Jews dreading Ramadan amid surge of violence - comment

Ramadan has turned into a month to be dreaded. And that is obscene.

 Israel Police set up a checkpoint on a highway after a deadly terrorist attack in Hadera, March 28, 2022 (photo credit: ISRAEL POLICE)
Israel Police set up a checkpoint on a highway after a deadly terrorist attack in Hadera, March 28, 2022
(photo credit: ISRAEL POLICE)

It used to be Good Friday, but now it’s Ramadan – a non-Jewish holiday that Jews dread.

In medieval times, Jews in various lands stayed home or were instructed to stay home, lest Christians inflamed by Good Friday – the day marking Jesus’ crucifixion – took out their religious passion on a passing local Jew. It was also a day throughout the ages that provided an excuse for a pogrom.

But now, “Oy, Good Friday is coming” has been replaced, at least in Israel, by “Oy, Ramadan is coming.”

Why? Because Ramadan, which begins on Saturday, has over the years been accompanied here by a marked increase in terrorism.

Just as most Christians did not partake in anti-Jewish violence as part of Good Friday commemorations, most Muslims, obviously, do not see violence against Jews as part of their Ramadan rituals. The problem is that enough of them do see terrorism as sanctifying Ramadan so that in the minds of Israelis, the month is linked not with Muhammad’s first revelation, reading the Koran or giving charity, but rather to an uptick in terrorism.

Israel Police officers and rescue forces are seen at the scene of a shooting attack in Bnei Brak, March 29, 2022 (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)Israel Police officers and rescue forces are seen at the scene of a shooting attack in Bnei Brak, March 29, 2022 (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

Something is fundamentally wrong when the phrase “the upcoming holy month of Ramadan” is said in news reports to explain why a sudden surge in terror is expected. It would be the equivalent of saying that since Passover is coming, Arabs should be wary of being attacked by Jews. Were that the case, it would simply be obscene.

According to a Dutch project called Datagraver that culls data from various online government pages and databases to create “figures and dashboards,” Ramadan brought with it a 200% increase in terrorist attacks in Israel between 2005 and 2016.

In 2015, following the fatal shooting of Malachi Rosenfeld on June 29 near Shilo, then-ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor wrote a letter to the UN Security Council saying: “In the two weeks since the beginning of Ramadan... there has been a dramatic increase in attacks against Israelis. Each day seems to bring with it news of a shooting attack, or a stabbing.”

The following year, six Israelis were killed during Ramadan.

“Ramadan is supposed to be a time of peace,” the IDF Spokesman said at the time. “Instead, terrorists and extremists have exploited this holy month. Six innocent civilians were murdered in three terror attacks over the course of the holiday, and many more were wounded.”

In 2017, Border Police officer Hadas Malka was stabbed to death by a Palestinian terrorist at the Damascus Gate during Ramadan. In 2019, the Foreign Ministry reported “a dramatic increase in the number of terrorist attacks” during the month. In 2020, one of the three Israelis killed in terrorist attacks that year, St.-Sgt Amit Ben Yigal, was killed during Ramadan.

And then last year, Hamas fired rockets on Israel that led to Operation Guardian of the Walls during the month of Ramadan.

Ramadan has turned into a month to be dreaded. And that is obscene.

This obscenity, however, needs to be pointed out not in an English-language newspaper by an Israeli Jew, but in Arabic, by Muslims.

One hopeful development that has emerged from the recent spate of terrorism is the condemnations that have come from Arab and Muslim countries: the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Jordan and Turkey all condemned the Bnei Brak attack. The attacks of the last week have been roundly condemned by Israeli Arab politicians as well. Ra’am Party head Mansour Abbas, for instance, called the Bnei Brak attack a “heinous and indecent terrorist crime.”

Even Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas squeezed out a begrudging condemnation on Tuesday evening, apparently under intense pressure from Israel and the US to do so. He has not condemned a terror attack in Israel since 2011, failed to condemn any of the previous attacks this month, and PA television labeled the Bedouin terrorist who killed four in Beersheba last week as a “martyr” in a picture on its Facebook page before Israel reportedly pressured them to remove it.

According to Abbas’s office on Tuesday, he “expressed his condemnation of the killing of Israeli civilians tonight, emphasizing that the killing of Palestinian and Israeli civilians only leads the situation to deteriorate.” He added that this incident could be exploited to justify attacks on Palestinians “at the hands of settlers or others.”

Lest one get too excited about this condemnation, the head of the Fatah branch in Jenin, near Yabad where the Bnei Brak terrorist was from, went to the house of the murderer and hailed him to a cheering crowd as a hero who killed five Zionists.

That sentiment was shared by all those who handed out sweets celebrating the murders in various Gaza and West Bank towns, and – most gallingly – by those who gathered at Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate after the murder.

The murder of 11 people in three terrorist attacks in eight days has led to Israeli pain, distrust and anger – all of which only got hotter with images of people at Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate celebrating random murder. These attacks and the gleeful response of some pull heavily at the already taut fabric enabling Jews and Arabs to work and live alongside each other in this land.

These attacks leave their mark on the national psyche, and there is no magic stain remover that will readily erase it. But one welcome restorative at this painful time would be to see a large Israeli Arab rally – say a demonstration in the central square in Umm el-Fahm – against the terror.

There is often discussion about the need for Israel to give the Palestinians confidence-building measures. But Israeli confidence and trust also need to be shored up, especially during weeks like these.

A rally of Arabs against terrorism, a gathering to demonstrate against turning Ramadan into a holiday that Jews need not fear, would be a constructive, confidence-building gesture. Such a rally would not end terrorism nor even put a dent in the number of terrorist attacks, but it would send a strong message to Israeli Jews and serve as a significant balm during these painful days after.