by Jenni Frazer
Are we witnessing the beginning of the Third Intifada? Nobody seems to know – and, in the way of things in the Middle East, violence doesn’t become a war or an Arab Spring straight away. It’s only later, when viewed from a perspective, that it seems easier to put a label on events.
A former colleague of mine in Israel, Michele Chabin, seemed to sum up the hurt and fear and uncertainty this week when she wrote: “This isn’t war. It’s terror. During war, there’s a siren and we head to the nearest shelter. During terror waves, life is calm – until it isn’t.”
It’s almost impossible to convey the debilitating effect of terror: terror that has already happened, that could be happening on the doorstep, that might yet happen round the corner. Who is a vulnerable target, and where is it safe? Is anywhere safe?
On erev chag this week, I drove through the north-west London suburbs, stopping in the food shops as capable be-sheiteled women stocked up on a ton of fruit and vegetables and soft drinks as though they were laying in for a siege rather than a two-day festival. Close by me at the traffic lights a car drew up, an observant husband and wife in the front and the back seat crammed with young children, squirming and singing and cheerful.
I couldn’t help thinking of the young Henkin parents, killed last Thursday in the West Bank by opportunist terrorists, while their children, aged between four months and nine years old, screamed in the back seat of the family car. Or Nehemiah Lavi, 41, and Aaron Benita, just 21, killed on Saturday night in Jerusalem’s Old City by another such terrorist, who also wounded Benita’s 22-year-old wife and their two-year-old child.
And nobody knows where the attacks are going to come from next, and both the Israeli police and commentators agree that closing the Old City is a temporary stop-gap measure that goes nowhere close to tackling the problem.
In our hurt and fear it’s easy to forget that there are lunatics and extremists on our own side – the so-called “price tag” attackers who have, appallingly, killed Palestinian families and burnt a baby alive. And these are perpetrators who still have not been caught or brought to justice. Fortunately their behaviour does not represent the norm – and I hope the evil actions which resulted in the Henkin, Lavi and Benita deaths do not represent the Palestinian norm, either.
A courageous Arab-Israeli woman from Nazareth, Thanaa Jawabreh, took to Facebook last week to say what her political leaders have been unable to do – a forthright condemnation of the Henkin murders. She wrote (in Hebrew): “We as Palestinians must denounce the bloodthirsty killers among us; a family returning home with their four children should not have been subjected to this horrifying act — even if they do live on a settlement…
“This therefore requires a mass protest against these murders; murder only brings murder, and bloodshed on one side leads to more bloodshed on the other,” she wrote. “I apologise and expect that representatives from the Arab public speak out against this horrendous murder. Enough already!!”
Yet even in Jawabreh’s brave apology – and she says many in her community agree with her, but don’t have the guts to come out with it publicly – there is the seed of “did they deserve it” when she writes “even if they do live on a settlement”. I don’t suppose for one minute that the Henkin killers paused to make a distinction between those Jews who live on a settlement and those who don’t.
It is a certainty that those in the UK who oppose everything for which Israel stands will seek to make capital out of this latest round of deaths, and if indeed this is the Third Intifada, well, we know whose fault that will be.
A world away from the weekend murders the rock star Jon Bon Jovi made his own small contribution to the war against terror when he took to the stage in Tel Aviv on Saturday night. Bon Jovi told 50,000 cheering Israelis that he was dedicating his new song, We Don’t Run as the “fight song for Tel Aviv”.
I’d like to hope that We Don’t Run has resonance for all the Jewish world this week – Third Intifada or not. We are not going anywhere, and we are staying strong.