A gunman entered the prominent Jewish seminary, Mercaz Harav, in the heart of Jerusalem on Thursday night, killing at least eight students and wounding some nine others. It was the deadliest attack on Israeli civilians in nearly two years and the first attack inside Jerusalem in four. The attack comes at a time of increased Israeli-Palestinian tension, after a rise of violence in Gaza that has seen longer-range rockets reach the Israeli city of Ashkelon, a medium-size Israeli military operation in Gaza, and the deaths of nearly 130 Palestinians since February 27. Four Israelis have died, including a soldier last Thursday.
In Gaza, the radical Islamic movement Hamas did not take responsibility for the yeshiva attack but praised it. In a text message, Hamas said: “We bless the operation. It will not be the last.”.
Police confirmed that the Palestinian terrorist who opened fire at Jerusalem's Mercaz Harav Yeshiva carried a blue Israeli identity card and came from East Jerusalem. Daniel Seaman, head of the Israeli government press office, said: “Jerusalem is a town where Jews and Arabs live together. The terrorist took advantage of the fact that he could move freely in west Jerusalem.”
When I was in High School I remember an event where a terrorist stabbed a soldier to death in the Old City. Schools were stopped and instead we held discussions on the topic, on the attack, life in Jerusalem and coexistence. Instead of the usual broadcast, there was constant programming coming from the ground, accompanied by moving songs and discussions. Almost like memorial day.
Nowadays? There is an attack, and three hours later the broadcasts stop. Except some headlines in newspapers and talk show interviews of bereaved parents, we easily return to our regular routines. From the amount of terrorist bombings, shootings and missiles, we developed elephant skin and created a filter. We learned to repress. We are angry and sad only as long as the topic hits the headlines. The next day we chat about American Idol while sitting at cafes.
And only families of the dead cannot move onwards.
There is a saying in the army that goes: “whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Whatever kills you makes your mother stronger”.
Well, from our blood-drenched experience we learned that we might be “stronger” from one attack to another, but a mother who loses her child will never get stronger.
A wedding and an attack. Happiness diluted in sorrow.
This was supposed to be a very happy post in which I tell about my good friend's wedding.
During the seven blessings, the person next to me said “fire” and “mercaz”. I thought perhaps a fire broke out in the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva. I looked at him as he was immersed in his mobile internet and suddenly realized: a terrorist opened fire in Mercaz Harav… I decided against stopping the celebration. When the couple entered the designated room, everyone else already knew. We called our friends who study there. A friend's brother is fine. Another friend is also fine. A third is not answering, his phone closed. But in his house they say he called and that he is fine. Then the bride and groom return, and you need to enter a wedding atmosphere – dancing and anything to make them happy in their big day. They did not know about it until the end of the evening.
I am so sad about the attack. It took me time to comprehend. But when I did, I walked upstairs and started reading the book of psalms.
So sad about the dead.
Many voices, such as this one, request the government to react harshly to the attack:
There is a strategic importance for such an attack in the Israeli capital. The other nation (Palestinians) consider the success of the Jerusalem attack a day of celebration. In any case, when someone succeeds to hurt your capital, it is as if they are harming the head of your country.
I think the IDF needs to react harshly to this event. All the people in Israel shall call out and say – no more silence!
On the opposite side of the scale, in his article published in Haaretz, Gideon Levy provides context regarding the Yeshiva's extreme right wing views, and the Rabbis which were educated and educate there:
It is still unclear if the terrorist knew exactly where he was heading when he entered Yeshivat Mercaz Harav and killed eight of its students.
“The flagship of religious Zionism” was among the used phrases, along with “holiest of holies” and even an exaggerated comparison to the Al-Aqsa mosque in terms of its holiness as a location. Some of the crowns tied to the school's name are indeed appropriate. There is nothing that can justify the horrid killing of youth in a library. But it is important to remember, even in this difficult hour, what came out of this school.
Many Rabbis who led some of the more damaging steps in the history of Zionism were educated there. Many right winged, Arab-hating instigators came from this “flagship”. Religious leaders such as Moshe Levinger, Haim Drukman, Avraham Shapira, Yaakov Ariel, Zafania Drori, Shlomo Aviner and Dov Lior, all admired by their students, were raised and raised generations of nationalistic youth within the walls of this school. For instance, how do we grasp Rabbi Lior's words from the past, who ruled in 2004 that the IDF is permitted to kill innocent people? That only we can? Lior declared that “one must not be blamed for the ethics of gentiles”. He ruled that the Knesset cannot decide to evacuate settlements, and that soldiers can refuse to obey orders to evacuate settlers. Rabbi Drukman made similar claims. Rabbi Aviner, another graduate of the school, called out to kill those refusing the compulsory draft. At that time there were mostly refusals from left-wing youth. In addition, Aviner claimed that soldiers who die in wars are not a reason for national mourning, and requested to cancel the Memorial Day. He compared the “road map” plan for peace as if conceding to Hitler. Evacuating settlements, he claimed, is an unlawful sin.
My heart is torn with the killing in the yeshiva. No one deserved it. Not the innocent in Gaza and not those dead in Mercaz Harav, Jerusalem. They all died in vain. They already paid the heaviest price. Their families and surrounding will surely gain more radical views, which will continually lead us through this never-ending cycle of bloodshed.
Palestinian defense sources estimate that the gunman was acting on instructions from Hamas leaders in Damascus, in coordination with Hezbollah. Pinhas Inbari describes a collaboration between Hizbollah, Islamic Jihad and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade in planning the attack:
According to current data, it is reasonable to assume that behind the attack at Yeshivat Merkaz Harav in Jerusalem stand several terrorist organizations: Hizbollah, Islamic Jihad and the Fatah's Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.
Immediately after the attack, IDF acted against Islamic Jihad foundations in Bethlehem, carrying out house searches and arrests. Initially, it did not seem to be connected to the attack since the Islamic Jihad took responsibility that day for a previous attack in which an IDF soldier was killed. It became clear that the main target was Muhammad Shehada, who was not captured, but whose home was demolished by Israeli security forces. Shehada, who recently converted from being Sunni to Shi'ite, is directly linked to Hizbollah. This proves direct involvement of Hizbollah with the Islamic Jihad, through the connecting factor, Shehada. Usually, Hizbollah prefers to operate within Israel in a discrete manner, but Shehada's connection with this attack makes their involvement clearer than they had wished for.
The Kalashnikov rifle used by the Palestinian terrorist in the attack most probably belongs to the Palestinian Security Forces, which brings us to Fatah. One must not reject the possibility that the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, who operate closely with the Islamic Jihad, helped get the weapon to the terrorist's hands.
Hanan Cohen posts a piece he wrote five years ago after a lethal terrorist attack in a Jerusalem cafe, which is still astoundingly relevant today:
It is a moral declaration, which you do not hear these days.
The right wing accuses Arabs of violence. The left wing accuses the Israeli government of occupation. Both sides justify death on one of the sides, every one with a different excuse. The Israeli left and right react similarly to the expression ‘death does not justify death’ by saying “true, but…”
They are both morally rotten. The left justifies those “fighting against occupation” and the right supports the IDF actions. Both left and right justify the killing of people – of babies or soldiers. As the conflict escalates, we will see an increase in their moral stench, which will prevent any opportunity to find a solution.
“Death does not justify death” – this is the moral foundation for a solution. Both left and right wings must remind themselves, so they can reach an agreement… We need Jews and Palestinians to understand and internalize this fundamental difference between justifying violence and explaining its reasons. The move from “justifying” to “explaining” is complex and difficult, yet hidden within is true hope for a solution.
Throughout the many pessimistic voices reacting to recent events, Yohay carries a dab of hope for the cessation of hostilities on both sides:
Up to now, it seemed that our government just didn’t give a damn about those people living in the south. Their voice isn’t heard in Tel Aviv or in Jerusalem. Protests have done little to move Israelis that live outside of the rockets’ zone.
The media usually doesn’t find reports about Qassams to be news.
It seemed convenient to live with a regular share of rockets and casualties, and to use this issue as an excuse for not making progress in any peace process.
The rockets on Ashkelon, the student that was killed in Sapir college and the rising frequency of rockets probably moved the media and the government. The action wasn’t the promised “Big Operation”, and I hope that such a big operation won’t go through.
I hope that the recent raid will trigger some talks about a cessation of hostilities as some Israeli politicians have suggested. These suggestions are now spoken by the politicians and also voiced by the media.
These voices wouldn’t be echoed without the raid on the weekend.
Will we see an end to this war of attrition?