After months in which Israel’s city streets were largely free of murderous Palestinian terror, the never-ending scourge returned Sunday as 42-year-old Fadi Abu Shkhaydam went on a rampage in Jerusalem’s Old City, killing one and injuring four others, one of them critically.
This attack in the Old City followed by just four days a stabbing attack there as well. Last Wednesday the terrorist was a 16-year-old, and he injured two border policemen.
In both cases, the terrorists were killed.
Immediately after Sunday’s attack, the question asked at press briefings with security officials and in interviews on the radio with political figures, including Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion, was whether – taken together with Wednesday’s stabbing – Israel is now facing a new wave of terror.
With the exception of Operation Guardian of the Walls in May, when Hamas rained rockets down on Israeli cities and towns and 15 people were killed in attacks, and the killing of St.-Sgt. Barel Hadaria Shmueli who was shot at point blank range along the Gaza fence in August, there has not been a terrorist fatality in the country since December 2020 when Esther Horgen was killed near Tel Menashe.
In fact, 2020 recorded the lowest number of terrorist fatalities here since 1945, three years before the establishment of the state. In 2020 three Israelis were murdered by terrorists.
In other words, when it comes to fatal terrorist attacks, Israel has enjoyed a relatively quiet period of late.
This doesn’t mean that the terrorists are not trying, however.
Every month there are dozens and even hundreds of incidents the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) identifies as terrorist attacks – from rock-throwing on the roads in Judea and Samaria to stabbings, petrol bombs, drive-by shootings and vehicular ramming attacks. Most don’t make the news, because no one is injured, or at least not critically so. But it is happening.
And, of course, there are the rockets and inflammable balloons and attempts by terrorists to infiltrate from Gaza that have made life exceedingly difficult for residents of the south.
Though yesterday’s attack was the first non-Gaza linked terror death in 11 months the default position for many Israelis after hearing the tragic news was to ask whether Jerusalem and the West Bank were on the verge of exploding and a new terror wave, or – considering the proximity of this attack to the one last week – even a third intifada.
Why? How come so many are willing to make the mental leap from coming out of the quietest year in the country’s history in terms of terror (2020) to concern that a third intifada might be just around the corner?
Because we’ve been there before, because the mind-numbing terrorism of the second intifada from September 2000 to December 2005 − when some 1,100 Israelis were killed in a seemingly endless string of terror attacks − left a huge imprint and impact on the nation’s consciousness.
That period, when the war front was not the border with Lebanon or Egypt, but rather a bus line in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, traumatized the nation. Everybody felt the fear of sending their kids downtown, the insecurity of getting on a bus, the pain of knowing someone who was either killed or maimed in an attack.
Incidents like Sunday’s trigger those memories and many relive those traumas, leading to that question: are we going back to that?
As a result, even during a period of relative quiet, once that quiet is shattered and the hourly radio news opens with a bulletin about an attack in Jerusalem resulting in dead and critically injured, the mind races back some 20 years.
It doesn’t race there because people are making a connection between the terrorism and a campaign promise US President Joe Biden made, but has not yet carried out, to open a consulate for the Palestinians in Jerusalem. Nor does the mind race there because of any connection the Palestinians are trying to make between the terror and Jews who want to pray on the Temple Mount.
The mind races there because the trauma of the second intifada is a big part of his country’s consciousness, and to understand that trauma is to understand much about Israel: why it acts as it does in certain instances, what risks it is and is not willing to take, why the Left has lost so much traction over the last two decades and right-wing parties – those both in and outside the coalition – hold a large majority of the Knesset seats.
The second intifada was not something that was, and was just forgotten. It is still there, in people’s minds and in their memories. Perhaps the intensity of that trauma has been dulled with time, but that hard memory has not been forgotten. So whenever there is a terror attack that results in deaths and critically wounded, it brings that all back to the surface again.
Which is why after a deadly terror attack in the alleys of Old Jerusalem on Sunday, the first question on the lips of many was, “Is it now starting all over again?”