It was a double desecration of time and place. Even by the standards of Palestinian terror attacks, what took place last Friday night outside the Ateret Avraham Synagogue in Jerusalem’s Neveh Ya’acov neighborhood stood out as particularly evil.
When terrorist Khaire Alkam, 21, a resident of east Jerusalem’s A-Tur neighborhood, drove up to the large synagogue following Shabbat evening prayers, he knew exactly what he was doing. He was targeting Jews, simply for the “sin” of being Jewish. He first shot and seriously wounded an elderly woman in the street before opening fire at worshipers emerging from the house of prayer. He was shot dead after he opened fire on police officers while trying to flee.
Gradually, one by one, the names and heartbreaking stories of the victims emerged. Well, not quite one by one. Natali Mizrahi, 45 and her husband, Eli Mizrahi, 48, were married two years ago and poignantly all the photos published after their deaths showed them together, united forever. They were in the neighborhood to eat the traditional Friday night meal with Eli’s father. When he heard shots, Eli rushed out to try to help and Natali followed him. Eli was mowed down immediately and Natali was hit and killed as she crouched over his body, while trying to resuscitate him.
Apart from the Mizrahis, the other victims were Asher Natan, 14; Ilya Sosansky, 26; Rafael (Rafi) Ben Eliyahu, 56; Shaul Hai, 68; and Irina Korolova, 59, a Ukrainian citizen. Each one a world; each one leaving devastated families and friends whose own lives will never be the same.
What consolation can you offer the parents, relatives and schoolmates of a goodhearted 14-year-old who will never again smile and play with his siblings and friends?
The horrible shooting terror attacks in Jerusalem
“We went from kiddush to Kaddish,” said one of Ben Eliyahu’s sons at his funeral, summing up the harsh transition from Friday night’s blessing over wine to reciting the Mourner’s Prayer. Ben Eliyahu’s grandson had been born the day before. The grandchild he will never meet.
As the stories were published in a devastating parade, I followed the advice of Fred Rogers: “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
“Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”Fred Rogers
In this case, the helper who restored faith in humanity was Magen David Adom paramedic Fadi Dekidek. An Arab-Israeli, Dekidek raced to the scene in his ambulance despite the potential danger.
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post’s Judy Siegel-Itzkovich, Dekidek said: “MDA is a state of its own for coexistence. Jews save Arabs. Arabs save Jews. I think it’s an example for the whole world.”
“MDA is a state of its own for coexistence. Jews save Arabs. Arabs save Jews. I think it’s an example for the whole world.”Fadi Dekidek
Dekidek, a married father of four, teaches Arabic-speaking Jerusalem teenagers how to give first aid and resuscitation. There can be no more important lesson than how to save lives, not take them.
Dekidek’s example was a ray of light during what turned out to be a very dark Shabbat. Alkam is considered a “lone wolf,” acting on his own. But while lone wolves don’t operate in packs, they do act in the same environment: an environment of hatred.
The incitement in Palestinian textbooks, on television and social media, and the preaching of imams in certain mosques is literally deadly. There are those who make jihad the mainstay of their religion. Dehumanizing Jews and Israelis as infidels is part of their perverted beliefs.
The results could be seen not only on Friday night in Neveh Ya’acov, but the following day when a 13-year-old opened fire on Jews returning from prayers along the stone streets of Jerusalem’s City of David. I’ll repeat and spell that out: He was thirteen years old.
Muhammad Aliwat took an illegally acquired gun from his home in the nearby neighborhood of Silwan and set out to kill as many Jews as possible. There was no chance of him mistaking their identity.
Aliwat succeeded in wounding a 47-year-old man and his 22-year-old son. The son was a hidden hero. An off-duty paratroop corps officer, despite his own wounds he managed to immediately respond, shooting and wounding the juvenile terrorist. Israeli hospital staff – Jews and Arab alike – are now fighting to save the life of the critically wounded officer and to treat the wounds of his attacker. This, too, is part of Israel’s complex reality.
There were two more attempted terror attacks on Saturday in which, fortunately, there were no casualties.
I know the families of many victims of terrorism, too many. They include three families of murdered 13-year-olds, the age of Saturday’s attacker. Each family has dealt with their bereavement by finding a way to do good deeds to commemorate their lost loved one.
Contrast this to the reaction of the parents of the terrorists who praise their “martyrs” and take pride in the deaths and pain they caused. Terrorism won’t end as long as it remains a cause for celebration.
“God, or victory, or martyrdom. Forgive me, mother, you’re going to be proud of me.”Muhammad Aliwat
When terrorism against Israel is a cause for celebration
“God, or victory, or martyrdom. Forgive me, mother, you’re going to be proud of me,” Aliwat reportedly wrote on a page of a school exercise book. How many lessons of hatred had he been indoctrinated with before he attempted to kill Jews? If he was a victim of anything it is of systematic Palestinian child abuse in the form of vile, lethal indoctrination.
On Friday night – literally before the blood dried in the streets of Neveh Ya’acov – the sounds of fireworks and shooting in the air could be heard across the West Bank, Gaza and some Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem. Candies were distributed by Palestinian supporters of terrorism for whom death tastes sweet. They feed future attacks.
Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad – while stopping short of claiming responsibility – not only praised the attacks, they justified them. The deadly assault on Jews coming home from Sabbath prayers for them was the “heroic” response to the Israeli army’s actions in Jenin on Thursday. Not that Palestinian terrorists have ever needed a particular pretext for horrific attacks.
On January 26, the IDF, acting on specific intelligence, entered Jenin to arrest Islamic Jihad-affiliated terrorists suspected of being “a ticking time-bomb” – prepared and primed to carry out an imminent attack. During the raid, in which the soldiers came under heavy fire, nine Palestinians were killed. Seven had acknowledged ties to terrorist organizations and two, including a grandmother, were caught in the gunfight.
This is no excuse for the Shabbat attacks or rocket fire from Gaza. But that doesn’t stop people from trying.
In a piece under the headline, “The ‘cycle of violence’ cliche is dehumanizing,” my colleague Seth J. Frantzman noted “the tendency to dehumanize the victims by portraying them as part of a ‘cycle of violence’... is problematic because it is possible to condemn attacks on Israeli civilians, full stop.”
“The tendency to dehumanize the victims by portraying them as part of a ‘cycle of violence’... is problematic because it is possible to condemn attacks on Israeli civilians, full stop.”Seth J. Frantzman
Attempts to explain the attacks by claiming they were on “settlers” are particularly jarring. How desensitized do you have to be to dehumanize people – Jews – in this manner? Does the fact that 13-year-old Asher Natan lived in Neveh Ya’acov make his murder acceptable? When 13-year-old Hallel Yaffa Ariel was stabbed to death in her bed at her home in Kiryat Arba, was the location of her bedroom a mitigating factor? When 13-year-olds Koby Mandell and Yosef Ishran were stoned to death in a cave in a wadi near their homes in Tekoa, is there any way to explain it without losing your moral compass?
The “settler” excuse is even more disingenuous in the case of Neveh Ya’acov and the Old City of Jerusalem. Neveh Ya’acov was established in 1924. It was an hour’s walk from Jerusalem’s Old City, where the Jewish population lived close to Judaism’s holiest sites. Both came under Arab attack in 1929, nearly two decades before the State of Israel was created. They ultimately fell into Jordanian hands in 1948, although – like nearby Atarot and Mount Scopus – Neveh Ya’acov nominally remained a Jewish enclave. They were reunited with Israel 19 years later during the Six Day War. That’s reunification, not occupation. Incidentally, at no point in those intervening years were they considered “Palestinian.”
The terrorists who single out Jews to kill are murderous antisemites. They are neither victims nor heroes. And, unlike the medical teams and members of the security forces saving lives and fighting terrorism, they are definitely not role models who act to make the world a better place.