I’m a New Immigrant to Israel, But I Know Terrorism All Too Well
I recently completed my Jerusalem ulpan course, an intensive five-month Hebrew program. I am originally from Seattle, but I moved to Israel five months ago, with a group of many other young immigrants. During the past five months, we learned Hebrew and acquainted ourselves with our new home and its culture.
As I handed in my keys, I heard the office manager say to another woman something about a “peeguah,” a word I had to learn far too early in my new life in Israel. Peeguah means “terrorist attack” in Hebrew.
Apparently there was an attack just then in Jerusalem, and the woman had gotten a notification on her phone. Attacks in Jerusalem seem to be a daily occurrence since the rise of violence in September.
I continued to pack up my belongings in preparation for heading out of the ulpan for the last time. I used my phone to order a taxi, and the name of an Arab driver popped up.
As the taxi pulled up, the driver asked where I wanted to go. “City Center,” I said. The driver looked at me, concerned, and said in Hebrew, “I can’t go there. There was just an attack (peeguah) there. The roads are closed.” Worried by the location of the attack, I called my boyfriend, who I knew was in the area at that time. He was safe, and informed us that the roads had opened again.
As we drove from ulpan to the city center, we listened to the radio. The taxi driver did not comment on the radio announcements. We heard that there was a car-ramming attack in Jerusalem near the Chords Bridge. An Arab terrorist from Beit Hanina rammed his car into a bus station, injuring 14 people, including a 15-month-old infant who was seriously wounded and a 65-year-old woman who was moderately wounded. The terrorist rammed into the bus stop, exited the car with an ax, and was then shot dead.
We were silent in the taxi as we heard the news. The driver only shook his head and said, “Why, why, why, why,” a common response of disbelief in Israel. I have no idea what this Arab man’s political beliefs were, but I could tell that the attack disturbed him. I thought about how these attacks also affect his family, as his daughter’s face popped up on his phone screen.
When I got home, it was announced that Prime Minister Netanyahu decided to implement an urgent defense plan to prevent these ramming attacks, which are now common in Jerusalem. Following last week’s terrorist attack, Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud) decided to place barriers to block cars at 300 of Jerusalem’s highest-risk bus stops. The project will cost two million shekels to complete.
The project sounds all too familiar. Just about a year ago, the city municipality built concrete blocks around Jerusalem’s light rail stations after a series of deadly car-ramming terrorist attacks.
Neither of these measures is a sufficient response to the attacks. I know that Israel is doing what it can to eradicate terrorism in the short term, but this method only deters car-ramming attacks. It doesn’t eradicate terrorism.
If we have learned anything from this last wave of violence since September, we know that terrorists will use whatever they have to attack Israelis. Cars, bombs, rockets, knives, you name it. Once we deter car-ramming attacks, they will likely just come up with another innovative method to enact their hate against the State of Israel.
As a new immigrant to Israel, I may be naïve, but I believe that the project shouldn’t even be necessary in the first place — terrorism shouldn’t happen at all. Instead of Band-Aid solutions, we must eradicate terrorism by its roots because each attack is followed by another. The two million-shekel Band-Aid makes sense in the short term, but we must invest more in long-term solutions that could remove the term “peeguah” from the dictionary.
Eliana Rudee is a fellow with the Haym Salomon Center and the author of the “Aliyah Annotated” column for JNS.org. She is a graduate of Scripps College, where she studied international relations and Jewish studies. Her bylines have been featured in USA Today, Forbes, and The Hill. Follow her Aliyah column on JNS.org.