Security officers patrol Elad as local residents look on
Security officers patrol Elad as local residents look onYossi Aloni/Flash90

Following the arrest of the terrorists who committed last week's horrific attack in Elad, Rabbi Yosef Barkatz, a resident of Elad and one of the organizers of the Dirshu Torah program, expressed the relief felt by the city's residents following the tense days when the two Arabs were still on the loose.

"People taking the Dirshu examinations had a scheduled test day last Friday, the day after the attack, and the tests were to be held in the Derech Hachaim synagogue, just 200 meters away from where the attack happened," Rabbi Barkatz related.

"On the morning of last Friday, after that terrible night, I was sure that most of those scheduled to take the test would pass on it, or ask me to fax them the test so they could complete it at home. That morning, I met with a senior police officer who had arrived in Elad, and I asked him if, from a security perspective, we could hold the examination, or whether it would be advisable to be cautious and cancel it, given that the manhunt after the terrorists was still in high gear, with no information on where they might be hiding out.

"The officer told me not to worry - he explained that Elad was full of security forces," Rabbi Barkatz said. "I don't know if I'm permitted to reveal the number he told me, but it was a very big number, almost ridiculously large, with some in uniform and others plainclothes, as well as Shabak agents and special forces from the police and the army.

"The officer added that he was familiar with the Dirshu program and recognized its importance. He said to go right ahead with the test, and to provide me with an added sense of security, he said he would send special protection."

Indeed, that was what happened. "During the test, I could see security officers outside the synagogue, some in uniform and others not, and inside the building there was a civilian security officer armed with a gun, constantly scanning the surroundings to be ready to pounce on a threat the moment it emerged."

Rabbi Barkatz continued, "To my surprise, everyone came to be tested; not a single regular was missing. The atmosphere was heavy with the tragedy so fresh and the sound of helicopters over our heads. On the one hand, the security presence gave us a certain sense of security; but on the other hand, it also served to remind us that the terrorists were still at large and we were still in danger."

During Shabbat, the atmosphere lifted somewhat, Rabbi Barkatz described, even though the terrorists still had not been caught. "On Friday evening, people were still frozen in shock, and you didn't see a smile on anyone's face, but by the next morning, people were less obviously traumatized."

On Shabbat afternoon, Rabbi Barkatz related, a surreal event occurred right before his eyes: "I was standing by the window and looking out at the street, watching the security officers patrolling, and suddenly, I saw something strange - in the middle of the street, the manhole cover to the rainwater runoff system suddenly lifted up, and then eight soldiers armed with guns and torches emerged from it.

"I went out to see what was going on, and one of the soldiers told me that they had been told to search the underground rainwater channels in case the terrorists were hiding out there, and that they had searched under the entire city. The soldier told me that it was lucky it was Shabbat," Rabbi Barkatz added, "because if it had been mid-week, everyone would have been there taking photos...

"And the soldier added that his troops were having a 'hard' time patrolling the streets," Rabbi Barkatz added with a smile, "because their pockets were full to bursting with all the chocolates and cakes people kept pressing on them."

On Sunday morning, the news arrived that the terrorists had been apprehended, not far from the city. "Thank G-d, good news, and of course we are also very grateful to the security forces who did everything they could to lay their hands on these murderers."