Tag Archives: jerusalem

It’s Not About the Embassy

CAMERA Fellow Sam Goodman

On Feb. 23, the Trump administration announced the U.S. embassy in Israel will be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on May 14. Some people are celebrating while others are livid. Angry Palestinian leaders including Mahmoud Abbas claim America has jeopardized its role as mediator in the Middle East peace process. The question that begs to be asked is: what peace process?

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict has long been considered one of the world’s most intricate conflicts. There have been a number of opportunities for peace talks yet all have been unsuccessful and had nothing to do with the U.S. embassy location.

A number of explanations for these failures have been given, among which the most convincing is the role the perpetuation of the conflict has played in strengthening the Palestinian victimhood. Benefitting from the long-term conflict, Palestinian leaders have exploited their own people for personal gain.

It is said that conflict provides even the most marginalized organizations with the potential to invoke fear. This is illustrated by the “days of rage” and other violent responses Palestinian leaders have orchestrated as a result of moving the embassy. They take advantage of the ongoing conflict to persuade and manipulate their people into behaving violently against perceived change to the status quo such as metal detectors leading up to Temple Mount, put in place to protect all civilians against recent upheaval.

The world is sadly missing the counterproductive way in which the Palestinian leaders are employing violence as a bargaining tool whose ultimate goal is to inhibit peace.

In the words of Nikki Haley, the U.S ambassador to the United Nations, “The Palestinian leadership has a choice to make between two different paths. There is the choice between absolutist demands, hateful rhetoric, and incitement to violence. That path has led and will continue to lead, to nothing but hardship for the Palestinian people. Or there is the path of negotiation and compromise. History has shown that path to be successful for Egypt and Jordan including the transfer of territory. That path remains open to the Palestinian leadership if only it is courageous enough to take it.”

Furthermore, the U.S.’s sovereign decision to move the embassy will take place despite the refusal of Palestinian leaders to accept it. Whether or not you agree with the embassy move, it’s a legitimate decision a sovereign nation can make. The embassy move is entirely legal and will be relocated to an undisputed part of West Jerusalem.

For the Jewish people, Jerusalem is not just a physical place with an abundance of Jewish history; it is a religious concept that surpasses time. At the annual Passover Seder, Jews reaffirm this connection through their proclamation of, “Next year in Jerusalem.” Thus, it is only natural for a sovereign state like Israel to have the right to independently define where its capital should be located.

Unfortunately, this is not applied when it comes to Israel, as it relentlessly faces more criticism and condemnation than any other country from the UN and countless other political organizations. This includes countries who systematically kill, torture and deny its citizens of basic human rights on a daily basis. For example, in a 2017 U.N. General Assembly, there were nine resolutions on Israel and only six on the rest of the world including one for Syria.

It is time to put an end to the obsessive focus on the American decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem and to instead, begin figuring out a way to help release the Palestinian people from the clutches of their oppressive leaders. This can only be accomplished when the world begins to recognize where the root of the conflict actually lies.

Contributed by Sam Goodman, CAMERA Fellow at Carleton University.

Why is Arab Violence Taken as a Given?

Conversation needs to shift from “don’t provoke” to “no excuse for terrorism”

Former MIT CAMERA Fellow Suri Bandler

On Dec. 6, 2017, President Trump announced that America officially acknowledges Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and would eventually move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Referring to this as “acknowledging the obvious,” Trump explained that Israel is a sovereign state, recognized internationally and by the U.S., with the right to determine its own capital. In his declaration, Trump reiterated that such a move has no bearing on the city’s status under any peace agreement.

This declaration is entirely a symbolic gesture. The Israeli people already view Jerusalem as their capital in theory and in practice and as such all government business is conducted in the city: Jerusalem is the location of residence for Israel’s prime minister and president, hosts the Israeli Supreme Court and Parliament, and is the location in which visiting leaders are greeted.

Similarly, the American government already accepted Jerusalem as Israel’s capital long before this declaration. The 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act, passed overwhelmingly in the House (374–37) and Senate (93–5), declared an undivided Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and called for the US embassy to be moved there from Tel Aviv. A provision, enacted every six months by previous presidents and by Trump along with this declaration, postpones the implementation of the act’s contents in the case that “such suspension is necessary to protect the national security interests of the United States.”

Such a provision acknowledged threats of violence and maintained a status quo of appeasement. Unfortunately, violence is both the expectation and the reality. In response to Trump’s declaration, the Palestinian “national and Islamic forces” announced three “days of rage,” or violent protests, which included rioters throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails. Additionally, over 30 rockets were fired indiscriminately into Israeli communities from Gaza, and Hamas, the internationally recognized terrorist organization that controls Gaza, promised an intifada, or a violent uprising. The last official intifada, the Second Intifada, began in 2001 and resulted in terrorists killing over 1000 Israelis. This new declaration by Hamas follows a wave of stabbings, shootings, and car-rammings that began in 2015 and was deemed by some the “Stabbing Intifada.” To this date, it has included hundreds of such terrorist attacks.

Considering internationally recognized peace plans call for Jerusalem to be the capital of both entities, presumably it would be expected that the U.S. embassy would be built there. But unfortunately, we are left with violence and rocket fire in response to this symbolic gesture. This is not the first time that Jerusalem was used as an excuse and justification for violence. Such a trend is consistent throughout history. For example:

Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site, on Sept. 28, 2001 was described as the “match” that instigated the Second Intifada. This intifada, mentioned earlier, began on Sept. 29, 2001 and resulted in Palestinian terrorists killing over 1000 Israelis through suicide bombings and other attacks. But there is evidence of direct orchestration, including the providing of arms for attacks, and testimony by his widow about his premeditated intentions to instigate violence, by then-leader Yasser Arafat. Arafat received a Nobel Peace Prize in 1994.

Non-Muslim prayer is prohibited at the Temple Mount site due to threats of retribution, thereby casting prayer as an act of “provocation.” Even repairing a walkway in 2007 that served as the only entrance for non-Muslims to the site led to rioting across Jordan and Jerusalem and calls for a third intifada. Similarly, in July 2017, violence broke out in reaction to metal detectors that were installed by the Temple Mount. These metal detectors were installed in response to the smuggling of weapons that were used to kill two Israeli Druze police officers at the site. In response to the “desecration” caused by the installment, a Palestinian terrorist murdered three members of a civilian family at a Shabbat meal. The White House applauded Israel for easing tensions by removing the detectors.

Mahmoud Abbas, Israel’s supposed peace partner, also uses Jerusalem as a means of instigating violence, honoring terrorists with monuments and monetary rewards, as witnessed with the Stabbing Intifada. Abbas has claimed that Jews’ “filthy feet” disgrace the site and praised “every drop of blood that was spilled for Jerusalem.” No UN resolution was passed in condemnation to these statements and calls for violence, yet we are left with overwhelming condemnation at the movement of an embassy. If the motivation behind these US embassy condemnations is a desire for peace, then how can organizations like the UN not condemn active calls for violence?

This announcement can now be added to the list.

Indeed, the PLO went as far as to threaten to revoke recognition of Israel’s existence in response to a purely symbolic gesture by the American government. Using such an arbitrary act as an excuse for such a drastic and nonsensical response indicates that the PLO does not want peace. Unfortunately, these duplicitous actions are not limited to the PLO and are ubiquitous across international forums. Although Jerusalem is the holiest city for Jews, and the Temple Mount is the holiest site, the United Nations UNESCO motion failed torecognize the site’s significance to Israel.

At the same time, in response to this U.S. declaration, the UN passed a resolution condemning the announcement and not the violence. Countries that voted in favor include China, Russia, Venezuela, and Qatar, each with a long list of human rights abuses. This is unfortunately no surprise, as between 2012–2015 86 percent of UN resolutions that condemned a single country condemned Israel. In 2016, 20 out of 26 condemnations focused on Israel, while only three related to Syria, and one each was related to North Korea, Iran, and Crimea. Just as the PLO’s disproportional threat to revoke recognition of Israel’s existence sheds light on its motivations, so too does the UN’s disproportional focus on Israel call into question these forums’ true intentions. Why is there this incredible imbalance in condemnations towards Israel?

Why is the immediate international reaction to maintain the status quo and repeal the declaration, in light of the “eventual” violence and instability that this purely symbolic move will cause and not an immediate condemnation of the incitement and calls to violence witnessed across the Arab world? Why is Arab violence taken as a given and why does the international community impose few expectations regarding violent uprisings that target civilians: men, women and children, infants, and the elderly?

If we establish a status quo where violence against civilians is overlooked or justified, then there will never be peace. We need to shift the paradigm from “don’t provoke” to “these excuses and the resulting violence will not be accepted” and hold any entity accountable for terrorism.

Put simply: if our standards are such that praying at a holy site is considered a justifiable excuse for violence, then the barrier to peace is not a symbolic gesture by the US. This mindset of simply assuming violence and terror has become so common that even many Israeli leaders and civilians are against this embassy move too, simply because a symbolic gesture supporting a situation already accepted by the Israeli people isn’t worth a threat to Israeli lives. Arab leaders, therefore, threaten violence with no standards or repercussions imposed by the international community. If this move brings anything to light, it should not be the importance of an embassy location, but rather the disproportionate and misguided reactions of the international community and the disparity that exists between standards for Israel and the Arab world.

Contributed by former CAMERA Fellow, MIT graduate student Suri Bandler.

This article was originally published in MIT campus paper The Tech.

Could Trump Be Right on Jerusalem?

CAMERA Fellow Marcell Horvath.

Contrary to dubious online suggestions, Einstein did not say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Nonetheless, there is some truth to this idea in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A certain orthodoxy in thought has brought about precious little except for the perpetuation of violence and a persistent deadlock.

Orthodoxies are by no means necessarily pernicious. I do not object to standing on the shoulders of giants, but I would want to verify that the giants are sufficiently tall to qualify as such. In this case, my fear that the orthodoxy is less-than-wise was confirmed when I picked up a recent issue of the Economist, a temperate magazine if there ever was one. “Donald Trump’s recognition of the holy city acknowledged reality. Nevertheless, it was unwise,” read the description of one of three Israel-themed pieces on the print edition’s contents page.

I stared at the words dumbfounded. What bad situation benefits from disregarding reality? Cancer? Domestic abuse? Bankruptcy? Climate change? Surely, there must be an extraordinary line of argument to support a digression from facts.

The apologia for this curious statement first traced the generic position on Jerusalem back to the 1993 Oslo Accords, according to which the city ought to be one of the final issues resolved. Notwithstanding the hurdle that Abu Mazen is not unequivocally committed to Oslo, this could be a rightful concern in the canon of the aforementioned orthodoxy. However, only two outcomes are possible for Jerusalem: either Israel keeps the city’s western part or all of it. Trump’s announcement does not endorse the latter scenario, as Shimon Peres’ former foreign policy advisor, Einat Wilf, explains. Trump was careful to point out that no borders are being drawn. The issue of Jerusalem, despite some initial fears to the contrary, remains unresolved.

The Economist then moves on to its tripartite main argument. First, it criticises the deal-making abilities of the American president, claiming that he gave a concession to Israel without anything in return. This argument is echoed by CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, too. A qualification for this position is that an American commitment, while certainly useful, is not in itself international law. More significantly, it is not a peace deal. The precise advantage of such a “concession” to Israel is therefore unclear at this moment, especially when spokespeople from the State Department decline to confirm whether Jerusalem is inside Israel at all. Have we truly witnessed a significant policy shift from Obama’s Cairo Address, in which he called for Jerusalem to be a “secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims”?

At this moment, when the head of the Israeli Labour party prioritises a united Jerusalem over a peace deal, the notion that any part of the holy city will be surrendered appears particularly distant. But that the city’s western part will cease to be Israel is a particularly damaging fiction, which only strengthens the worst (and most unrealistic) inclinations of the Palestinian movement. These sentiments should not be accommodated on principle alone, but they are also counterproductive in practice as they steer the various Palestinian factions away from sensible terms. That pre-1967 Jewish holdings in Jerusalem are up for negotiations is simply a non-starter. The American reinforcement of this very basic idea is Trump’s great chiddush, and if some acceptance of this reality can be generated, his announcement will secure a single – though crucial – item on a lengthy checklist.

The second point focuses on the notion that Trump “has further discredited the already feeble Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, and all those who argue that Palestinian aspirations can be met by negotiation rather than violence”.

Verily, Abbas is on thin ice with or without Trump. In 2014, a year when Gazans suffered massive casualties in Operation Protective Edge, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh was more popular than Abu Mazen. In 2015, two-thirds of Palestinians wished for the president’s resignation, though this failed to stop him from continuing an already grossly exceeded term with near identical ratings.

It should be noted that these two factions, Hamas and Fatah, are the Palestinian leadership. Both major political forces have strong authoritarian tendencies. So when John Kerry called Abbas “the best peace partner Israel could hope for”, it was difficult to decipher if the then-secretary of state was praising the president (who in 2008 rejected the potentially best deal possible) or insulting his people.

In terms of violence, while there are periods of relative quiet, they tend to be short. Though the PA’s security cooperation with Israel is important, Abbas has not been an unconditional pacifist. With Gaza troubles tragically becoming an almost unremarkable fact of life and the “Knife Intifada” or habba just settling, the reaffirmation of peaceful Palestinian voices is somewhat of a moot point. There has yet to be a decade in the history of modern Israel without a major military confrontation, to say nothing of asymmetrical warfare.

Third, the Economist claims that Trump embarrassed Israel’s newfound Arab allies, who have finally begun warming to the Jewish state due to a mutual hostility towards Iran. Interestingly, the Economist in November was much more amenable towards Team Trump’s Middle East efforts, though it could not forego mentioning the three “orthodox Jews” in the task force, whose bias in favour of Israel it cited as a negative. Mild antisemitism aside, the magazine asserted the following:

“Whatever the [Trump] administration produces, Saudi Arabia is likely to support it. Mr Kushner has struck up a friendship with Muhammad bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince. Though the prince’s foreign-policy record is not widely admired, he seems to have convinced Mr Kushner that he can help reshape the Middle East in ways that suit America. At Mr Trump’s behest he summoned the octogenarian Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, to Riyadh earlier this month and urged him to embrace the American plan.”

Clearly, there is a degree of editorial flexibility – or lack of consistency – here. Nonetheless, that Arab and/or Muslim states will now be tempted to line up behind the Palestinians is a real possibility, and it is raised by former PA official Ghaith al-Omari. There are some signs of this taking place at the UN General Assembly or the OIC, but these are mostly symbolic and impotent measures. On the other hand, Washington Institute executive director Robert Satloff noted that Saudi concerns appeared muted after Trump’s announcement.

That the initial outrage from the Arab world might be sabre-rattling without much substance is a distinct possibility. Neighbouring Arab countries are not necessarily famous for their excessive concern for Palestinians, on its own Trump’s declaration will have little practical effect that might force their hands, and the spectre of Iran will continue to hover over them.

The Economist’s final kick to recognition is the suggestion that Trump’s true goal here is pandering to the pro-Israel elements in his voter base, i.e. the Evangelicals – a point which, once again, corresponds with Zakaria’s take. This argument is also not without its qualifications, however. Consider a survey overseen by Brookings Institute Senior Fellow Shibley Telhami. Telhami writes:

“[The poll] found that 59 percent of Americans said they preferred that Trump lean toward neither side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In contrast, 57 percent of Americans, including most Republicans, said he is in fact leaning toward Israel. Our poll also shows that 63 percent of all Americans oppose moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, including 44 percent of Republicans.

How about the Evangelical Christians whose support has been critical for Trump, and who are known to support declaring Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the U.S. embassy there? Two-thirds of Evangelicals say Trump’s policy is already leaning toward Israel—a proportion that’s even higher than that of the rest of the population. Even on moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, the support is hardly overwhelming: While 53 percent of Evangelicals support the move, 40 percent oppose it.”

If Trump is a rational actor here, the domestic political gains are not earth-shaking.

American acknowledgment of the power dynamics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could ultimately push the Palestinians towards a more amenable position, and that may prove beneficial. Despite initially gloomy reactions, perhaps it is right for Trump to promote the relatively uncontroversial Israeli retainment of West Jerusalem. It is quite possible that the previously reigning view on the conflict overestimated the Palestinian leadership’s clout abroad and their statesmanship at home. Perhaps it erroneously viewed the former as static and the latter as set on an evolutionary trajectory. Whatever the case, the peace process unquestionably screeched to a halt. At this point, there is no need to close our minds to something new, even if the strength of the jolt lies more in provocation than substance. For a change, Trump might have made a fact-based decision.

Marcell Horvath is a graduate law student at the University of Strathclyde and a CAMERA fellow. He co-founded the Glasgow University Israel & Middle East Forum. Previously, he studied history at the University of Maryland and law at the University of Glasgow.

It’s Time to Raise Our Expectations

A Jewish security guard is in critical condition after a 24 year-old Palestinian man stabbed him in the chest. The footage of the attack is graphic and difficult to watch.

Since President Trump’s decision Wednesday to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Palestinian and Arab leaders have responded with threats of violence and outright incitement.

“The ball of fire will roll until an intifada will break out,” said Hamas leader Salah al-Bardawil. Another senior Hamas official has called for an intifada “in the face of the Zionist enemy.” As a reminder, the last intifada took the lives of more than 1,100 Israelis.

In an interview with the New York Times, one Palestinian student said “The Palestinians will unite and raise hell.” Unsurprisingly, calls to violence beget violence.

It has been this fear of violence that has prompted policy experts, world leaders, and other government officials to condemn the move by the Trump administration. Who can blame them? They have seen the same violent response time and again. They are merely relaying the information they have acquired after years of observing the conflict; that any perceived “change” to the status quo will result in violence.

Jews praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem in the 19th century. Source: Pinterest

Of course, the move is not really a change to the status quo. West Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel since 1948, and a bill reaffirming a unified Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was passed in 1980. The Jewish people have seen Jerusalem as their spiritual capital since ancient times. Bipartisan US governments since President Clinton have endorsed moving the US embassy to Jerusalem. In the hands of Israel, Jerusalem has given all three Abrahamic traditions (Islam, Christianity, and Judaism) the ability to worship freely. In an attempt to conflate a political issue with a religious issue, many across the Arab world have been fed the narrative that the Jews wish to “Judaize” Jerusalem. Time and again, archaeological finds have confirmed ancient Jewish roots in Jerusalem and Jews have constituted the largest ethnic group [in Jerusalem] since 1820. “Judaizing Jerusalem” is an oxymoron.

Rather than confronting the issue of incitement to violence, the most serious (and obvious) obstacle to peace, the world has infantilized the Palestinian government and its people, and accepted the notion that violence is an appropriate means of venting political frustration. It is patronizing to hold any group to a different moral standard than one holds themselves to. We would never attempt to defend murder or hate crimes in our own countries. Why then would we attempt to do so on behalf of the Palestinians?

Incitement on Palestinian social media to encourage Palestinians to commit stabbing attacks

The only way to justify the morality of an action is to measure it against one’s own sense of morality. If, under any other conditions, or in any other location, Molotov cocktails, rocket fire, attacks on Jewish (not Israeli) establishments in Amsterdam and Sweden, and stabbing attacks violate our moral compass, then it is imperative that we hold those who carry out these attacks responsible for their actions and perhaps more importantly, condemn those who incite these attacks from the safety and comfort of their desks.

A Palestinian hands out candy in the streets to celebrate the murder of an Israeli by a Palestinian attacker.

The complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is undeniable. Solving the issues of the conflict require us to elevate our expectations of the Palestinians. Violence is antithetical to peace. It is time we responded to incitement as though we believed this fact to be true.

Contributed by Liel Asulin, Campus Coordinator for CAMERA.

Israel Festivals Hit Campuses Across the Country

At the end of the spring semester, universities across the country celebrated Israeli Independence Day by hosting events that showcased Israel’s diverse culture.

CAMERA-supported group Friends of Israel at Rockland Community College held a barbecue in the middle of their campus grounds. There was a professional henna artist and ongoing games. Students were engaged in discussions to learn more about the meaning of the day and the importance of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

Attendees at Friends of Israel RCC’s event.

CAMERA-supported group Israel Student Association at Queens College created a similar event, but they set up tables around the quad featuring different cities in Israel. There was falafel and schwarma, a technology showcase, and even a camel to take selfies with.

Students at Queens College take a selfie with the guest camel behind them.

There was also a camel at MIT, where CAMERA-supported group MIT Friends of Israel had a carnival. With food trucks, cotton candy, photo booths and airbrush tattoos, the event was a huge success. Students made hummus from scratch, and several Israel related organizations had informational tables for students interested in learning more about internships and Birthright.

At Brooklyn College, where one of the most hotly debated subjects is Israel, CAMERA-supported group Bulldogs for Israel at Brooklyn College closed down the street of a busy intersection and the Israel Independence Day Committee planned an event to attract large crowds. Music, food, and booths with activities lured in students.

Students at Brookyln College celebrate Israel

At the bioengineering booth, students potted and decorated cherry tomato plants and learned about Israel’s innovations. Tamid, an Israel business club, had guests make their own beverages with soda stream, and AEPI ran a pitching booth to teach participants about Israel’s victories in the world baseball classic. In order to increase traffic to their Facebook page, a green screen was set up where students could be photo shopped into pictures with Israeli celebrities, and they then had to like the page and wait until the pictures were posted.

CAMERA-supported groups Huskies for Israel at UConn and Emory Students for Israel had similar approaches, with stations set up at both campuses to celebrate the many cities of Israel. At Emory, students could decorate hamsas in Haifa with Hebrew students, and eat classic snacks at the shuk with the Meor group. In Jerusalem, the Arab Culture Association talked to students about Arab history in the area, while students could stick notes in the Western Wall. In the Negev, students tried Bedouin tea and relaxed in a tent. And of course, in Tel Aviv, people partied with a DJ on a fake beach. Participants were given a Rav-Kav (Israeli bus pass) that was stamped at each station they visited, and when they traveled to enough places they were rewarded with free falafel or a t-shirt.

All of these events proved to be hugely successful, attracting many new club members and spreading awareness about the vast technology, diverse people, and incredible cities Israel has to offer. Educational and fun, the activities allowed students to enjoy food, music, and Israel education in a relaxed setting.

New Business District in Jerusalem

When you think of business, high-tech, and medicine within Israel, you think of Tel Aviv, and when you think of Jerusalem you think of culture, tourism and religion. Well the Jerusalem Municipality is trying to change all that, and the wheels are most certainly already in motion.

How the new Jerusalem business district will look (Dagan Advanced Visual Solutions)

High-tech and start-ups are booming in the Israeli capital. Over the past two years, Jerusalem has gone from 14,000 to 18,000 employees in these fields. Jerusalem is home to companies such as Mobileye which now has a total of 700 employees in Jerusalem. Jerusalem is now considered as one of the world’s fastest-growing cities in high tech.

To compensate demand, the Jerusalem Municipality is building one of the largest infrastructure projects the city has ever seen, a new business district at the entrance to the city. The new business district, starting from the Chords Bridge and right up to Ben Zvi Boulevard, will contain a staggering 24 buildings including 14 skyscrapers of at least 24 floors each and nine buildings with 36 floors.

Included in the new business district is the newly renovated International Convention Center, which is largest convention center in the Middle East. The new business district will also feature the largest integrated transportation hub in Israel, including a high-speed train to Tel Aviv which will take just 28 minutes, two light-rail lines connecting it with the rest of Jerusalem, as well as the Jerusalem Central Bus Station.

How a street in the new Jerusalem business district will look (Dagan Advanced Visual Solutions)

The new business district will create over 40,000 jobs, and when complete will be the most prominent business district in the country, even more so than the Azrieli Center in Tel Aviv.

Though there is still a long way to go until completion, Jerusalem is slowly starting to diversify into a city incredibly attractive for young professionals.

Contributed by Daniel Kosky, CAMERA Intern.

16 Years Ago, Hamas Murdered 13 Israelis at a Pizzeria

Sixteen years ago, Israel suffered what would be one of the most well-known terror attacks to hit Jerusalem, the Sbarro suicide bombing. The bombing was one of the most striking attacks of the Second Intifada, and still haunts Jerusalemites.

The bombing took place in Sbarro, a fast-food Pizza chain. Its restaurant was located on the corner of King George Street and Jaffa Road, one of the busiest intersections in the center of Jerusalem.

The aftermath of the 2001 Sbarro Suicide Bombing (Wiki Commons)

A suicide bomber, Izz al-Din Shuheil al-Masri, acting on behalf of Hamas, walked into the restaurant at 2pm, when it was filled with customers, including women and children, and blew himself up. The blast killed 13, all civilians, and wounded 130. Among the dead were eight children and a pregnant American woman.

The bomber received help from fellow Palestinian Ahlam Tamimi who picked the target. She was later arrested and sent to prison. During her time in prison she was interviewed by a journalist, and when he informed her of the number of children killed in the attack, she smiled. Tamimi was released from prison in 2011 and sent to Jordan as part of the prisoner exchange with Hamas for IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, but the US is now seeking her extradition.

Mordechai and Tzira Schijveschuurder, both children of Holocaust survivors were killed in the attack along with three of their children. Two other daughters, Leah, 11, and Chaya, 8, were critically injured. Chaya gave her testimony to The Guardian.

“We were hungry, so Mommy said we could go to a restaurant to eat. In that restaurant, you have to pay first and only afterwards you sit down to eat. When we were at the cash register, we suddenly heard an explosion. I ran out as fast as I could. I didn’t look at anything. I just ran out. A medic, I don’t know his name, took me to an ambulance and that is where I saw Avraham Yitzhak (her brother) for the last time.

I said to him, ‘Avraham Yitzhak!’ but he didn’t say anything. After that they took me on a stretcher to the hospital, and I had to have an operation to remove the screws that entered my liver and leg. I saw a sign on the door that said ‘Operating Room’ and started to cry. After that I didn’t see anything.

In my house, they are sitting ‘shiva’ right now. My brothers came here with their torn shirts. I asked them ‘Why are your shirts torn?’ but they didn’t want to tell me that my parents were dead. My brothers were not with us in the restaurant. They found me first. After that, they found out that my sister and my brother were dead.”

The bombing of the Sbarro pizza chain in Jerusalem was just one of many that Israel faced during the Second Intifada, a wave of Palestinian terrorism which murdered over 1,000 Israelis from 2000-2005.

Contributed by Daniel Kosky, CAMERA Intern. 

British Policeman Honored For Thwarting Attack in Israel

A British policeman is being honored by the UK Police Federation with a bravery award for putting his life at risk to intervene in an attack in Jerusalem.

British policeman Richard Burgess was on a pilgrimage to Israel in Feburary 2016. During his time in Jerusalem, he was visiting the grave of Oskar Schindler on Mount Zion, who saved thousands of Jews during the Holocaust. Just before leaving, a woman came up to Burgess and asked him to “please help them, please help them”. He followed the alarmed woman to a nearby alley, where he saw three Arab men beating and dragging what he believed to be a Jewish man.

Hero: Detective Sergeant Richard Burgess (Police Oracle)

According to the UK Police Federation, Burgess “ran at the group, ‘clotheslining’ one of the men, and holding him in a headlock under his right arm. This despite a recent injury, meaning his right hand was not fully functional. With his left hand, he pulled at the Jewish man, freeing him and yelling at him to run. Two other members of the tour [who happened to be off-duty Metropolitan Police officers] arrived to help the man to safety.”

After freeing the Jewish man, the three Arab men started attacking Burgess, who was hit with a claw hammer in the head. Despite being heavily dazed, Burgess managed to get away. Israeli Police have since arrested two suspects they believe to have been involved in the attack, and were convicted of assault.

Richard Burgess showed incredible courage and bravery to intervene and potentially save the life of the Jewish man being attacked. He put his own life at risk to save the life of another in a foreign country, when many would simply run away. As Steve Taylor, chairman of Essex Police Federation said, “he is truly deserving of this nomination.”

Contributed by Daniel Kosky, CAMERA Intern. 

Israel Hosts A Record Breaking 20th Maccabiah Games

Israel is playing host to the 20th Maccabiah Games this month. The Maccabiah Games is an international Jewish multi-sport event often dubbed ‘the Jewish Olympics’. The event brings together thousands of athletes representing many different countries. The event, first started in 1932, takes place every four years, one year after the Olympic Games.

The 2017 Maccabiah Games is special, with a record 85 countries competing and 45 sports on offer. Countries competing for the first time include the Bahamas, the Philippines, South Korea, Malta and Morocco. The number of athletes exceed 10,000, making it the third largest sporting competition in the world behind the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup.

The Opening Ceremony was hosted at the Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem, and it was far from dull. It was attended by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli President Reuvin Rivlin, who both gave speeches. There were even surprise addresses via the big screen from both British Prime Minister Theresa May, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Rivlin at the Opening Ceremony (Flash 90)

The Opening Ceremony also featured an impromptu proposal by Canadian athlete Avi Steinberg to his girlfriend Rachel. After she accepted, hosts of the opening ceremony pulled out a wedding gown and chuppah, and the couple’s rabbi, Avi Poupko, officiated a wedding ceremony in front of the entire stadium!

The first Maccabiah Games took place around the time of Adolf Hitler coming to power in Germany, and was played against the wish of the British rulers in pre-state Israel. In contrast, the 20th Maccabiah is the third largest sporting event in the world, and it is taking place in Jerusalem, the capital of the Jewish state. The Maccabiah Games can be seen as a showcase of the remarkable rise in the fate of the Jewish people.

Contributed by Daniel Kosky, CAMERA Intern

“I treated the injured soldier, while in the background they were still searching for more terrorists!”

Paramedic Muhammed Abd Elrhaman arrived at the scene of the terror attack by Damascus Gate and immediately ran to treat the injured soldier, Sergeant Hadas Malka, while reports in the background spoke of more attackers. Muhammed furiously fought to save her life and even stayed by her hospital bed during her final moment. Today he shared his feelings with us. 

The Friday peace was shattered by the voice of the Dispatch Officer in Magen David Adom’s (MDA) 101 Dispatch Center relaying a call about a stabbing by Damascus Gate in Jerusalem. Seconds earlier, three terrorists attacked a Border Police force that was on patrol in the area. One of the terrorists, only 18 years old, stabbed Hadas Malka and critically injured her, however the soldier didn’t give up and fought back for some time. Other members of her unit saw what was happening, shot and neutralized the terrorist, and then immediately called MDA.

Hadas Malka (23), Israeli Border Policewoman murdered in Damascus Gate terror attack (Courtesy)

Muhammed Abd Elrhaman, an experienced Paramedic from MDA’s Jerusalem station who has already witnessed many terror attacks during his years of service, immediately understood that this was a serious incident. Abd Elrhaman explained “I was on a MICU (Mobile Intensive Care Unit) shift in Pisgat Zeev and when we reached Begin Junction, only a minute away from the attack, we received a report over the radio from MDA Jerusalem that the Israel Police were requesting an ambulance after they saw on security cameras that someone had stabbed a soldier and that they are now lying on the floor. At first we didn’t realize that it was a female soldier. Noa Tiram, the Dispatch Officer, immediately sent an ambulance to assess the scene. No more than 20 seconds later it became evident that this was a terror attack, potentially still ongoing, and I called up and volunteered for the call as we were very nearby.

We headed straight to the scene and heard over the radio that it was a developing incident but we were still uncertain as to its nature. At first the suspicion was of a criminal act rather than a terror one. However, seconds later, there was a report that it was terrorism that we had to take special precautions and don protective gear, to team up with the Police, and instruct the youth volunteers to remain on the ambulances. I realized that we would be first on scene and reported so to the Dispatch Center, knowing that there were another five ambulances behind me.”

Hadas was bleeding and unconscious

Treating Hadas reminded Muhammed of previous terror attacks at Damascus Gate, when other critically injured were brought to him. Muhammed said “When I arrived at the scene a regular ambulance reported that he was already transferring a seriously injured patient towards Hadassa Har Hatzofim Hospital. I decided that we would meet him at Damascus Gate by the scene of the attack so that we could treat the patient with drugs and advanced life saving capabilities. When we opened the ambulance door we saw the 23-year-old victim, a female Border Police soldier in combat gear and stab vest. She was unconscious. 

During the primary assessment I noticed stab wounds to her upper body and massive bleeding. I realized that I was fighting the clock and began some intensive treatment.”

MDA arrive on the scene of the terror attack at Damascus Gate (Times of Israel)

During your treatment at the scene, there were reports of other terrorists. Were you scared?

“When I’m dealing with such a critically injured patient, I concentrate only on her – not on the radio. I didn’t hear the warning about further terrorists, and it wouldn’t have made any difference to me because I had to treat her. At the time I was just with her. I undertook a surgical procedure in the field to release air from her chest cavity and treated her other wounds to try to prevent further blood loss.

I told my crew to begin resuscitation attempts, physically performing chest compressions. One volunteer leaned on the wound in her neck to try to stem the bleeding, a second volunteer performed the compressions and I intubated her and started an IV line in her neck to try to stabilize her situation.

Within only 7 minutes we provided most of the treatment at the scene using advanced surgical techniques, ventilated her, gave her drugs and transported her to hospital.”

Muhammed Abd Elrhaman (MDA)

We hoped so much that she would pull through

The crew arrived at hospital with Hadas and immediately went into the trauma room. Muhammed’s crew joined the doctors who fought for her life and he treated her up until her last moments. Abd Elrhaman said “There were a few optimistic moments when we arrived at the hospital and took her to the trauma room, but the optimism was short-lived as her situation worsened and she was classified in a critical condition.

We carried on doing chest compressions, she was given more blood and more drugs, but eventually, about an hour after she reached hospital, she was pronounced dead. We fought for her life – all of us. MDA crews and hospital teams. The moment her death was pronounced was a very difficult one for us all.”

Muhammed’s crew was kept at hospital until after Hadas’s family was informed that she had died. Muhammed said “We sat there and waited. Only after it was all over and we’d been allowed to leave the hospital did I hear on the news that there were actually two scenes and three terrorists who went on a shooting and stabbing spree. That’s when we really understood the magnitude of the situation.”

Today, three days after the event, Muhammed explained “We enter active scenes and treat victims while in danger on so many occasions. We act during those times through a feeling that we have a mission to complete, and with only one thought on our minds – to save the victims. We don’t think about what might happen later or what might happen to us. Each time that we see the scene of a terror attack we run in, when logic dictates to run away to survive. But this is who we are, this is what we know, and this is what we must do.”

Contributed by Magen David Adom