From Israel: Another Sort of Crisis!!

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We are still contending with terrorism.

Last Thursday morning, there was a truck ramming attack on Route 443 at the Maccabim checkpoint near Modi’in. One soldier was killed and five others, three of them soldiers, were wounded – one in serious condition, the others lightly to moderately injured.



The soldier who was killed was Sergeant Maxim Mulchanov, 20, from Kharkiv, Ukraine. Shortly after making aliyah, he enlisted in the army as a lone soldier and was proud of his role in a combat unit.

Maxim was praised highly by those who knew him: a year ago he participated in a procedure for a child who needed a bone marrow transplant.


Credit: IDF Spokesperson Unit

One contemplates the pain and the human loss, time and time again, and one reels.  The heart and mind scream, “Enough already!”


The terrorist, a Palestinian Arab with a permit to work in Israel, fled the scene but was caught and shot dead by security personnel at the next checkpoint.  Haven’t seen discussion of this with regard to this particular attack, but the question looms again as to how Palestinian Arabs are cleared for permits.


In the 24 hours before this attack, there were several others:

[] Early on Wednesday, an IDF soldier was injured when a Palestinian Arab rammed his car into him outside of a military post near Beit Hagai, not far from Hebron.  The Arab was shot. The soldier is in good condition.

[] On Wednesday evening, an Israeli man was wounded in a terrorist stabbing attack at the Shivtei Yisrael light rail station in northern Jerusalem. A young Arab, a resident of Jerusalem, dressed as an Ultra-Orthodox Jew, approached the man and stabbed him in the back. The wounded man is in moderate condition; a Border Police officer who was on the train shot the terrorist dead.

Credit: Yoav Dudkovitz /TPS

[] On Wednesday night, an Israeli officer and three soldiers were wounded outside of the Tomb of Joseph compound in Shechem.  The soldiers were present to secure entry to the Tomb by civilians from Israel. An improvised explosive device went off as they passed by.


But in addition to this, we now have had to deal with a different sort of violence – never before encountered here on such a scale – that has multiple implications:

Over Shabbat, Eritreans, who are in Israel illegally and have been for years, engaged in violent confrontations in support of and in opposition to the Eritrean government.

A celebration had been planned by the Eritrean embassy at a site in south Tel Aviv, where the Eritreans are located, to mark the anniversary of Eritrea’s war of independence from Ethiopia in 1961.  Some came out to participate in the event.  

When other Eritreans opposed to the regime came to stop the celebration from taking place, the situation quickly turned violent. The two sides – numbering in total many hundreds, perhaps more – faced off with construction lumber, pieces of metal, rocks and, according to a report, at least one axe.  Damage was done to businesses and cars in the area, as well – including to police cars.    

At least 160 people were injured, some 15 seriously.   

Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg/AP

The police had not anticipated the degree of ferocity that would erupt.  “We were very surprised by the level of violence,” one law enforcement official said.

Some reports maintain that the police were warned and should have known.  The violence was not spontaneous: those for the government came dressed in red shirts and those opposed in blue, as seen above. Critics are saying the celebration should never have been approved because the scope of the opposition to it should have been anticipated.  (The celebration had received approval, the demonstration in opposition had not.)  But there was no precedent for anything like this.  

At one point the police lost control while attempting to disperse the crowd.  When the rioters began attacking them, they called for reinforcements. Backup troops by the hundreds came in riot gear, some on horseback, and used stun grenades, as well as live ammunition –  shot into the air – when their lives were threatened. Some 50 police officers were wounded – one so badly he required surgery because part of a camping stove remained embedded in his head after he was smashed with it. He is in serious condition.

Scroll down to the first video clip below to see the virulence of the clashes.  


“Prof. Ronni Gamzu, administrator of Ichilov Medical Center, said the hospital found itself dealing with a mass casualty incident on a scale he cannot recall experiencing during his time in the role.”


Needless to say, this incident has sparked a strong response.  Prime Minister Netanyahu convened an emergency meeting of ministers on Sunday morning to discuss the issue and pursue avenues forward.

Credit: Haim Zack/GPO

The prime minister said (emphasis added):

We are seeking strong steps against the rioters, including the immediate expulsion of those who took part. It is hard for me to understand why we would have a problem with those who declare that they support the regime; they certainly cannot claim refugee status.

I would also like this forum to prepare a complete and updated plan to repatriate all of the remaining illegal infiltrators from the State of Israel; this is the purpose of our meeting today.”



As great as the desire may be, on the part of the government and many Israelis, to see the Eritreans gone, it will not be a simple matter to accomplish this.

There are roughly 18,000 Eritreans in the country (there is no official count and from various organizations I picked up three different numbers).  They came, along with Sudanese (numbering perhaps 12,000), more than ten years ago, entering Israel from the Sinai.  The completion of the fence at the Sinai border, running from the Gaza Strip down to Eilat, put a stop to this illegal immigration.

Credit: Wikipedia

They claim to be – and are identified by media sources as – “asylum seekers.” But this is not so in all cases, indeed in many cases. I would never presume to say that none genuinely seek political asylum – i.e., would be in danger if they were to return home – but there are those in considerable numbers who came to Israel because it was a way to find a better life and earn better money.  

“They aren’t refugees,” Netanyahu declared at a cabinet meeting in 2017. “Or at least most of them aren’t. Most of them are looking for jobs.”


Netanyahu made the point most tellingly when he said that those who had come out in support of the Eritrean government cannot claim to be political refugees.

But there are other questions to be raised.  The African illegals living in south Tel Aviv have been destructive to that neighborhood, which was a poor one to begin with.  Israelis living in that area often feel abandoned by the government because the situation has been permitted to fester.  Most of the African illegals are males and there are high rates of drug use and crime to contend with.  

While on Saturday the degree of violence was extreme, it has not been out of the norm to encounter lower grade violence among the Eritreans – pro-government vs. anti-government – on a regular basis.  See this report from five years ago:  Said one reporter: “Dozens of Eritreans armed with clubs and rocks… It’s insane what’s happening here… Folks, this is crazy…”  Naftali Bennett, then Education Minister, called for the infiltrators to be removed from Israel: “In the heart of Tel Aviv there is a civil war…The responsibility is on us, the government of Israel. If we don’t act quickly, it will end with the loss of Israelis’ lives.”


What was low level violence has become something far more serious.  And patience has run out.

The question I cannot answer to my own satisfaction is why people seeking the protection of Israel would behave with hostility towards Israelis, and even the police, instead of keeping a low profile.  My assumption is that they hope (assume?) that the claim of refugee status will protect them. It has so far.  Their status is unclear, but they are allowed to work, and receive certain benefits such as medical care.


But here we have a significantly different take on what is going on.  An Eritrean quoted by Times of Israel said:  “If they say it’s so good in Eritrea, then everybody in Israel will ask: ‘Well, why aren’t the Eritreans going back then?’ We don’t want to go back and we don’t want the Israelis to think it’s okay to send us back.”


The picture painted here is not of pro-government vs. anti-government Eritreans, but those ready to support the government vs. those who do not want that display of support to be seen.  Note that this Eritrean did not say, “It would be dangerous to go back.” Or, “We are afraid to go back.” They don’t want…

I cited Bennett above.  Also in 2018, when considering a picture of hundreds of Eritreans in Israel attending an earlier event by the Eritrean Embassy, he wrote, “Would refugees escaping the regime’s horrors attend a party of that regime? People, these are illegal immigrants, not refugees.”


There were plans to move the infiltrators out back in 2018.  But what the Knesset had laid out, the High Court overturned.  Now there is determination to move beyond this stalemate:

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich (RZ) declared (emphasis added):

“In the Saturday riots, which were only the promo for what awaits us if we do not return the infiltrators to their countries of origin, there is only one responsible: the High Court. For years we have been warning, for years the High Court has prevented any action that would allow the infiltrators to be returned to their homes. That is precisely why we are leading the reforms in the judicial system that will allow elected officials to make decisions and carry them out for the citizens of Israel, their safety and security.”

It all circles around and should be duly noted here. Interference of the Court in Knesset decisions is part of the story.  Inappropriate Court interference is THE key issue of the day.

I am about to propose a bill to eliminate illegal migrants. The proposal will include a clause against High Court intervention,” said Likud MK Boaz Bismuth.

Credit: Israel Hayom

MK Simcha Rothman (RZ) is going further: He is introducing a bill, Basic Law: Entry, immigration, and status in Israel.  This would provide a set of guidelines for foreigners being granted entry or gaining status in Israel when they are not eligible for aliyah according to the Law of Return.



There are discussions being initiated as to who would be required to leave and where the illegals would go – possibly in some instances to another African country, even though Netanyahu referred only to “repatriation.”  Every year relatively small numbers leave voluntarily and are presented with funds on departing.

As attempts to move out the illegals proceeds, I anticipate a furor from various countries and agencies declaring that Israel is a heartless nation denying innocent refugees their rights. That would be about par for the course.

Stay tuned.


© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.