On Saturday night, I welcomed my good friends Gary and Cindy Bayer for dinner. They live in Jerusalem’s Old City part-time, but we hadn’t seen each other in months. It was a happy reunion and although they’d been wrestling with health issues, our conversation was entirely happy and upbeat.
After they left, I checked my computer for messages or late news, as usual, and quickly noticed that there had been another terrorist attack – this time in the Old City. I say “another terrorist attack” because it wasn’t the first one to take place last week.
A heartbreaking double murder occurred last Thursday. A husband and wife, Rabbi Eitam and his wife Naama Henkin, were shot dead on a road near the Itamar community in Samaria. Miraculously, their four small children survived – orphaned, but physically unharmed.
It was reported that a hail of terrorists’ bullets killed Naama instantly. Her husband Eitam, although mortally wounded, somehow got out of the car, opened the back door to get his children out safely, and then collapsed in death.
Hamas happily took credit for this murder and celebrated it that night and the following day, handing out candies on the street.
Back to Saturday night. What had happened this time? I frantically surfed the Internet for details, and it didn’t take long to find them.
It was another murder; another attack on a family of four.
When I tried to figure out where this all took place, I braced myself as I watched a rather gruesome video in which I could hear a woman screaming, a baby wailing, and a male voice shouting, “Allahu Akbar.”
I also recognized the location. That’s when I realized it a happened way too close to my friends’ home.
I phoned Cindy Bayer immediately.
“Yes, we just walked through the Damascus gate,” she said. “We hit a wall of riot police. Not sure when we’ll be able to get home.”
The police were indeed out in force. Why? Because a young Muslim had tried to murder another Jewish family, this time with a knife. He stabbed to death Aharon Banita, a young Orthodox Jewish father, and seriously wounded Aharon’s wife Adele as the couple pushed their two babies in strollers, making their way to the Western Wall.
Nehemia Lavi, a rabbi who lived nearby, heard the family’s screams and rushed out to help. He, too, was stabbed to death. The Banitas’ two children survived, their toddler was injured by a bullet (the assailant had grabbed Lavi’s gun after killing him and fired it at the police) and their infant was traumatized but unharmed.
The minute the police appeared, the assailant was shot dead. The sound of the gunfire was piercing, even in the video I saw.
Thankfully, the Bayers eventually made it home. It took them a long time to get past the police barricades, because the murders had happened just around the corner from their building.
One of them later told me, as they waited in the crowd behind the police lines, that the local Arabs had “displayed no remorse whatsoever.”
This was confirmed by Ruthie Blum, who wrote in The Algemeiner that the incident was “documented on the cell phones of Arab onlookers, who laughed and spit at the young mother covered in blood, begging for help as she tried to flee the scene with a knife wedged in her shoulder. ‘You should die, too,’ they chanted, while she stumbled ahead in the direction of Israeli Border Police.”
The attacker was identified as Mohammad Halabi, a 19-year-old Palestinian law student at Al-Quds University from a village near Ramallah. On his Facebook page, Halabi wrote that the Palestinian people would not accept Israel’s attacks on the Al Quds Mosque in Jerusalem’s Temple Mount and that the third intifada has already begun.
In the days that have followed, a list of subsequent terror attacks continues to grow longer.
Terrorists have repeatedly thrown rocks at buses and cars. These are not small stones or pebbles, but cinder blocks and weighty projectiles large enough to shatter windows and windshields.
On Wednesday, dozens of young, masked Arabs stoned several cars as they drove toward Jerusalem in the morning traffic. A popular talk-show host and free-lance journalist, Israeli-America Josh Hasten, reported that he feared for his life as his car was attacked.
Lone wolf stabbings have also continued.
Yesterday, Oct. 8, a Jerusalem man was seriously wounded in a Jerusalem stabbing. Five Israelis were “lightly injured” in a Tel Aviv attack; one of them was a female IDF soldier.
As I write, a man has been critically wounded in Kiryat Arba, a community in the Hebron area. “Initial reports indicate a Palestinian assailant stabbed a civilian. The attacker fled the scene. Forces are searching the area. The civilian was severely wounded and is now being evacuated for emergency medical care.”
Stone-throwing at IDF troops, rioting and violence has spread so dramatically over the last week that it is difficult to keep up with it.
Clashes between IDF troops and rioters were reported today near Ramallah.
A soldier was stabbed hours ago in Afula.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat instructed residents with gun permits to carry their weapons with them. “I have a licensed gun,” Barkat said. “Every time there is tension, I instruct people who are allowed to carry weapons and are experienced in using them to carry their guns with them. If you check, you’ll see that in many cases, those who neutralized terrorists were citizens who aren’t necessarily police officers, like former soldiers.”
And the trouble isn’t over yet.
The Jewish holidays ended on Monday night. Between Rosh Hashanah and the Sukkot feast, many Jews from abroad as well as local residents visited not only the Western Wall but also the Temple Mount. They are forbidden to worship or pray there, but still they go, as an act of remembrance and courage, and as a statement of faith.
These visits are reported across the Middle East with the absurdly libelous Temple Mount accusations: “Settlers storm the al-Aqsa.” As I recently wrote for “The Philos Project”,
It is no exaggeration to say that on the Temple Mount, incitement to violence by radical Muslims never stops for long. Disturbances frequently break out, usually inspired by rumors and falsified reports that the Jews are “storming,” or otherwise “defiling” Al-Aksa. These reports are widespread in Middle East news, simultaneously appearing in Saudi, Iranian, Turkish, Lebanese, Egyptian and other Muslim-dominated media.
Provocation – including name-calling, threats and shoving – is predictable during the brief window of time Jews are permitted to enter this site; they are watched carefully, lest they so much as move their lips in silent prayer.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has rightly blamed Arab incitement – particularly the outrageous lies about the Temple Mount – for the largest part of this recent wave of Arab violence. Indeed, many are calling it “The Third Intifada.”
Will it be so? Or will this epidemic of hatred be stopped – once again – by Israel?
Another of my friends is the survivor of a terrible Hamas bombing, which took place in 1997 at the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem. In that infamous assault, 16 people were killed and 178 injured. My friend was terribly burned and lived with excruciating pain for years following the attack.
Originally from Germany, Dr. Petra Heldt is a scholar, professor and ordained minister in the Lutheran church. She came by my home for a visit just a few hours ago.
After a pleasant conversation, I had to ask her what I hoped wasn’t an inappropriate question: What does she think about when terrorism escalates the way has done in recent days?
Today, Petra’s scars are still visible, but her smile always eclipses them. And she smiled broadly as she answered my question.
“Whenever those who hate Israel strike out with terrorism, there is invariably strong resistance – a powerful pushback,” she said. “And every time that happens, Israel becomes just a little stronger.”
Needless to say, we all know that the loss of life to terrorism is horrifying – that much is obvious. Death and injury leave behind orphaned children and disabled survivors. And in the meantime, fear is a dark shadow that hangs heavily over the country.
And yet Petra has more to say than simply to mourn what threatens and what has been lost.
“When they bombed the Mahane Yehuda Market where I was injured,” she told me, “they not only wanted to kill people, but they also thought they had destroyed a thriving center of Jerusalem’s way of life – the beating heart of the city.
“Instead, today, the market is bigger, livelier, more beautiful than ever before.
“Whenever terrorism means to kill and destroy, the brutality is always defeated. It is overcome by the Israeli people’s faith in God, love of life, and celebration of their beloved country.
“And that,” she concluded, with another radiant smile, “is the spirit of Israel.”