Many of you will recognize this phrase from the saying attributed to Reb Nachman of Breslov: “All the world is a very narrow bridge. And the main thing is not to be afraid – not to be afraid at all.”
Kol ha’olam kulo gesher tsar me’od. Veha’ikar – veha’ikar lo lefached – lo lefached klal.
Monday, as the day drew to a close, I realized wistfully that there were no more Chanukah candles to light. The holiday – with its special time for meditation and its message of hope – was over. It was time to focus on the ferment of the world with renewed strength.
The ferment of the world, coming at us from all sides. There is bad news, and good, and more than a touch of insanity. And so, I thought, the main thing is not to be afraid.
We are in the midst now of a spate of terror attacks in Jerusalem and Judea & Samaria. Some are calling it a new intifada.
Last Saturday, an Arab terrorist stabbed a young haredi man, Avraham Elmaliah, multiple times, outside the Damascus Gate. Take a look at the knife he used:
Border Police at the scene then shot and killed him. You can see a video of the attack and the response of the Border Police officers here:
Following the police response there was harsh criticism on the left more broadly and especially from Arabs in the Knesset. Joint List MKs (in the opposition) Aida Touma-Sliman and Ofer Cassif called the police action an “execution” and a “blatant war crime.” (“War crime” is right up there with “apartheid” as a commonly utilized libelous charge against Israel.)
I was delighted by Israel’s official response, which was highly supportive of the police action. Border Police Commander Amir Cohen immediately declared that, “The officers acted resolutely, ending the incident by preventing a larger attack on both civilians and officers.”
Prime Minister Bennett praised the officers, saying they acted “quickly and with determination, as is expected of them.”
Praise came as well from Israel Police Chief Kobi Shabtai and Public Security Minister Omer Bar Lev. Bar Lev said the officers had made the right call because it was impossible to know if the terrorist was wearing an explosive belt. “If there is doubt, there is no doubt,” he tweeted.
The officers were subjected to a speedy interrogation (which many thought unnecessary), after which came the decision that they had acted properly in all respects. In fact, the two officers, shown below with Jerusalem Police Chief Doron Turgeman, will be awarded a police commendation.
“I cannot imagine a better response to yesterday’s terrorist incident than your own,” Turgeman told them…The entire police force – indeed, the entire country – is behind you…you have our complete and total support, all the way.”
This is important. First because it is essential for those in the police and the IDF who may be called upon to act against terrorism to know that they will be supported and not penalized. Without this assurance, they might hesitate to act, and lives might be lost.
And then, it is not a bad thing for would-be terrorists to know that their actions may well result in their death.
Elimelech was declared to be in moderate-serious condition, and is currently stable in the hospital. He credits the officers with saving his life. Police have reportedly arrested several Arabs who may have been involved with this attack, including one individual who drove him into Jerusalem.
And here I stop for a moment to make an important point, not for the first time. These current attacks are being referred to as “lone wolf,” which means they weren’t done specifically at the instruction of a terror group such as Hamas. But “lone” is usually a misnomer: The attackers almost always have a support system of some sort, albeit informal.
A mere day and a half later – just after 1 a.m. on Monday morning – there was another attack, when a Palestinian Arab teenager from the Arab city of Nablus rammed his car at high speed into the Te’enim Crossing checkpoint.
He struck a security guard, wounding him seriously. Other guards at the scene shot him dead.
The wounded officer, who had sustained head and chest injuries, has improved sufficiently so that his condition in the hospital is now listed as moderate.
Defense Minister Gantz ordered all crossing in Judea & Samaria to be on a high level of alert; he also instructed that a comprehensive investigation be done.
The next incident followed two days later. Moriah Cohen was taking her five children to daycare in the Shimon HaTzadik (aka Sheikh Jarrah) neighborhood, when she was stabbed in the back with a foot-long knife by a 14-year old Arab girl. The picture below was taken after treatment in the hospital. She is saying she intends to carry on, and so I would salute her as someone who is determined not to be afraid.
The girl fled but was later apprehended by police in her school. Her father and mother were also detained for interrogation, as well as another student, a teacher, and the school’s principal.
At the hospital where Moriah was taken, with the knife still in her back, her husband Dvir told police:
“It seems like it was our neighbor, one of the Arabs who lives right next to us. She followed her. They know us, they live right across from us…”
The girl is a member of a well-known family that is at risk for eviction from their home because they are embroiled in the legal conflict with the Jewish group that claims ownership.
As we consider the claim that the recent spate of attacks is perpetrated by “lone wolf” actors, we should be aware of the report this week by journalist Khaled Abu Toameh. The various attacks we are seeing, he writes, “are the result of the ongoing and increasing incitement against Israel by Palestinian officials, factions and media outlets.”
“The attacks are also the result of calls by Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and other Gaza-based groups for stepping up the ‘resistance’ against Israel.” (Emphasis added)
“Hamas and PIJ say they…want to take the fight against Israel to the streets of Jerusalem and the West Bank, while keeping the situation in the Gaza Strip calm…”
They wish to represent themselves as the “defenders” of the al-Aqsa Mosque, and want to demonstrate that they are the only ones fighting against the IDF and settlers.
“In recent weeks, the two groups have repeatedly urged Palestinians living there [Jerusalem and Judea & Samaria] to launch ‘all forms of resistance’ against Israel, including the ‘armed struggle.’”
Elsewhere, we see a different take with regard to Hamas intentions to keep matters quiet in Gaza:
A senior Hamas source on Monday said his terror group was weighing a renewal of violence against Israel in Gaza, while lashing out at Egypt over its role as mediator between the sides.
“We are considering options for an escalation with Israel in light of the continued siege of Gaza and the delay in rehabilitating the Strip,” the unnamed source told Al Jazeera.
Could be just words, and vague ones at that. But I’ve seen several predictions indicating that open hostilities from Gaza may be close at hand.
In fact, Defense Minister Gantz warned earlier this week that Israel might presently be experiencing “calm before the storm.”
Since the open conflict in May, Israel and Hamas have been negotiating an extended ceasefire that would permit aid and international assistance to come into Gaza in exchange for calm.
Israel, however, has conditioned full reconstruction on the return by Hamas of two Israeli civilians and the remains of two IDF soldiers. While Hamas insists that they will only do this in exchange for the release of large numbers of Palestinian Arab terrorists in Israeli prisons.
Our government is refusing to be party to such an exchange, which stance is to be applauded.
Gantz made his statement about a possible calm before the storm at a ceremony announcing the completion of a high-tech concrete barrier around Gaza, which was developed cooperatively by the IDF and the Defense Ministry.
Declared the defense minister: “This barrier, a creative, technological project of the first order, denies Hamas one of the capabilities that it tried to develop and puts a wall of iron, sensors and concrete between it and the residents of the south.”
The barrier spans 65 kilometers and is six meters high; it took three and a half years and 3.5 billion shekels to complete. It “includes an underground component with sensors, an above-ground fence, a naval barrier, radar systems and command-and-control rooms to prevent infiltrations from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory.”
More than 1,200 workers were needed to build it, in addition to six concrete-producing plants that were established along the border with Gaza. Some 220,000 trucks-worth of concrete went into the building work, as well as 140,000 tons of iron and steel.
The system’s maritime barrier detects infiltration by sea.
I began this posting by speaking of not being afraid, and I am going to end on the same note:
Last Sunday, there was a March of Flags held in the mixed city of Ramla that continued to the mixed city of Lod. These were the two cities that saw the most Arab violence last spring and this march was organized as an expression of support for those who live in these locations and are subject even now to risks of Arab violence. It was organized by right-wing NGOs in cooperation with local Jewish residents.
“Otzma Yehudit Chairman MK Itamar Ben Gvir who participated in the march said: ‘Hamas’s threats will not deter me. They threatened against our ascent to the Temple Mount, against our staying in the Shimon HaTzadik neighborhood…We won’t fold but will exercise our sovereignty in the mixed cities and throughout the Land of Israel. It is inconceivable that in the State of Israel there are places where Jews are beaten and harmed just because they are Jews.”
Hundreds attended the march, and many additional Jewish residents came out on their balconies and cheered.
MK Simcha Rothman (Religious Zionism), a new resident of Lod, declared:
“Some say it’s a provocation, but we say that the Land of Israel belongs to us, and the Israeli flag will be hoisted not only in all the mixed cities but everywhere in the Land of Israel.”
And to this I say, Right On! The more I see Muslim Arab threats, the more I applaud this unabashed Jewish strength. It is this attitude, and not appeasement, that will save us.
And next, I think, we need to look at Iran, without fear and with great strength.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.