Tidbits From Israel
By Ron Jager
In recent years, as the volume of hatred and discriminatory policies of many nations, including traditional allies, has reached a level that presents a strategic threat to the State of Israel, and as the Palestinian Arabs relentlessly preach Jew-hatred and incitement against Israel—in their kindergartens, schools, universities, and other venues—can we continue on our current path, or should Israel embark on an entirely new path to ensuring her future existence?
Kehillat Bnei Torah synagogue sits at the bottom of a steep hill in the Har Nof neighborhood of west Jerusalem. The residents of this neighborhood are ultra-Orthodox Jews, many of them English- or Spanish-speaking immigrants. This synagogue is miles away from the Green Line, and miles away from the boundary between west and east Jerusalem, where many previous terror attacks have occurred over the years. Last Tuesday morning, two Palestinian Arab terrorists opened fire inside the synagogue at 7 a.m., while worshippers were in the midst of their morning prayers. After spraying the sanctuary with live fire, they attacked the wounded with butcher knives and axes. When the attack was over seven minutes later, five worshipers were dead, including a Druze policeman who sacrificed his life to save the remaining Jews in the synagogue.
Workers from Zaka, a religious organization that collects the bodies of the dead, described it as one of the “most difficult” scenes they had ever witnessed. “This will force us all to wake up.”
The image from the scene of Tuesday’s synagogue attack in Jerusalem takes us back to the most difficult situations in the history of the Jewish people—the pogroms, the riots, the Holocaust. Jews were massacred in their prayer shawls, in the middle of prayer; holy books drenched in blood; a desecrated synagogue.
Also last week, in the Arab city of Tayibe, located just outside of the greater Tel-Aviv area, a Jewish citizen visiting friends there was almost lynched by local Israeli Arabs. On the one hand, a group of young Arab men, native citizens of Israel, did not hesitate to perpetrate such a barbaric incident in broad daylight in the heart of their city. On the other hand, the wounded Jewish man was saved by an Arab resident of the same city. This Arab resident, who acted courageously, is not afraid to appear in public and take pride in his actions, and according to reports none of his Arab neighbors have condemned him.
As Israel’s leaders decide on an effective response to contain the Palestinian Arab violence and terror that has erupted in recent months, with Jerusalem the epicenter, it seems that just under our noses, a whole coalition of non-Jewish minorities have risen to the occasion and have placed their destiny in partnership with the State of Israel. Israeli Druze, Circassian Muslims, Bedouin Arabs, and Israeli-Arab Muslims are all minority groups within the Israeli-Arab community, numbering in the hundreds of thousands. Druze citizens are prominent in the Israel Defense Forces, and a considerable number of Israeli Druze soldiers have fallen in Israel’s wars. These non-Jewish minorities serve not only in the army, but in the Israeli police force or as firefighters; those who don’t serve in active service opt for national service for a period of one to two years. Just this past month, two Druze officers were killed in action protecting the residents of Jerusalem.
Intuitively, it makes sense that the national leadership should employ a strategic policy that creates an atmosphere of deterrence for those Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Arabs who have no interest in recognizing Israel as the homeland of the Jewish nation. This policy should include demolishing the homes of terrorists, seizing assets and property of terrorists, arresting family members of terrorists who support and incite terror, loss of residency rights and national insurance eligibility, administrative detention, physically relocating individuals to the Gaza Strip, etc. Should these measures be fully enforced, they will claim a much higher price from any potential terrorist and his immediate family—who tend to support and inculcate the barbaric behavior exhibited by terrorists in recent months.
At the same time, the Jewish majority of Israel should begin reinforcing and supporting those non-Jewish members of Israeli society who don’t rejoice when Jewish blood is spilled. The monopoly on Arab-Muslim leadership has historically belonged to those Arab leaders who voice the more extreme intolerance of Israel and her right to exist. They spew their hatred and incitement from the halls of the Knesset, aided by the international and local media. Support for coexistence has always been the choice of the silent minority among Israel’s non-Jewish minority. It is this silent minority that Israel should reach out to, more so than in the past, and create a new bond that sends a clear message to those who rejoice after every terror attack against Israel.
This emerging non-Jewish leadership and their communities should be given the recognition that they deserve. They should enjoy the benefits of being a part of the solution rather than being a part of the conflict and the threats Israel faces daily. We, the Jewish majority of Israel, have a renewed opportunity to send a clear message to our Druze, Circassian, Bedouin, and Arab-Muslim neighbors. Israel has always known how to honor and show respect for righteous gentiles who risked their own lives to save the life of a Jew; it is incumbent upon us to show the same honor and respect to this silent minority that has cast their lot with us. By giving meaning to this support, to this sacrifice, we will be responding with light to the darkness that has hovered above us in recent weeks.
Ron Jager is a 25-year veteran of the Israel Defense Forces, where he served as a field mental-health officer and as commander of the central psychiatric military clinic for reserve soldiers at Tel-Hashomer. Since retiring from active duty in 2005, he has been providing consultancy services to NGOs, implementing psychological trauma treatment programs in Israel. Ron currently serves as a strategic adviser to the chief foreign envoy of Judea and Samaria. To contact him, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.ronjager.com.