By Jonathan Felstein
This week’s murder of a neighbor in a terror attack carried out by a teenage Palestinian Arab was glaring and jarring in many ways.
First and foremost, his death is a great loss for our community and Israel on the whole, but mostly for his wife, four children, parents, siblings and many other family and close friends who survived him, of which there were many. He’s been lauded as a hero in his life and his death.
It’s jarring because not only was he armed, but he chased down the terrorist after being fatally stabbed, shooting the terrorist, and preventing further loss of life.
It’s jarring because we just observed the 25th anniversary of the Oslo Accords that was to have ushered an era of peace. Instead, the past quarter century has seen thousands of Israelis murdered and injured in an era marked by ongoing Palestinian Arab terror, incitement, and placating and excusing their culture of hatred and murder being celebrated and glorified.
This happened days before Jews observe Yom Kippur, when God seals His judgement, including who shall live and who shall die. It’s unusually jarring, leaving us to grieve, be angry, and ask why to a question that cannot be answered, or whose answers cannot be understood.
While Israelis never fully live without fear of terror and war, these things are, sadly, part of our norm. This murder was not a standalone act but one that’s part of an overall pattern.
This week three other things happened locally that underscore that.
First, while you may have heard of the practice originally emanating from Gaza, a simple balloon found in a neighborhood just to the north of mine, ½ mile closer to, and obviously downwind, from Bethlehem became a cause for concern.
You’d be forgiven for not knowing about this new Palestinian Arab “innovation” by using children’s toys such as kites and balloons (also inflated condoms) attached to explosive or incendiary devices to create terror. It’s scarcely been reported in foreign media.
But worse, and even more inhuman than the acts themselves, they are designed premeditatedly to create maximal death and injury among children. The terrorists have even produced special balloons decorated with hearts and the word “Love,” albeit in Arabic, to fool children. After all, what little child won’t see a balloon with hearts all over it and not want to pick it up and play with it. Particularly a preschool child who has yet to learn to read much less identify the Arabic for anything more than a bunch of squiggly lines.
This depth of premeditated evil is unimaginable, on many levels.
In the same neighborhood this week, there was a terrorist infiltration which caused thousands of us to be on lockdown for hours speculating as to what was going on. From my bedroom window, I saw several flares fired into the air over the valley that separates us from Bethlehem and its southern suburbs. We saw drones hovering. We heard (and saw) firing of weapons including what one neighbor identified as stun grenades.
My son in law joined his volunteer rapid response team to complement the military presence tracking down the terrorist. Eventually at about midnight we got an all clear that it was safe to leave our homes. It seems the infiltrating terrorist made it back to his home, or at least someone’s home in which he could hide.
This is not the first such incident in our neighborhood and it’s known that incidents like this take place often in other places as well, though are virtually never reported on.
This lead me to think that though things have been relatively quiet here, at least as far as stabbing and similar attacks go, is it possible that this will trigger a new “stabbing intifada,” the likes of which Israel suffered three years ago. During that period, numerous Palestinian Arabs armed themselves with kitchen knives and approached Israelis to stab them. Many of these were “successful,” resulting in dozens of casualties.
It might be easy to write these off as lone wolf attacks, but the fact that they are celebrated in their society, and there were even training videos made to teach Palestinian Arabs how to inflict the most harm, make it all part of their culture of terror and hatred.
A knife I left on the counter after cutting a lime created a bit of PTSD. During that “stabbing intifada” we had Palestinian Arab workers in our home. At one point when my wife had opened a kitchen drawer, the foreman who we had grown fond of, slammed it shut. He was worried about the appearance of knives being in the open, or maybe that one of his own workers might find an open drawer with a knife visible too tempting, as if that’s a normal thought.
Hopefully this won’t lead to more copycat terrorism, but we have to be prepared, and aware.
My older son, away at a pre-military academy, texted me asking if he should come home for the funeral of our neighbor this week. I wrote back that he should stay there and pray with the other young men. He’s at least 90 minutes away and might not have made it in time anyway. He asked “why.” Of course I couldn’t stop him, and admired that he thought about it.
My kids have had enough opportunities to go to funerals of terror victims.
But what I thought during that exchange, but didn’t say, was “Don’t worry, you’re young and haven’t even gone into the army yet. You’ll have plenty of funerals to go to.”
I pray I am wrong. I pray that his military service will be marked by boredom and the long dreamed of era of peace that we were to have 25 years ago. I pray that 25 years from now his son won’t ask the same question.
I’m not holding my breath.
Jonathan Feldstein was born and educated in the U.S. and immigrated to Israel in 2004. He is married and the father of six. Throughout his life and career, he has been blessed by the calling to fellowship with Christian supporters of Israel and shares experiences of living as an Orthodox Jew in Israel. He writes regular columns from Israel and can be reached at [email protected]