Local hero

No props like a phone booth or tights and a mask were needed on Sunday when Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and his security staff encountered a terrorist attack in process outside the mayor’s office.

February 23, 2015 22:14
4 minute read.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and his security guards apprehend a Palestinian terrorist

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and his security guards apprehend a Palestinian terrorist. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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It could have been lifted from any number of action fantasy films, where the mild-mannered, button-downed bureaucrat transforms into a caped crusader to subdue the bad guy and save the city from disaster.

However, no props like a phone booth or tights and a mask were needed on Sunday when Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and his security staff encountered a terrorist attack in process right outside the mayor’s office at Safra Square.

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An 18-year-old Palestinian youth from Bir Zeit who was in Jerusalem illegally began stabbing 27-year-old Abraham Goldschmidt, a Jewish resident standing at a pedestrian crossing waiting to cross Jaffa Road.

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Security camera footage showed Goldschmidt trying to shield himself from his attacker, who tried to stab him a second time. Barkat, who was riding in his car adjacent to the square, jumped out with his bodyguard to confront the stabber.

In security footage of the incident, Barkat, in a white dress shirt, is seen approaching the terrorist. When one of the bodyguards draws his pistol, the attacker drops his knife and Barkat tackles him to the pavement. After the assailant is subdued, the mayor rushers over to Goldschmidt to support him until first responders arrive.

That display of heroism by Jerusalem’s No. 1 citizen is an inspirational act that should be distributed as a public service around the world in hopes it will go viral.

It’s an unfortunate but necessary reality in Israel that terrorist attacks are often prevented or broken up by alert and brave bystanders, who put themselves in danger to prevent further carnage.

Granted, Barkat’s past experience as an IDF paratrooper and company commander provided him with the tools most mayors don’t possess to confront knife-wielding terrorists.

But to witness someone of Barkat’s stature put himself in harm’s way to protect the people he was elected to serve is extraordinary, even for this country.

Unfortunately, Barkat can’t be at every Jerusalem street corner every hour of the day. Sunday’s attack was the capital’s first serious terrorist incident in six weeks, when a man was stabbed with a screwdriver in the Old City.

The issue of Jerusalem remaining united under Israeli sovereignty or being divided as part of a peace deal with the Palestinians does not seem to be a major issue in the upcoming elections, especially with negotiations between Israel and the PA non-existent, even on much less thorny subjects.

After Sunday’s incident, however, the Likud irresponsibly exploited the fears that Jerusalemites have experienced during the recent upsurge in attacks by blaming the rival Zionist Union Party as responsible for terrorism in Jerusalem “The attack this evening took place after Tzipi Livni, the Labor Party’s hidden candidate for the premiership, once again said that she was willing to consider a division of Jerusalem,” a statement issued by the Likud soon after the attack read. “If Tzipi and Buji [Labor leader Isaac Herzog] form a leftwing government, Hamas will be in the heart of Jerusalem.”

Livni responded by saying: “Shouldn’t the prime minister have red lines? Someone who tells him, ‘Stop, an Israeli citizen was hurt today, you shouldn’t dance on the blood, you shouldn’t use every terrorist attack to try to win votes at the ballot box.’” The future of Jerusalem is indeed the most volatile and sensitive issue that will face the Israeli leadership that wins the voters’ mandate on March 17 – a government that will hopefully pave the way for future talks with an equally willing Palestinian leadership.

Redividing the city along the pre-1967 armistice line is a non-starter that no Israeli government – including one led by Livni – would implement. To make that issue part of the election campaign is disingenuous demagoguery at its worst.

At the same time, reinforcing Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem and safeguarding all of its citizens is a paramount task for any Israeli government. Those that would attempt to drive a wedge in the city with terrorism must know that it will only increase the conviction that Jerusalem must remain united, with Israeli security in place in all parts of the city.

The best answer to attacks like Sunday’s is to continue to ensure that Jerusalem is a vibrant and safe place to live and visit. Less than 24 hours after the attack, that was evident with a press conference announcing next month’s Jerusalem Marathon, another in a long line of cultural events that Barkat has fostered during his terms as mayor.

A long-distance runner himself, Barkat knows the importance of perseverance and dedication. As a mayor, he has been one of Jerusalem’s best. As a person, he has made Israel proud.

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