Though you would never know it from the mainstream press, a new wave of Palestinian terrorism in Judea and Samaria appears to be well under way.
Over the course of the past several weeks, there has been a series of widespread and increasingly serious attacks against Israelis, including stabbings, stonings and shootings.
And while the death toll from this latest round of Palestinian violence has thankfully been relatively low, it isn’t for lack of trying by the perpetrators. And that is why it is essential that Israel take immediate, concrete Zionist steps to restore deterrence vis-à-vis the terrorists.
The latest outrage occurred this past Sunday evening, on the last night of Hanukkah, when a burst of gunfire shattered the evening air outside the Jewish community of Ofra after a Palestinian terrorist opened fire on a group of innocent Israelis waiting at a bus stop.
Seven people were wounded, including 21-year-old Shira Ish-Ran, who was 30 weeks pregnant and was critically wounded, while her husband, Amichai, was hit by three bullets and moderately hurt.
Miraculously, doctors succeeded in saving the young woman’s life, but had to deliver her premature infant via cesarean and, as of this writing, they are battling to save the baby.
It was heartbreaking to see Shira’s father, my friend Chaim Silberstein, and his wife, Liora, speaking to reporters the following day and providing them with a moving update about the condition of their loved ones.
“We were able to go into intensive care. She opened her eyes and asked for Mom, so we rushed in,” Chaim said, adding, “We got teary-eyed when she saw us. She got so emotional that we had to leave because her pulse went up too much.”
The Silbersteins are a warm and loving family, filled with Jewish and Zionist commitment. A former senior adviser to Israel’s tourism minister, Chaim has devoted himself to strengthening Jewish life throughout all parts of Jerusalem, tirelessly taking members of Knesset, foreign dignitaries and groups on informative tours of the city through his organization, KeepJerusalem.org.
The Silbersteins volunteered to serve as an “adoptive family” for one of the young Chinese Jewish descendants from Kaifeng, China, that Shavei Israel, the organization I chair, brought on aliyah two years ago.
And now they are grappling with a painful and difficult tragedy. As Liora Silberstein succinctly told the assembled journalists, “We want to send a clear message to the government that it is unthinkable that sweet, innocent children are shot at. We cannot accept such a reality.”
She is absolutely correct. And it is therefore incumbent upon all of us to ensure that this latest attack marks a turning point in Israel’s policy toward Palestinian violence.
FOR FAR too long, we have been turning the page on Palestinian terrorism, reading about yet another atrocity, murmuring a few words of anger, and then moving along to the weather or sports section. Consider the following. It was just two months ago that a Palestinian worker in the Barkan Industrial Zone shot and murdered 35-year-old Ziv Hajbi, a father of three from Rishon Lezion, and 28-year-old Kim Levengrond-Yehezkel, the mother of an 18-month-old baby. The terrorist has yet to be found.
Two weeks ago, on November 26, a Palestinian intentionally ran over three Israeli soldiers just south of the Gush Etzion junction, and on November 14, a terrorist broke into a police compound in the East Talpiot neighborhood of Jerusalem and stabbed five policemen.
And this is not to mention the incessant Palestinian stone-throwing that targets Israeli passenger buses and vehicles, or the firebombs and Molotov cocktails that are hurled their way.
Part of the problem is the manner in which terrorism is reported upon in this country. Too often, attacks are portrayed as singular, stand-alone incidents, as though they are not part of a larger pattern of Palestinian aggression.
This creates the false impression that terrorism is little more than an occasional nuisance, like street crime, rather than an ongoing and systematic assault on our nation and its citizens, their values and freedom.
Hence, in addition to cracking down on Palestinian terrorist cells, highlighting Palestinian incitement and cutting off the flow of funds to terrorist groups, Israel should undertake an active policy that sends a clear and simple message to our foes: the more you try to kill us, the more we will build.
For every Palestinian attempt at destruction, Israel will engage in construction and further expand the Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria.
This is not intended to suggest any moral equivalence between the two, but rather to make clear to any would-be Palestinian terrorist that his actions will ultimately serve only to undermine his own ideological goals.
In the wake of the Ofra incident, the government should therefore move quickly to rev up the bulldozers and approve large numbers of new homes in Jewish communities throughout Judea and Samaria. If Palestinians see that their efforts to reduce Jewish life simply boomerang and lead only to its further growth and development, they might finally begin to understand the inanity of their ways.
Responding to attacks through military and intelligence means is crucial, but no less important is the need to demonstrate to the Palestinians that terrorism will be greeted not with impunity but, rather, with some good old-fashioned Israeli grit and Zionist determination.
The writer serves as chairman of Shavei Israel (www.shavei.org), a Jerusalem-based organization that assists lost tribes and hidden Jewish communities seeking to return to the Jewish people.