Josh HastenThe writer is President of the Bar-Am Public Relations Firm, and author of the recently released children’s book, “Itamar Makes Friends: A Children’s Story of Jewish Brotherhood.”
Driving into Jerusalem this morning, I saw a familiar face just after passing the security checkpoint in Gush Etzion (yes for those who don’t realize it, Jews who live in Judea and Samaria also have to go through security before entering major cities. “Checkpoints” are not just for Arabs).
I stopped the car after realizing it was my old friend and work colleague who was trying to get a ride to work in Jerusalem, as he has been doing his miluim (reserve army service) in the Gush for the past week, and was given two days off.
In one hand he was schlepping his army-green colored duffle bag while over his other shoulder was his IDF-issued M-16. Since he wasn’t on duty he was in his “civilian” work-clothes.
We got caught up on life when the subject turned to what had been keeping him busy while in the army for a week. More than anything his unit has been dealing with DAILY rock attacks being carried out by Arab youth and teenagers directed at the soldiers near the Northern entrance to Efrat from the nearby village of Artas.
According to the soldier (whose identity I’m keeping private), from dawn till dusk Arabs from the nearby Beit-Lechem (Bethlehem) neighborhood of Deheishe (referred to by some as a refugee camp, but that’s a posting within itself) have infiltrated the village with the goal of throwing rocks and firebombs at Israeli motorists trying to enter Efrat.
As we know, from recent tragedies, and there are many examples, rocks are murder weapons – finally acknowledged as such in the recent ruling against the terrorists who murdered Asher and baby Yonatan Palmer HY’D.
I’ll pause here to remind you that baby Adele (Adele Chaya Bat Adva) a three-year-old girl wounded in such an attack remains in critical condition and needs your prayers for a speedy recovery.
Back to the subject at hand – thanks to the continuous presence of the IDF soldiers, on one hand the road has become relatively safe since when soldiers see the rock throwers approaching, they intervene, but on the other it’s the soldiers themselves who are bearing the brunt of the attacks.
The most frustrating aspect in this deadly game of cat and mouse for the soldiers is that THEIR HANDS ARE TIED. While they don’t lack the motivation to put an end to the rock throwing, their orders only allow them to fire rounds of tear gas at the gathering mobs, as they are not allowed to use live fire.
According to my friend the only time they are allowed to use their weapons is when they feel their life is in immediate danger if an approaching Arabs has an already lit firebomb (Molotov cocktail) in-hand ready to throw.
If not all of those conditions are met – and these are decisions the soldiers are forced to make in a split second, then only tear- gas rounds may be fired to disperse the stone throwers.
In other words, if the Arab is using a rock – teargas. If the firebomb is not yet lit – teargas. If the firebomb has already been thrown – teargas. Lately, the Arabs have also been throwing stun grenades, which release shrapnel, and the protocol according to my friend has not officially been established in terms of what is a “legitimate response,” in that case.
The most blood-boiling fact my friend told me this morning, which I did not see ANYWHERE in the press, possibly because they did not get the information, is that just a few weeks ago, a soldier stationed in this very village LOST AN EYE, when suffering a direct hit by a rock.
For the rest of his life he will only have the use of one eye, while his attacker’s crime as we’ve seen time and time again is justified or downplayed by many members of the mainstream media – as in “these are only pebbles,” or “rocks are a non-violent means of protest,” or in one of the most incitement-laced columns I’ve ever read – by Ha’aretz reporter Amira Hass – rock throwing is the “birthright” of the “Palestinian” children.
I applaud Nadia Matar and the Women in Green organization and dozens of residents from Gush Etzion for holding an event at the northern entrance of Efrat 10 days ago and raising awareness on this issue.
But after learning about the IDF soldier who lost an eye, and the fact that the rock throwing takes place literally almost every day (the Arabs stayed home yesterday because of the rain, giving the soldiers a much needed reprieve) it’s obvious that the situation is worse than we know.
It’s time for our elected officials – those in charge of issuing the orders to the IDF to untie their hands so that they can defend themselves, and successfully put an end to the rock attacks emanating from Artas and all other popular points of attack throughout Judea and Samaria.
Please help raise awareness, and INSIST from your elected members of Knesset that the rock attacks must stop once and for all.