24 July 2008

On Terrorism and Increasing Jewish-Arab Violence in Israel

בס''ד

Copyright © 2008, R. Kossover
First published at Blogcritics Magazine

Ma'ale Levona, 23 July 2008

When I was just a kid in Williamsburg, the Satmar Hassidim, long back-coated Jews with beaver hats and and long sidelocks, reacted en masse to threats to their community - particularly by the Puerto Ricans who shared the slum I grew up in. When there was some kind of danger, they would shout "goyim!!!" (heathens!) in a harrowing cry, this being the worst kind of threat they could imagine that they could publicly confront. And the streets would almost immediately be crowded with men in black running to some central spot from where the shout had arisen.

I saw this once as a child. One evening, someone was shot on Bedford Avenue. I heard the gunshot, climbed up on a chair to look out my bedroom window which faced Bedford Avenue (yes, I was that young when this happened) and saw a body lying on the street - and a crowd of black gabardined men rushing to the body after they heard both the gunshot, and the shout of "goyim!!!" piercing the night air.

Here in Israel, the Hassidim are known, along with a large group of Jews who dress similarly but have violent theological disagreements with them, as Haredím - those who tremble when worshiping G-d. And these folks are not known for their non-violence, either.

The Haredím were the ones who violently confronted the police in Jerusalem in an effort to stop the "gay pride" provocation events planned here a couple of years back. They attacked a gay man parading on Keren haYesod in a "parade" once. They have burned garbage pails, tires, cars, and overturned buses in various incidents of violence in Geula and Mea Shearim, their most famous strongholds in Jerusalem, usually over incidents dealing with abortion or post-mortem examination of the dead, or the disturbing of graves.

They are known also for throwing rocks at people who drive through their neighborhood on the Sabbath, because in driving a vehicle, they are violating the Sabbath. The main square separating the two neighborhoods of Geula and Mea Shearim has been renamed because of their habit of throwing rocks at drivers by and screaming "shabbes! shabbes!" at them. The original name of the square has been lost to the dusty tomes of unread history texts. On the police radios these days, it is known as kikár shabbát (Sabbath Square). That is what everybody else calls it, too.

It is also a practice (how common is hard to say) to hire their tough yeshiva students to educate (that is beat up) men who refuse to grant a bill of religious divorce (a get) to their wives when marriages break down. Less a few teeth and a number of bruises later, the now "educated" husbands usually grant the women the bill of divorce - or they flee the country.

The long and the short of what I'm relating here is that there is a violent streak in Israeli and Jewish culture, and the Haredím characterize it most publicly, though it should be noted that they are not the only violent elements in Israeli society or Jewish culture.

This leads us to the Arab terror attacks in Jerusalem over these last few months; the shooting at yeshivát merkáz haráv on 6 March, the frontloader attack on the Jaffa Road on 2 July, and the bulldozer attack on King David Street on 22 July. The victims of the first attack were Haredím; a large number of witnesses to the second attack were Haredím; and I suspect, though I do not know this to be true (I was here in Ma'ale Levona at the time), that a large number of witnesses to Tuesday's attack were also Haredím.

The pattern heretofore has been Arabs attacking Jews, usually innocent Jews. Indeed, the most important act of the murderer Samir Kuntar, released last week, was to smash the head of an infant against a rock with a rifle butt, an act that will likely earn him extra-judicial execution at the hands of the IDF, now that he is free and a "hero" in Lebanon.

In addition, we see the arrest of far more Arabs in Jerusalem for terrorist activity than in years previous. There appears to be a greater threat of terrorism from Arabs living in Jerusalem than authorities wanted to acknowledge, and now real questions are being raised as to whether Arabs can be trusted not to kill Jews in positions of employment. I myself would never have questioned this previously - one of the doctors who operated on me when I was admitted to a hospital suffering from a heart attack was an Arab.

Finally, we come to an event that occurred last night in Jerusalem. Originally, I saw the report in Ynetnews, and then just now in Arutz Sheva. Typical to the ideological slant of the paper, Ynetnews called this a near-lynching. But, it is illustrative of the Haredi culture that I explained above. Two Arabs got into a dispute with a Haredi store owner, and the store owner shouted "goyim!!!", just as the Hassidim did in Williamsburg a half century ago. The Arabs were attacked and they fled, entering the home of a Jewish family in mourning (their door was not locked, so as to allow visitors to come without knocking, as is Jewish custom). The Jewish man in mourning tried to protect the Arabs from being beaten up, and for this, he was stabbed by one of the Haredím, who called him a traitor for protecting an Arab against a Jew.

This kind of violence simmers just under the surface of Jerusalem all the time, but it broke last night.

Why?

While I cannot say for sure, I can guess that the Haredím have had it up to the eyeballs with the public coddling of Arab murderers and their families, and the unwillingness or inability of the police to protect the Jewish population against Arabs - who may do business with us, but hate us nonetheless.

For the last seven years that I have lived in this country, what I have seen is the fear of Arabs by Jews. This is true in Haifa, in Jerusalem, in Jaffa. It was true when Jews were chased out of Peqiin by angry Druze last year. I have friends who refused to allow their children to ride the public buses for fear of Arab terrorism when we first moved here. Jews were afraid here as they were overseas, as the Hebrew press would automatically take the side of the Arabs, and the police would not protect them. The outbreak of violence against Arabs is a healthy sign - a sign that Jews are beginning to get back their self-respect, and ugly as the incident was last night, it portends not evil, but good.

The tide within the Jewish population may be turning at last, at long last, and it appears they are willing to finally do what needs to be done to instill fear into an arrogant and murderous minority that receives all too much sympathy from ignorant foreigners worldwide, foreigners who judge us to a far higher standard than they themselves can hope to attain.

It is long past time to reverse the Jewish fear of Arabs, and to make the resident Arabs in the Land of Israel tremble. It is time to make them appreciate the gift of life that G-d gives them daily - that they might choose life and not death - good and not evil. This is a major step on the road to the reconciliation between Arabs and Jews foretold in the Book of Isaiah.

כל צאן קדר יקבצו לך אילי נביות ישרתונך יעלו על-רצון מזבחי ובית תפארתי אפאר

All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered unto you, the rams of Nevayot will serve you; they will be brought up with favor upon My Altar, and I will glorify the House of My Splendor. [Isaiah 60:7].


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