier to get to Al-Aksa.
Finally, Hamas has threatened that there will be more attacks during the month of Ramadan.
And that leads to another thread in this situation: Ramadan, which began Sunday night. Typically, there is heightened Arab violence here over this period of time when observant Muslims neither eat nor drink from sun-up to sun-down. I do not believe there is any ideological reason for this – it is more the physical strain on the Muslim systems, the discomfort and frustration.
And then, lastly, there is this: the convergence of Yom Yerushalayim with the beginning of Ramadan. They tried to stop the Parade of Flags through the Muslim Quarter of the Old City and could not – never mind that the Damascus Gate (Sha’ar Shechem) was closed to the Parade early so that there would not be Jewish celebrants in the area when Ramadan started.
I believe the Parade – the celebration of victory at a time the Arabs consider a “setback” – is galling to them in any terms.
See just a portion of the video clip below:
It shows tens of thousands of young Zionist Jews celebrating at the Kotel for Yom Yerushalayim. This particular clip was from three years ago, but the flavor is much the same. It is not a hostile celebration. It doesn’t involve shooting of guns or shouting violent threats. It is joyous. It suggests victory and a positive Jewish future.
The Kotel is on the edge of Arab areas of the Old City.
I do not paint all Arabs with one brush. I know there are peaceful Arabs, and Arabs glad for Israeli citizenship or residency. Some who are even Zionistic.
But neither do I delude myself. There is much hatred within the Arab community, and it is directed at us – not because of anything we have done, but because of who we are. It is palpable.
Innocents were murdered in Tel Aviv on Wednesday night. People – good people with loving lives – who were doing nothing to invite what happened to them. And yet their deaths were celebrated as a victory by many in the Arab community. There was the passing out of candy. And they lit up the sky with fireworks in Yatta.
In a million years, can you imagine Jews behaving thus?
Perhaps ugliest of all, there was celebration in front of Sha’ar Shechem, where our young people had sung and danced only days ago. See it for yourself in this brief video clip:
And so we must be resilient as we face down this enemy. Strong in defending ourselves. Confident that we have a right to do so.
There can be no equivocation – no accepting of excuses of any sort.
In the end, they cannot win. For the hatred in their hearts is destructive to them, more than to us. It is corrosive.
We Israelis, on the other hand, are amazing in our determination to go on with life in positive ways. On Thursday, less than 24 hours after the attack, this was the scene at Sarona Market, with young people erecting an impromptu memorial to those who had been killed.
They softly sang Shir Lama’alot – a Song of Ascents, Psalm 121:
“Behold, He that keepeth Israel, doth neither slumber nor sleep…The Lord shall guard thy going out and thy coming in, from this time forth and for ever.”
“We have to be strong. We survive as Israelis because people wake up the next morning and do what needs to be done,” said one participant.
While a Chabad rabbi, at a table on the periphery of this activity, encouraged male passersby to put on tfillin.
“We all need to do good,”
“to create a chain effect in our own surroundings, among our family and friends and workplace and to be better people. If we go out of our way to do good, it will hasten our redemption.”
And Defense Minister Lieberman came by for a cup of coffee in a show of solidarity.
As we head towards Shavuot, and the time for religious study, let us be mindful of all that we are meant to be.
“It is is a tree of life, to those who grasp it, and all its ways are peace.”
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.
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