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January 1, 2016 11:53 am

I Was Less Than a Block From Tel Aviv Shooting Attack That Killed Two

avatar by Joel Mowbray

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The scene of Friday afternoon's shooting spree in Tel Aviv. Photo: Channel 2/screenshot.

The scene of Friday afternoon’s shooting spree in Tel Aviv. Photo: Channel 2/screenshot.

Just over an hour ago, I was less than a block from a shooting in Tel Aviv that may have been a terrorist attack that killed at least two. All of a sudden, a flood of people in the little cafe where I was sitting rushed past me to the back of the restaurant. People fell to the ground, covering their heads, their loved ones, each other. No one knew exactly what was going on, except that there was danger immediately nearby.

Toddlers and infants who had been laughing, playing, and happy moments earlier were now trembling as their parents wrapped their arms and their whole bodies around them. After the confusion had subsided a bit and we realized it was a shooting a few buildings away, several of the 20-something guys literally climbed over the patrons huddled on the floor to run out to see if they could do something, anything.

Once the threat had passed and people were standing, one Israeli woman was still shaking, unable to stem the flow of tears running down her face. It was, she said, not the first terrorist attack that she’s been that close to — which is what made it that much harder to endure it yet again. Each time it happens, the fear compounds, meaning you feel not just that current threat, but the accumulation of all the past ones.

As an American in the immediate aftermath, one thought that I keep coming back to again and again is how amazing it is that Israelis don’t hate Palestinians. The support that used to exist for the Palestinian quest for statehood has long since dissipated, of course, but that there is not more overt hatred is really quite shocking to an American’s sensibilities.

It’s not that a majority of Palestinians are lining up to commit terrorist attacks; it’s that the overwhelming majority of Palestinians support those who do. And almost every Israeli knows this.

So the fear in the eyes of those little children is something that most Palestinians celebrate. And yet, my fellow Jews who live under constant threat of Palestinian terrorism do not burn with murderous rage.

That’s the core difference between Israelis and Palestinians: When an Israeli does something evil, he is shunned by Israeli society, vilified for his actions and usually faces swift justice from the authorities. When a Palestinian kills Jews and strikes fear into the hearts of hundreds or thousands of others, his fellow Arabs hail him as a hero, name streets or stadiums after him, and the Palestinian Authority – to great public reception – gives him and his family honor and money.

We don’t know yet if it was, in fact, a Palestinian shooter, but it was clear to everyone on the street in the mayhem that followed that the totality of Palestinian attacks over the last year, and frankly the past 15 years, is what made that moment so frightening.

And the sad reality is that based on a slew of polling, most Palestinians who heard about the shooting and the resulting two deaths likely were hoping that a Palestinian was responsible. Any society that can celebrate death and destruction, feeling unmitigated joy at the terror that I witnessed first-hand is clearly depraved.

That depravity, sadly, is why we will not experience peace anytime soon.

Contrary to what blissfully ignorant pundits and talking heads proclaim, most Israelis would make incredible sacrifices for peace — something they’ve demonstrated repeatedly over the years.

But any group of people who would feel joy at what I witnessed today will simply not accept peace. And that, more than anything, is what makes the fear as deep-seated as it is – knowing that the very existence of Jews in the Jewish homeland means that the enemies of the Jewish people will always desire our death.

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  • Sheila

    I was not in Israel for any of the shooting or stabbing attacks, but I was there while Hamas was firing thousands of rockets at it from Gaza in July 2014, and running for shelter each time the warning sirens blew gave me a feel for what they have been through, not just the past 15 years, but since the day after Israel became a state almost 68 years ago. My grandchildren will be visiting Israel in the next few weeks, and while I want them to enjoy and know their heritage and love Israel, I tremble and pray for their safety. God bless the IDF and all of Israel.

  • Anonymous

    As an American of Jewish background, and someone who has been to Israel and has family there, I must call out bull when I see it. While thankfully there are more open minded Jews, mostly young, than before, there are still a slew of whom have a burning hatred for Palestinians, unfortunately young and old, if not for all Arab/Muslims. I’ve seen them flood the streets with hate protests, and put up signs across Jerusalem. I’ve met a Rabbi who took young Jews to Palestinian areas with guns to “defend Jewish history”. There are Jewish extremists and terrorists as well, Jews that celebrate the deaths of Palestinians, Jews that watch Gaza get bombed from lounge chairs. There are issues that must be addressed on both sides for there to ever be peace, and to imply otherwise is disingenuous.

    • CallingYouOut

      I am sorry but I must call you out on your own bull. You are suffering from the disease of “mandatory moral equivalence.” You are equated hate protests, hate signs and your experience with the few Jewish extremists with the state supported policy of terrorism fully paid by the Palestinian Authority. Thankfully there are no Israeli stadiums and streets named after these Jewish terrorists, and Jewish families do not get “honor” with their terror actions, nor do they get financial support for the death or jailing of their loved one. Terrorism needs to be addressed by ONE SIDE, since this is not a policy of the government of Israel. “To imply otherwise is disingenuous.”

  • Michal

    Fantastic. Thank you for that.

  • Dommy

    “They Must Go!”

    — Wise but tragically ignored words from the late [murdered by a muslim] great Meir Kahane.

  • Rabbi Dr. Daniel M. Zucker

    Joel: Kol HaKavod–a beautifully written piece to record the tragedy of the incident and the bigger tragedy of Palestinian hostility to Israel and Jews in general. As Golda Meir, (z”l), put it: “Israel won’t know peace until Arab mothers love their children more than they hate us.”

  • Dov

    What about the so-called left, that argue we should not punish all, would they agree with your American logical assessment? There is a group in Israel that is blind to justice, till it will god forbid hit them personally. This is what took place in Tel Aviv.