June 27, 2023
Sondra Oster Baras
Last week, two terrorists drove up to a popular rest stop and hummus restaurant on Route 60, at the Eli Junction (between Maale Levona and Shiloh). They opened fire on a man filling his car at the local filling station, killing him on the spot. They then moved on to the restaurant and murdered another three young men, including an 18-year-old teenager who was celebrating his graduation from high school with some friends.
The country went into deep mourning. The pictures of these innocent men flashed on our screens for days. We met the various family members who told us about their precious relatives, who had been gunned down in the prime of their lives. As we watched the footage from the funerals, we cried with the young mothers who were burying their sons and the children who were burying their father. What kind of human being targets innocent strangers? But we know the answer to that question — these terrorists have lost their humanity and are consumed with hate for Jews. It doesn’t matter who these Jews are. It is the very fact of their Jewishness combined with their return to their Biblical homeland, Judea and Samaria, that has targeted them for murder.
This attack happened just after a massive attack against IDF soldiers in Jenin just a few days earlier, an attack that included roadside bombs and well-trained and armed Palestinian snipers, all trademarks of Iranian funded terrorists. The combination of the two incidents fueled anger among many in Israel. Frustration was high and citizens and politicians alike called for a re-evaluation of current IDF policies and strategies. Perhaps the time had come to shift gears and take a more aggressive approach to terrorists and their supporters. For while the IDF is incredibly effective in arresting terrorists and preventing most terrorist attacks, the recent quantitative and qualitative surge in violence may well demand a different approach.
Demonstrations have always been popular in Israel as a way of blowing off steam and calling upon our leaders to pay attention to a new development or an important perspective. So when many residents of Judea and Samaria gathered at junctions across the area, calling upon the government to re-evaluate its policies towards terrorists and their supporters, there was nothing new. Hastily made signs were raised and people yelled and screamed, hoping the media and the Government would pay attention, and they did.
A small minority of people, however, turned to violence. Some threw stones at passing Arab vehicles, some damaged Arab property along the main roads. And a few entered the Arab town of Turmus Aya, a beautifully laid-out Arab town with large homes and expensive cars, many belonging to absentee American Palestinians. They caused terrible harm — burning cars, damaging homes, chasing local Arabs and setting fire to agricultural land. I watched the images emerging from this scene and felt sick.
This is not our way. These terrible attacks against random Arabs cannot be justified in any way. While it is possible that some of the Arabs whose property was damaged are raging anti-Semites who would embrace any opportunity to murder a Jew, we can’t possibly know that from looking at their cars and their houses. These were not people who attacked Jews. There was no issue of self-defense here. This was vigilantism at its most dangerous and most despicable levels.
I must take exception to the way these attacks were portrayed in the media, however. Many outlets made it sound as if this was a normative “settler” response, painting half a million people who seek peace in Judea and Samaria with the brush of violent extremists. Furthermore, it is not even known if the offenders were from Judea and Samaria. If past events are any indicator, it is likely that some of them came from other parts of Israel. These are extremists, consumed with hatred and unable or unwilling to control their anger and channel it into honorable pathways.
Revenge is not our way. We have long supported the expansion and growth of communities in response to terrorism. We have always stood for the idea that where they have brought death, we will bring life. Where they have murdered an innocent human being, we will bring forth new life — new babies, new centers of life, of joy and of creativity. That is always what the settlement movement has been about.
The international media as well as some of the Israeli media, have connected the peaceful demonstrations with the violence. But this does a terrible disservice to our movement and to the majority of our citizens. When people choose to demonstrate peacefully, albeit loudly, they are channeling their anger to something positive, to a clear expression of their passions in a democratic way. Taking up violence threatens our democracy. Anarchy threatens the ability of our elected officials to implement policy and to plan reasoned solutions.
Yes, we deserve to be angry. We are terribly saddened by all that has happened. And it seems clear that these four victims of terrorism will not be the last.
I want to ask you today to join me in responding to this terrorism, though, with a strong message of life. Through CFOIC Heartland, you can help protect the people who are most vulnerable, those who live closest to hostile Arab villages or near dangerous roads. You can provide safe havens for families in their own communities, reducing their need to travel on the roads. You can provide programming for teens and children, helping them deal with the terror that surrounds them. Donate here: cfoic.com/donate
I am asking you today to extend your hand in friendship and support to the people of Judea and Samaria who want nothing more than to live in peace and security in their Biblical homeland.