October 8, 2015
Let’s start with the good news. It rained today, a bountiful heavy rain, all over the country. First rain of the season! It is customary in Jewish congregations all over the world to pray for rain on Simchat Torah, the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles. Even congregations around the world pray for rain in Israel. And it is always so special when our prayers are answered so quickly. We recited the prayers on Monday, and on Tuesday night it was already pouring. Thank G-d for such wonderful blessings!
The bad news has come with a deluge, though, especially today. It seems that every time I checked an online news site or listened to the radio today there was a report of yet another terrorist attack. A young woman was attacked in her car as she was driving from Tekoa towards Jerusalem. She barely escaped with her life. A Palestinian woman stabbed a Jewish man in the Old City of Jerusalem, in almost the same spot where two Jews were murdered on Saturday night. The Saturday night murders were particularly heinous as security camera footage caught the Arab bystanders cursing or kicking the victims, as others sipped their tea and watched the horrific spectacle of people being attacked and killed. Where is their humanity?
Later on today, an Arab rally in Lod turned violent, a terrorist attacked at a shopping mall in Petach Tikvah, while another attacked in Kiryat Gat. Attacks took place in Jaffa as well. An Arab car tried to run over soldiers near Maale Adumim before they were stopped. And that was all in one day!
Perhaps the most horrific of all, was the attack last Thursday night on the Henkin family. Naama and Eitam Henkin were driving home from a high school reunion with their four children in tow, ages 4 months to 9 years. They lived in Neria, in southern Samaria and were on their way home from Elon Moreh, the Biblical Oak of Moreh just near Mt. Gerizim. Two terrorist waited to ambush them, shooting at the car, then approached and fired at close range to ensure the young parents were killed. Miraculously they did not shoot the children.
I met Eitam Henkin’s mother a number of years ago and had the opportunity to share with her the work I do to connect Christians to Israel. She was very supportive. But Rabbanit Chana Henkin is a legend in Israel and indeed throughout the Jewish world. She and her husband are both Jewish educators who made aliyah to Israel from the US many years ago. Chana was one of the first pioneers in advanced Jewish education for woman, founding a Bible School in Jerusalem where Jewish women from all over Israel and indeed from all over the world study Bible, Talmud and other classic Jewish texts. She has initiated ground-breaking programs in rabbinic studies for women, as well. And she was my daughter-in-law’s teacher and mentor.
This terrible tragedy took place on the holiday of Succot, the Feast of Tabernacles, when the Bible commands us to rejoice (Leviticus 23:40). And as we learned of this tragedy and the subsequent murders in Jerusalem during the festive holiday, we felt torn between our desire to rejoice in the Festivals that G-d has given us, and our need to mourn for the lost ones.
I don’t believe we are on the verge of a third intifada. The large scale violence that we experienced at the turn of this century and that claimed more than 1,000 innocent Jewish lives left deep scars in both Arab and Jewish societies. In recent years, the Arabs turned their attention to the economy more than to terrorism and their standard of living has risen appreciably. Most Arab adults are not eager to trade their improved lifestyle for ongoing terrorism and war. But the young hot-heads, who are urged on by irresponsible and fanatic leaders, are taking the lead in these recent attacks.
Faced with ongoing violence, though, there is one thing that Israel can do that is at once positive and an effective deterrent. We can build in Judea and Samaria. If there is one non-violent action that threatens the Palestinian dreams of statehood it is the expansion of the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. I believe that we should build in order to demonstrate our unwavering commitment to and love for the Land of Israel. But if the Palestinians know that for every terrorist attack, Israel will build hundreds of new homes in Judea and Samaria, it will give them pause.
Even as we continue living our daily lives, routines are affected. Yesterday, I was driving to Hebron when I drove over a large rock that had been thrown on the road, perhaps targeting a previous car. I did not see the rock in time to avoid it. It ripped through my front tire and I could not continue driving. With great hesitation, I pulled over to the shoulder of the lonely deserted road, got out of the car to check the damage, and then quickly returned to the relative safety inside. I phoned the army and soldiers immediately arrived by jeep. They helped me change my tire, while guarding against attack, and they accompanied me to a nearby community to wait safely for help to arrive. I felt guilty for taking up the time of these young combat soldiers but they made it clear, this was their job. They would not leave a woman alone on the road in such dangerous times.
Imagine getting a flat tire from a stone that was meant to kill. Imagine calling out the army to help you change your tire. Imagine debating whether to get out of your car, not sure if terrorists were lurking nearby. This is our life.