Ra’anana terror attacks leave community united but shaken
The safe streets of Ra’anana near Tel Aviv were rocked by multiple terrorist attacks earlier this week which have shaken a close-knit community still reeling from the ravages of a country at war.
Ra’anana affectionately known as Ra’ananafontein because of its popularity among ex-South Africans who have made aliya, has 1 250 former South African families, according to Telfed.
There are fears that the suburban attack may herald a wave of Palestinian terror from the West Bank, but residents are determined to unite and stay strong.
Ex-South African Robin Nussbaum witnessed one of the attacks from his office window, which overlooks one of the town’s main intersections of Ahuza Street and Yerushalaim Road.
“I sit with my back facing the window. I heard an almighty noise that sounded like a huge truck crashing and dropping a heavy load of sand. I immediately turned my back and saw kids running away from the bus stop where I saw a white car crashed on the pavement. I wanted it to be a car accident not a terror attack, although deep down, I knew it was a car ramming. I didn’t want to believe that a person would drive a car into a group of people, mostly school kids, waiting for the bus.
“My colleagues heard me shout and came running to the window. When I called the emergency number to report the incident, the operator thought I’d made a mistake because she was busy with reports of another incident elsewhere, and she wanted to speak to my Israeli colleague in Hebrew to make sure. That’s when the penny dropped, and we realised there were multiple attacks.”
Elderly Ra’anana resident, Edna Bluestein, 79, was killed and about 17 people were injured, several seriously, including at least seven children and teenagers, in a car ramming and stabbing attack by two Palestinian terrorists in separate areas of the central Israel city early on Monday, 15 January.
During the attacks, the terrorists, two West Bank Palestinians who according to reports were working in Israel illegally, seized three vehicles and rammed pedestrians in several locations in the suburb, also stabbing one or more of their victims, according to police, medics, and eyewitnesses.
The two suspects were named as Ahmed Zidat, 25, and Mahmoud Zidad, 44, both residents of the southern West Bank town of Bani Na’im, close to Hebron. According to the Shin Bet, both had been blacklisted for entering Israel illegally numerous times in the past.
The attack began at about 13:30, as schools were dismissing students for the day.
Casualties from the attack were taken to numerous hospitals and care facilities.
The head of the police’s Central District, Deputy Commissioner Avi Bitton, said the attack was carried out by Palestinian relatives from the Hebron area of the West Bank who had recently been working in the city’s industrial zone.
Both the suspects were under arrest and being questioned, Bitton said, saying that the first was apprehended quickly and the second a few minutes later.
Police and the Shin Bet security agency are jointly investigating. Reports said the suspects had been working at a car wash in the city.
“My office is opposite that bus stop that was hit. Many of my colleagues use that bus stop and are now afraid to come to work by bus. I live in Modi’in, and now my wife and I are afraid to let our kids use the bus to get to and from school,” Nussbaum said.
He is, however, encouraged by the unity and resilience displayed by people.
“The next morning, you could see people praying shachrit at the exact site of the terror attack. From fear and despair to courage and hope, that’s Israel. Though I reel in horror and sadness for the victims of this latest terror attack and for the hostages still in Gaza, it’s events like these multiple terror attacks that make us stronger and more determined to fight to be able to live in peace,” he said.
Former South African Andi Saitowitz, who lives in Ra’anana, said one of the attacks happened directly outside her son’s high school, Amit Kfar Batya.
She posted on Facebook, “I wish I could say that I’m ok. But nothing about anything is ok.”
Speaking to the SA Jewish Report, she said she had just got home from work, when she started getting WhatsApp messages which initially she thought involved a car hijacking.
“I soon realised when the school WhatsApp groups started exploding that this wasn’t the case. This was very real and close to home.”
The very next morning, however, children from the school prayed at the site where it happened.
“They responded to evil by going back to where it happened to pray, sing, and unite. In response to terror, they gathered to add light to the world. While we pray for three of the injured boys, this inspiring response to evil gives us hope.
“A country this size is small enough for everyone to know everyone. We’re all connected somehow. We’re like family. When my friend’s children are in Gaza, it’s as if my own children are there.
“Our children are an inspiring, resilient generation who have lived through a pandemic and now a war, and they’re still going strong. It’s remarkable.
“They have barely been at school because most of their teachers are in the army, but they continue to volunteer on farms, make sandwiches, look after families displaced by the war, and do whatever it takes to help. The unity displayed by the youth has created a sense of hopefulness, and we’re seeing incredible miracles. These are hard times with no end in sight. We’re putting one foot in front of the other, but in spite of this, there’s nowhere in the world I’d rather be. This is our home. There’s no place in the world like this.”