This Week Today - Current Events from Israel

Ben Packer,

לבן ריק
לבן ריק
צילום: ערוץ 7
Ben Packer
Originally from Petersburg, Virginia, Ben Packer moved to Israel in 1999, where he served in the IDF's Givati Brigade in the Gaza Strip. Ben served as a Rabbi on campus at Univ. of North Carolina and at Duke Univ. Ben now serves as Director of the Jerusalem Heritage House (www.heritagehouse.org.il) and Co-Director of Young Jewish Conservatives (www.youngjewishconservatives.org). He lives in the Old City of Jerusalem with his wife and 6 children....

Well that escalated quickly. Just hours after sending out last week's update, events spiraled out of control very quickly. I'll give a timeline of events and then the results. Put on your seat belts, this one is quite rocky. And a little longer than normal. 

What Happened:

Before the funeral of the baby killed in the attack last week at Ofra, it became clear that all of the other victims, including the originally very critically wounded mother of the baby, would live. As the whole nation mourned the loss of the baby, there was a national sigh of relief that everyone else would make it. In the morning (Thurs), after the funeral of the baby, the next attack occurred. 

In the Old City of Jerusalem, an arab terrorist attempted to stab a Jew on the way to the Western Wall, but was unsuccessful. He then proceeded to attack two Border Police. He was able to wound one of them in the fact lightly. When he was shot dead by other border police, one of the bullets went through him and hit another border police in the leg. In short, only light injuries to all and one dead terrorist. Another national sigh of relief. 

However, a few hours later, we weren't as fortunate. There was a well-planned shooting attack at Givat Asaf Junction, just north of Jerusalem in the Binyamin region. A terrorist exited a vehicle at a bus stop and began firing from an AK-47 at close range. He was able to shoot 4 Jews, 3 of them soldiers from the Netzach Yehuda (ultra-orthodox) infantry unit. All of the soldiers were shot in the head. The terrorists then escaped and are still being hunted. The gun used and another gun stolen from a soldier have been recovered. Two of the soldiers tragically died at the scene. In the 15 years or so of that unit, these were the first soldiers to die in combat, despite always being stationed in high-combat areas. Two other victims, a soldier and female civilian were transported to the hospital, both in very critical condition. As of now, the female victim is recovering well, but the soldier remains in a coma and fighting for his life. 

Less than 12 hours later, on Friday morning, another soldier from the same unit was severely attacked in a guard post in the same general area as the previous incident. He was stabbed and bashed in the head with a rock. The terrorist escaped and has since turned himself in. The soldier, married and father of a small child, arrived in critical condition at the hospital, but has since stabilized and is recovering. 

Throughout the past week, there have been an easily observable uptick in rock attacks, ramming attacks and rhetoric. There have been injuries, including a baby, but no more deaths. Thank G-d. 

The Results:

Last week, we ended off with the verse from Ezekiel that we say at circumcision ceremonies: "I say to you, by your blood shall you live!”. The practical results from these attacks have been profound. I will do my best to list as many as I can, keep in mind, alot going behind the scenes as well. 

-The funerals of the 2 soldiers were obviously very difficult. They also forced at least a large segment of the ultra-orthodox community to confront the tragedy of killed ultra-orthodox soldiers. I was at one of the funerals and there was a solid contingent of young people. Will be interesting to see the long-term results from this. 

Last Thursday night, a large "right-wing" protest was held outside of the Prime Minister's house demanding action. As I've written in recent updates, Netanyahu's Government is quite tenuous. He's under alot of pressure as it is and now the pressure was unbearable. Threats started pouring in from Knesset Members and right-wing leaders. Netanyahu had to respond. His response so far:

-Thousands of homes, already built, will be completely legalized

(this will also allow for the construction of permanent public buildings in those areas - like schools, synagogues, community centers, etc. 

-82 more houses to be built Ofra (where the first attack happened)

-2 new industrial zones - one in Judea, one in Samaria

-A commitment to seek to legalize as many unauthorized outposts as legally possible

-Terrorists' homes will be destroyed asap, within 48 hours of attack, if possible

This did not go nearly far enough for the right-wing. 

Proposed legislative responses:

-Proposed law to legalize 70 unauthorized communities within 2 years

-Proposed law to deport the families of terrorists to Gaza

Still not enough

Settler responses:

-Four Jewish families moved into caravans in a new area of Kiryat Arba, just outside Hevron

-RETURN TO AMONA! Yes, you read that right. After being expelled 2 years ago from the hilltop community, 2 caravans were placed back in Amona this past Friday. Approximately 100 Jews spent Shabbat there. Local Jewish leaders claim to have purchased about 10 acres of land from arabs and are there to stay. 

Remains to be seen how Netanyahu will react to these aggressive actions and how much of what he has promised will actually happen. However, these are some huge wins for the strengthening of the Jewish Presence. "I say to you, by your blood shall you live!” 

Another Tunnel

A fourth hezbollah tunnel from Lebanon into Israel has been discovered. There was a small interaction between Israeli and Lebanese troops along the border, but nothing serious. For now, both hezbollah and the lebanese seem content to wait and see how this plays out, while desperately trying not to antagonize Israel. But one phone call from iran could change all that.....

In summary, is was a very tumultuous week and the repercussions will be felt for some time. Despite the losses, Israel definitely came out strengthened. The palestinian authority is even more weakened. Netanyahu is holding on. He will have to call elections soon, but the right-wing will now squeeze him for as much as they for as long as they can. Hopefully there will be no more terrorist attacks, but if there are (G-d forbid), it will be hard for even right-wing fanatics to imagine the consequences. 

Ben Packer

Old City, Jerusalem