I know my readers have become accustomed to seeing a good news piece or two at the beginning of a posting. Not today.
Does not mean there is no good news – there always is. But we must focus now on the horrendous news just past.
It began here in Israel, right before Shabbat, outside of Hevron. Every single terrorist attack endured here is painful for the nation. But some are harder because of unique circumstances. And this was true on Friday.
There is an Ashkenazi custom for a prospective groom (chatan, in Hebrew) to be called to the Torah on the Shabbat before his wedding. The air is festive and there is traditionally rejoicing after the Torah reading. This is Shabbat Chatan.
In Hevron this past Shabbat there was going to be a Shabbat Chatan, and Rabbi Ya’akov Litman was on his way – for this was the celebration for the man who was going to be his new son-in-law in a matter of days. Outside of Hevron, at Otniel, terrorists shot at the Rabbi’s car. He was killed as was his son, Netanel, 18.
The prospective bride was not in the car, but other members of the family were wounded – including, I believe, her mother. Her 16 year-old brother, shot in the leg, contacted security forces and directed them to the scene.
When the news came to me Friday at almost sundown, my thought was, How little the world understands of what we Israelis endure. Nor does the world understand how strong we are. My mind flew to the Applebaums. Twelve years ago, father, David, and daughter. Nava, met in the Jerusalem café Hillel for talk a day before her wedding, and were blown away.
And then, I lit my Shabbat candles, and went to synagogue, and sang at the Shabbat table. Because this is what we do.
The funeral – attended by hundreds and vastly emotional – was last night, in Jerusalem. The young woman who was scheduled to be married this week is instead sitting shiva (observing a stringent one-week mourning period) for her father and brother. Reports are that she was inconsolable, and who could blame her?
Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
President Ruby Rivlin spoke at the funeral, and he said (emphasis added):
“We are not afraid, we do not surrender and we do not retreat – even when our blood, the blood of fathers and sons is spilled, we remember that our roots are planted in the earth of this land.”
THAT, my friends, is how strong we are.
Security forces have the weapon that was used in the attack, and have located the car, which had been abandoned. As the result of a massive manhunt, and a joint security operation, one of the terrorists has been apprehended. In the course of interrogation, he implicated himself. Rest assured, his accomplices will also be apprehended.
There were reports that an ambulance of the Red Crescent, the Muslim version of the Red Cross, passed by the dead and wounded at Otniel, and declined to stop and lend assistance. Officials from the prime minister down are furious. A campaign will be launched against Red Crescent by Israel: a complaint will be registered with the International Committee of the Red Cross, along with a demand for Red Crescent officials to explain themselves.
A foreign ministry official said, “Israel will enact all necessary sanctions against the Red Crescent.”
What must be understood here is that this is routine practice for Red Crescent, despite ethical obligations to treat all casualties – as the Israeli Magen David Adom does.
And then, no sooner was Shabbat over then I received word of the ISIS jihadi attacks in Paris, which had occurred later Friday night and had huge dimensions. While many of my readers may not have heard what went on here before Shabbat, I doubt there is anyone who has not heard about this.
At least 130 people have been killed and 352 more injured (99 critically). This was not one attack, but a series of six timed and coordinated attacks in different locations in Paris, in the 11th and 12th arrondissements. A very sophisticated, well-planned operation, it all occurred within 30 minutes, starting at 9:45 PM. This strongly suggests a lack of adequate French intelligence, especially as France was on a high security alert even before the attack.
In the worst attack, at least 88 people were killed at a concert at the Bataclan night club/theater. There is reason to believe that this club was chosen because of its Jewish ownership.
“French magazine Le Point says the Bataclan theater has for years been the target of anti-Zionist groups as its Jewish owners often put on pro-Israel events.”
In another hit, there was a double suicide bombing right outside the Stadium of France, where French President Hollande and the German foreign minister were watching an international soccer game. Altogether too close…
Several select restaurants were also attacked.
France is now observing three days of mourning, with many shops closed, and people remaining at home. Certainly all Jewish institutions in Paris are shut.
Heartfelt condolences came from many quarters, including, of course, Israel. Last night, Netanyahu said, “An attack on any one of use should be seen as an attack on all of us…Terrorism is the deliberate and systematic targeting of civilians . It can never be justified.”
Additionally, Netanyahu said:
“You can’t fight terrorism selectively. You can’t say these are the good terrorists and these are the bad terrorists. All terrorists are bad.
“Just as we have condemned murderous acts around the world, so too I expected condemnation to be issued against the murders that occurred yesterday, of Yaakov and Natanel Litman.” (emphasis added)
Dearly do I wish the Western world would respond to this expectation. I do not for a moment believe it will.
In a spirit of solidarity with Paris, the walls of the Old City in Jerusalem were lit up in the colors of the French flag.
Credit: Perry Mandelbaum
Three teams of ISIS- affiliated attackers acting in unison carried out the terrorist operation. All the attackers carried assault rifles and wore suicide vests. The coordinator of the entire attack is still at large, as is the bomb-maker and apparently a member of one of the terrorist teams.
While some French nationals were involved – Belgian authorities say two of the French nationals were living in Belgium – there were also at least two attackers who came into France as Syrian “refugees.”
“Syrian passport found by police at the scene of the mass shooting in a Paris concert hall belonged to an asylum seeker who registered on a Greek island in October, a Greek minister said Saturday.
“’We confirm that the Syrian passport holder came through the Greek island of Leros on October 3 where he was registered under EU rules,’ said a statement issued by Nikos Toskas, the minister for citizen protection.
“’The most logical assumption is that it’s the same person, sent on a mission to Europe,’ said a European security expert speaking on condition of anonymity.”
“Second Suspected Paris Attacker Likely Passed Through Greece as Refugee
“Holder of Syrian passport found near gunman’s body arrived in Europe with 69 refugees in island of Leros in October, Greek official says…”
This entire matter of jihadists posing as “refugees” is of enormous import for all of Europe, which has been welcoming those coming from Syria with open arms. Of course not every person who claims refugee status is a jihadist, but analysts – yours truly among them – have been warning that the signs of a dangerous situation have been clear for all to see.
The unrest and anxiety this now causes in Europe is tremendous; already Poland has indicated a reluctance to take future refugees according to an allotment spelled out by the EU.
Whatever the reluctance now to take more refugees, the fact remains that thousands who are militants are likely already inside Europe’s borders. That is, Europe has a humungous problem which we’ve seen coming down the road.
President Hollande has declared:
“It is an act of war that was committed by a terrorist army, a jihadist army, Daesh [ISIS], against France. It is an act of war that was prepared, organized and planned from abroad, with complicity from the inside, which the investigation will help establish.”
He is planning to call out the army in strength; Paris, which he expects will remain under a state of emergency for three months, will be patrolled by the military.
France, said Hollande, will “be unforgiving with the barbarians from Daesh,” Acting within the law, France would respond with “all the necessary means, and on all terrains, inside and outside, in coordination with our allies.”
There are reports of French planes flying over ISIS strongholds in Libya, and there is an investigation already begun, to determine precisely who each of the terrorists was, and how it all came together. But beyond this, there is no clarity on what Hollande intends.
I will be returning to this.
Ana Bekoach is an ancient kabbalistic poem set to music. A prayer. It allegedly has great mystical power and meaning. What I know is that I love it, and think it appropriate for ending this posting. We need to reach for the mystical powers.
“We beg thee, with the strength and greatest of Thy right arm,
Untangle our twisted fate.
“Accept your peope’s song, elevate and purify us…
“Accept our cries, and hear our screams,
oh knower of mysteries.”