Family members of terrorist cousins discusses their motivations to media at mourners tent.
(photo credit: SETH J. FRANTZMAN)
Residents in east Jerusalem’s Jebl Mukaber neighborhood gathered at a mourning tent for two terrorist cousins who attacked a Har Nof synagogue early that day, murdering four Israelis and wounding eight others. Male family members of the two cousins were arrested following the rampage.
One of two male family members who was not arrested said the family had greeted the news with shock. Aladin Abu Jamal, 32, described the two men as “quiet youths; uninvolved in activism or politics and not members of a [terrorist] organization; they worked construction and interior design when they could find work.”
Several hundred male mourners had gathered in a vacant lot on Salman al-Farsi Street near the cousins’ family home – those present said that the family’s house was too small to hold such a gathering, since the cousins are part of a family of some 300. Mourners worked quickly and with great efficiency to erect the roughly 200 sq.-meter tent. Chairs were distributed and colorful tapestries hung to enclose the space.
Another member of the family said that the young men were influenced by the recent tensions at al-Aksa Mosque and that they were angry a bus driver had been found hanged the day before in what they said was a “murder.” Egged driver Yussuf al-Ramuni was found dead at the start of his route late Sunday at an Egged bus depot in Jerusalem’s Har Hotzvim. Both Israel Police and the autopsy report ruled the death a suicide by hanging.
Throughout Monday there were clashes and riots leading up to his funeral in Abu Dis, because many did not believe his death was a suicide. “We demand justice! Israelis kill Arabs and get away with it!” said one neighborhood woman.
In Jebl Mukaber, Abu Jamal, wearing a black and white keffiyeh, held an impromptu press conference to mostly Arabic media as the mourners tent was being constructed in the afternoon, noting that one of the cousins was married and had three children.
“We didn’t expect this. We never thought they would do this,” he said.
There were as yet no posters declaring the men martyrs or showing Hamas or Fatah flags, although Jamal did describe the men as “martyrs.”
“They are normal people, not activists, not political,” he said.
Asked how the family would explain to the children of one of the men what happened, Abu Jamal said they would not give out details and just say that the father left the country.
The cousin added that the actions must be understood against the background of the general situation in Jerusalem.
“It didn’t happen in a vacuum… it makes them angry… it’s a normal reaction; anybody can have this reaction,” he said.
Other residents agreed that the recent tensions around the Temple Mount and the Aksa Mosque have inflamed residents.
“We are Palestinian. Nobody looks at our situation here, at our lives here. We fight for our rights alone; we have to get our rights,” Abu Jamal said.
The mood in Jebl Mukaber during the day was relatively calm after morning clashes with police who had come to detain family members. Police stationed on the outskirts of the neighborhood enforced a roadblock to non-residents, maintaining a presence after rioting saw nine people arrested, according to police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld.
Men stood around sipping coffee from small paper cups and smoking cigarettes.
Young boys, released early from school, gathered at the entrance to the neighborhood, setting up roadblocks and starting a fire in a trash bin. Women gathered closer to the family’s homes.