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The Jewish Report Editorial

Terror from within

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In just eight days, 11 people living in Israel have been brutally murdered in three separate terrorist attacks.

If you consider that 13 Israelis were killed during the Gaza-Israel conflict in May last year when thousands of missiles were fired into Israel, this number is devastating.

It represents 11 different but beautiful souls who did nothing wrong other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time – first in Be’er Sheva, then in Hadera and then, on Tuesday night, in Bnei Brak.

Two of those who were murdered in Bnei Brak had recently arrived in Israel, having escaped the war in Ukraine. The irony of the fact that they came to Israel to start a new life, away from fear, isn’t lost on us.

Some who were killed were young, some older, some parents of little ones, one man left his wife who was about to give birth, but all didn’t want to harm anyone. They were just getting on with life as they knew it when it was mercilessly cut short by people who just wanted to kill.

Those perpetrators, two of whom live in Israel, carry Israeli passports and even vote in elections, went out to kill Israeli citizens. They didn’t stop to ask questions or give their views. They just killed whoever they could find.

One Israeli child on a bicycle was riding in Bnei Brak when the killer was shooting, and he sped up and managed to escape. It was a close shave. His loving family was saved the devastation of losing a child.

The terrifying thing is, though Israel pays top dollar to protect its skies from missiles, it’s extremely difficult to protect the population from people legitimately living in the country.

And when Israel raises its defences against those in the country or in the West Bank and Gaza to ensure this doesn’t happen again, the Israel haters will be out in full force to condemn the country for being heavy handed.

It will inevitably look and be heavy handed, but just how do you protect your people from an enemy within without coming down hard?

Now, at this point, it isn’t clear if the three attacks were organised by one group of terrorists. However, the fundamentalist Islamic State terrorist organisation (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the first two, in Be’er Sheva and Hadera, in which the assailants were later killed. This was particularly unusual because attacks in Israel are usually motivated by Hamas and other West Bank or Gazan Palestinian groups. This is the first time, as I can recall, that ISIS has attacked within the borders of Israel. This, as you can read in our page one story, may have implications for us here in South Africa.

No organisation has yet claimed responsibility for the third attack, in Bnei Brak, in which five people were killed. However, the Palestinian Authority leader, Mahmoud Abbas, condemned the Bnei Brak attack, which is particularly unusual for him. This is in spite of there being much celebration in the West Bank in support of the killers.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who I understand is recovering from COVID-19, called an emergency meeting with top officials last night, saying that the country was gripped by “a wave of murderous Arab terrorism”.

While all this is happening, there’s no word from the South African government about the attacks. The government has simply ignored the first, second, and then third attack in Israel.

I guess the fact that most of the victims were Israeli and it all happened in Israel must mean it didn’t happen in their eyes. Either that, or they simply don’t care for Israeli loss of life. But, wait for Israel to retaliate – and it obviously will – and Israel will be condemned for it.

Am I too cynical? Or perhaps I misunderstand something. Maybe…

But perhaps our Israel haters are just waiting for Israel to do something to ensure there won’t be another attack so they can condemn Israel yet again.

And yet again, they’ll say their outbursts aren’t in anyway antisemitic, just about Israel being inhumane etcetera. We have been there before and, I guess, we’ll be there again, all in the name of safeguarding Israel from its enemies.

If these so called ‘human-rights activists’ really understood human rights, they would recognise that Israelis, too, have a right to life. They would understand that a gunman opening fire on passersby in the street isn’t acknowledging human rights. So, why not condemn that person rather than those who go out to prevent it from happening again?

Meanwhile, the war in Ukraine continues to rage, five weeks after Russia first invaded. There have been more than 1 151 Ukrainian civilian deaths, including 103 children, and 1 860 wounded.

As we count down to Pesach, it’s hard to ignore certain similarities between the Jewish exodus from Egypt and Ukrainians fleeing their country for survival.

Every year at our Pesach seders, we leave a seat and place at the table for the prophet, Elijah. We’re told his arrival will be the beginning of the world’s redemption, something we can agree would be welcome.

Back in the 1960s, when Jews in the former Soviet Union were prevented from making aliya, many Jews around the world would leave a second empty seat at their seder tables in honour of these “refuseniks”. These “prisoners of Zion” as they were called, including Natan Sharansky, were later released, ending this campaign.

So, how about this year, saving a second seat at your table to acknowledge the 3.8 million Ukrainian refugees and 10 million people who have lost their homes due to the Russian invasion?

Join the SA Jewish Report in doing this. And don’t forget to talk about what it means to you and your families.

While the Israeli government is calling on Israelis to invite new Ukrainian olim to their seder, we can bring them into our seder night in this way.

Don’t forget to light a third Shabbos candle for Ukrainians as well.

Shabbat Shalom!

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