American-Israeli Journalist Recounts Near-Lynching by Palestinian Mob En Route to Jerusalem (INTERVIEW)
“Today was my turn,” said a resident of Elazar in Gush Etzion in the West Bank, referring to his brush with Palestinian terrorism on Wednesday morning.
Driving on the Tekoa road to Jerusalem — which he took because his Waze satellite warned of traffic on his regular route — freelance journalist Josh Hasten (a show host at the now-defunct Voice of Israel online radio station) found himself prey to a mob of Arabs in balaclavas preparing to pummel him with rocks and concrete blocks.
“And it happened a mere 500 meters away from a checkpoint manned with IDF soldiers,” Hasten told The Algemeiner.
The checkpoint in question is the roadblock between the east Jerusalem Arab village of Sur Baher and the Israeli neighborhood, Har Homa. It was here, shortly before Hasten was confronted with dozens of young men on the rampage against passing Jews, that 38-year-old Rivi Lev Ohayon was nearly lynched.
Lev Ohayon was on her way to work in Jerusalem from her home in Tekoa, when she was ambushed by a group of rock-wielding Palestinians, who shattered her car’s windows. One of them began to beat her, while trying to pull her out of the vehicle.
“I saw my death,” she told a Channel 2 news team from her Jerusalem hospital bed, where she is being treated for light wounds – which could have been far greater had Lev Ohayon not managed to accelerate and tear away from her attackers. Rather than wait for an ambulance to arrive at the nearby checkpoint, as she was instructed to do when she phoned for help, she drove home, where paramedics whisked her off to the hospital.
When Hasten approached the same area shortly afterward, he was still unaware of what had happened to Lev Ohayon or the seven other cars that had been struck by rocks and concrete during the same assault, emanating from Sur Baher.
But he too smelled mortal danger.
“I was sure they were going to kill me,” he said, recounting the events as they unfolded.
“I saw 40-50 Arabs running fast towards my car with large rocks and concrete blocks in their arms. I was the only car on that stretch of road at that moment, and I considered attempting to speed up to get away from them. But I didn’t think I had time to get out of there.
“So, I took the gun out of my holster and held it up so that they could see it through the window. At first, this worked, because they all paused for a second as soon as they saw it. That didn’t last, though, and they resumed running towards me.
“When they were about 10 meters away, I opened my window and shot in the air. The shot sent them running back into the village. So then I floored it to the checkpoint.
“When I got there, I realized I wasn’t the first one who had encountered the attackers. A woman was sitting on the ground in shock; a guy had a bloodied face. People were hysterical; women were crying. The soldiers were comforting them.”
By that time, Lev Ohayon had driven away. A short while later, Hasten saw the ambulance that had picked her up from her home in Tekoa to take her to the hospital.
“In the midst of all the chaos, I asked the soldiers if they were going to do something. They said they weren’t at liberty to leave the checkpoint,” he said.
Hasten was unnerved, though not – he repeated more than once – upset with the soldiers. His problem was, and still remains, with the political decision-makers.
Rather than continue on to Jerusalem, Hasten decided to return to the Sur Baher intersection to see when and if Israeli security services would arrive to deal with this potentially deadly situation. In addition, he told The Algemeiner, “My journalist’s curiosity was piqued.”
When he got to the scene, dozens of Arabs had congregated on the hill of their village, hurling rocks and epithets. But, Hasten said, they were too far away actually to hit the four or five IDF soldiers who arrived at the same time.
“They looked lost,” Hasten said. “It was clear they had not been given operational instructions. I kept asking them what they were going to do, and they didn’t have an answer. It was as if they were afraid to make a move, lest they get in trouble with their superiors for applying the wrong kind or degree of force – or for entering the village to take action.”
They did, however, ask Hasten whether he heard about a woman who had been kidnapped. Later Hasten learned that they had been referring to Lev Ohayon. It emerged that because she had not waited for the ambulance at the checkpoint after calling for help, her absence from the scene at first sent off alarm bells as to her whereabouts.
The incident near Sur Baher — the village from where the female terrorist who had stabbed a man in the Old City of Jerusalem on Wednesday was shot and in critical condition – concluded, according to Hasten, when a larger number of soldiers arrived, equipped with tear gas, and began running up the hill where the masked rock-throwers were rioting.