October 17, 2018

Israeli Arab Murders Rabbi In Stabbing Attack

Screenshot from Facebook

An Israeli Arab stabbed a rabbi to death on Feb. 5 and has yet to be apprehended.

According to Israel’s newspaper Haaretz, the victim, 29-year-old Rabbi Itamar Ben Gal, a middle school teacher, was waiting at a bus stop outside of the Ariel settlement in the West Bank when the suspected assailant, identified by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) as 19-year-old Jaffa resident Abed al-Hakim Asi, emerged from a taxi cab and stabbed Ben Gal. According to Israeli media network Arutz Sheva, Ben Gal then reportedly ran to a bus and banged on the doors, pleading for help before losing consciousness. Ben Gal was then taken to a hospital, where he succumbed to the wounds.

An IDF officer who witnessed the stabbing tried to strike Asi with his car but Asi was able to evade capture.

“We send condolences to the family,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during a Likud faction meeting on Feb. 5. “IDF forces are in pursuit and we will employ the full extent of the law with them. We always do. I place my trust in security forces, who are doing excellent work.”

Hamas praised the stabbing as a way of protesting President Trump’s Jerusalem move, as one of their spokesmen said the stabbing showed “the intifada is continuing.” Islamic Jihad also praised the attack, while the Palestinian Authority has yet to say anything about it.

The funeral for Ben Gal was held on Feb. 6 in the Har Brakha settlement in the West Bank, where Ben Gal resided, the Jerusalem Post reported.

“I wish I had died instead of you,” Ben Gal’s father, Daniel Ben Gal, said in his eulogy. “We have no idea how we will continue without you, without your smile and your good face that was always radiant.”

Ben Gal is survived by his wife, Miriam, and four children.

Israeli Soldier Murdered by Palestinians in Likely Terror Attack

Screenshot from Twitter.

An Israeli soldier has been murdered by Palestinians in what is believed to be a terror attack.

The 20-year-old soldier, who has yet to be identified, was fatally stabbed in his upper torso at a bus stop outside a mall in the city of Arad at approximately 9:30 pm on Thursday. The soldier proceeded to try and get help by stepping in front of a car, where he began vomiting blood.

“He was conscious and tried to say something but couldn’t,” the driver of the car told Ynet News. “We tried to help him, he fell to the ground. We called Magen David Adom and put a towel on him.”

By the time paramedics arrived, the solider was no longer breathing and didn’t have a pulse.

“We provided life-saving medical care and performed advanced resuscitation techniques, but we were ultimately forced to declare him dead at the scene,” said MDA paramedic Ziv Shapira.

Video footage of the scene of the attack can be seem below:

There are two Palestinian suspects connected to the murder and they are still at large. The police, Shin Bet and Israel Defense Forces are all working together in trying to find them, even going as far as setting up roadblocks and sending out a helicopter.

The preliminary investigation suggests that the attack was “nationalistically motivated.” Arad Mayor Nissan Ben-Homo said, “The working assumption is that this was a terror attack.”

What Happens In Jerusalem Does Not Stay In Jerusalem

Israel is tritely known as the start up nation, the incubator for ideas and products that change our lives – usually for the better – in an increasingly high-tech world. Your ever-smaller cell phone, that GPS app that saves you 7 minutes on your commute to work, that suddenly non-invasive medical procedure and those persimmons that magically never seem to go bad, those were all created in Israel, and tested on Israelis, before getting the OK to go global.

So too, alas, with the modern scourge of undiscriminating Jihadi mass murders, occasionally referred to as terrorism by Western media. Like the most famous of technology companies, Jihadi terror tragically also uses Israel as its R&D center, and the Israeli populace, it pains me to write, as its guinea pigs.

After doing so with suicide bombings in the 90s, Palestinian Jihadists (whether of the admittedly religious Hamas variety, or of the “secular” Al Aqsa Martyrs brigades of the PLO) invented, tested and made ever more lethal truck terrorism, stabbing rampages and mass shootings through Israeli “experiments,” that is, through attacks on Israeli moms, dads, sons, daughters and grandparents. Palestinians saw that those indiscriminate and savage murders of Israeli innocents going about their day not only didn’t backfire politically or trigger any meaningful Western outrage, they instead earned Palestinians an endless stream of gushing profiles in liberal media outlets, a global pulpit, wall to wall political support, and the permanent benefit of any moral doubt with Western intelligentsia. There are many psychological reasons why this is so, why so many who might be expected to know better instead respond to plain evil with moral acrobatics, overwrought compassion and Orwellian understanding. Regardless, it is no coincidence that the mass-killing tactics developed in Ramallah, tested in Jerusalem and rewarded in Norway are becoming ubiquitous in London, Nice and, now, New York City.

If we don’t grasp that the mass murders committed by ISIS have their genesis in Yasser Arafat being rewarded for mass murder with global (including, at times, liberal Jewish) adulation, we will fail – whatever else we do to fight Jihadism. The usual methods when terror hits the West — vapid prayers, outdated diversity sloganeering, misplaced concerns over ever-yet-to-materialize “backlashes,” and narcissistic hashtags — have been turned by their sheer frequency into rancid insults that just pile onto fresh and never ending injuries. They are at best an impotent form of self therapy, at worse, an encouragement to terrorists, a sign that nothing need change in their macabre strategic calculus. It is clearly past time to look at more forceful solutions.

If we don’t grasp that the mass murders committed by ISIS have their genesis in Yasser Arafat being rewarded for mass murder with global (including, at times, liberal Jewish) adulation, we will fail – whatever else we do to fight Jihadism.

But killing ISIS thugs in Iraq and Syria, while laudable, is not enough, as this Uber driver on a legal visa turned Jihadi ought to show. Cluster bombs in Kabul and Raqqa have done little to protect those walking about on London bridges, in Paris markets or on Catalonian esplanades.

Closing borders will also do little: homegrown terrorists abound, whether they be second-generation immigrants or native converts to Islamist nihilism.

Rather, and as a first step, it is high time that we partner with Arabs and Muslims who have an interest in such and wage a concerted psychological war on the rabid religious ideas that underlie Jihad. It can be done, though explaining how exceeds the scope of this column. What is clear is that any assault on Jihadi ideas must attack that poisoned tree at its root not selectively prune only some of its most obtrusive jagged branches. There can be no exceptions in fighting terrorist ideas: the fetid poison of Hamas and Hezbullah are the same as that of Boko Haram and Al Qaeda. That remains true whether or not the former dress their primitive, supremacist savagery in talk of occupation and human rights in order to disable part of our moral immune system. That, along with the usual military means, may well make a difference. Because if Jihadist lunacy can be exported by Saudi Arabia and others via madrassas, so too can a version of Islam that is hostile to terrorism and shames it as cowardly, unmanly and sinful.

But that too, while desperately needed, isn’t enough. Which brings me at long last to my point: it is time to stop giving the Palestinians a free pass. If terrorism is rewarded or even explained away when it targets Israeli innocents, the record is unequivocal that the same terrorism will then spread to Europe, Canada, India, the US… If despicable apologists for Palestinian Jihad like Linda Sarsour and BDS are for no logical reason treated like paragons of humanism (including by how many Jews?), then so too will apologists for terrorism in Paris and Barcelona become normalized. Our willful, convenient moral blindness to the depredations of Palestinian terrorists operates as a tactical beacon to other Jihadis.

It is very comforting to think “oh, that’s different… that can’t happen to us, those attacks are not the same.” But they very much are the same. And for terrorism to fail in the West, as it must if we want to keep enjoying the fruits of the enlightenment, it has to fail everywhere. If Europe wants its streets back, it must help Israel secure hers. It has to become taboo to target any civilians, for any professed cause, at any time — not just those in European and American nightclubs.

Alas, what happens in Jerusalem does not stay in Jerusalem.

Eight Dead, 12 Wounded in Manhattan Terror Attack

A Home Depot truck which struck down multiple people on a bike path, killing several and injuring numerous others, is seen as New York city first responders are at the crime scene in lower Manhattan in New York, NY, U.S., October 31, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

At least eight people are dead and 12 others are injured in what is considered to be the deadliest terror attack in New York since 9/11.

The terror suspect, who has been identified as 29-year-old Sayfullo Saipov, reportedly drove a white Home Depot truck on the opposite side of the bike lane on the West Side Highway in Lower Manhattan, striking people in its wake. The truck eventually crashed into a school bus and another car, and the driver fled the vehicle while carrying fake guns before being shot by police.

It is also being reported that the terrorist shouted “Allah Akhbar!”

Here is a picture of the suspect being apprehended:

“This was an act of terror, a particularly cowardly act of terror, aimed at innocent civilians,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a press conference.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said in the same press conference that the attack appears to be a “lone wolf attack” and that New York is a prime target for those who despise America’s values.

“The truth is New York is an international symbol of freedom and democracy…that also makes us a target,” said Cuomo.

Cuomo praised the first responders on the scene of the terror attack.

“We have the finest security on the globe,” said Cuomo.

President Trump called the terrorist “a very sick and deranged person”:

One of the witnesses, Greg Ahl, told 1010 WINS he “noticed along the bike path a bunch of wrecked bicycles and as I drove it was just more and more completely and totally wrecked bicycles and people mulling around to the side.”

Another witness, Uber driver Chen Yi, told CNBC that he saw “a lot of blood” and “a lot of people on the ground” on the bike path where the terror attack took place.

French Jewish woman dies of injuries sustained in Nice terror attack

An elderly Jewish woman who was badly injured in the terror attack in Nice, France, has died of her injuries.

Raymonde Mamane, 77, died Sunday at a local hospital, the French Jewish newspaper Actualite Juive reported Monday.

Her sister, Clara Bensimon, 80, remains unconscious in the same hospital, where both of her legs reportedly were amputated. Bensimon was only identified late Friday after being reported missing following the attack.

Mamane is reported to be the first Jewish fatality in the attack.

The women were on the Promenade des Anglais watching the July 14 fireworks in honor of Bastille Day when they were mowed down by a truck driven by French-Tunisian citizen, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, killing at least 85 and injuring more than 300. The Islamic State terrorist group has claimed responsibility for the attack and said Bouhlel was its operative. Bouhlel, who was shot dead by police, had a criminal record involving violence but not terrorism.

At least five local Jews were injured in the attack, according to the local Chabad-Lubavitch emissary, Yossef Yitzschok Pinson.

Parents of 3-month-old terror victim welcome new baby

The parents of a 3-month-old girl killed in a car-ramming attack in Jerusalem have welcomed a new baby girl.

Hannah and Shmuel Braun’s second child was delivered Sunday night in their Jerusalem home, as the labor had progressed too far to go to the hospital, the Times of Israel reported late Monday.

The baby was delivered by an Arab-Israeli paramedic, Ziad Dawiyat — the same paramedic who had tended to their baby, Chaya Zissel, following the attack at the Jerusalem light rail station and transported her to the hospital.

“I didn’t know what to do or say — to wish them congratulations or give them my condolences,” Dawiyat told the Times of Israel. “I was very moved, so I just wished them a ‘mazal tov’ and a long and peaceful life.”

Dawiyat said that he and the family plan to keep in touch.

The Brauns were returning from a visit to the Western Wall in October when a car driven by a former Palestinian prisoner from eastern Jerusalem drove purposely into the Ammunition Hill station in northern Jerusalem. The baby was thrown from her stroller and later died at the Hadassah hospital on Mount Scopus.

Chaya was born after her parents had tried for years to conceive with no success, the baby’s grandfather told reporters at the time.

Four Israelis wounded in car-ramming attack at West Bank bus stop

Four Israelis were wounded, one seriously, when a car driven by a Palestinian man drove into a crowd of people standing at a West Bank bus stop.

A car with Palestinian license plates driving at high speed near the Alon Shvut settlement in the Gush Etzion bloc veered into a bus stop on the side of the road on Thursday afternoon in what is believed to be a terror attack, according to Israeli news reports. The driver, later identified as Muhammed Arfaya, 22 from Hebron, was arrested soon after the incident and turned over to the Shin Bet security service for questioning. He reportedly confessed to perpetrating the attack in order to hurt Israelis.

According to the Shin Bet,  he was released a year ago from a priosn sentence for throwing stones.

The four victims range in age from 16-25. Two are reported to be high school students and one a student at Yeshivat Har Etzion in Alon Shvut, Ynet reported.

The attack occurred near the junction where in November an Israeli woman, Dalia Lemkus, was stabbed to death and a Palestinian man drove his vehicle into three soldiers waiting for rides. Other vehicular and stabbing attacks have occurred in the area. It also is the same junction where, in June, three Israeli teens were abducted. The teens were later killed.

There have been a series of vehicular attacks on Israelis by Palestinian drivers in the Jerusalem area in recent months.

French police converge on small town after Paris attack suspects seen

French anti-terrorism police converged on an area northeast of Paris on Thursday after two brothers suspected of being behind an attack on a satirical newspaper were spotted at a gasoline station in the region.

France's prime minister said on Thursday he feared the Islamist militants who killed 12 people could strike again as a manhunt for two men widened across the country.

Two police sources said that the men were seen armed and wearing cagoules in a Renault Clio car at a petrol station on a secondary road in Villers-Cotterets some 70 kilometers from the French capital.

Amid French media reports the men had abandoned their car, Bruno Fortier, the mayor of neighboring Crépy-en-Valois, said helicopters were circling his town and police and anti-terrorism forces were deploying en masse.

“It's an incessant waltz of police cars and trucks,” he told Reuters, adding that he could not confirm reports the men were holed up in a house in the area.

A policewoman was killed in a shootout in Paris earlier in the day, but police sources could not immediately confirm a link with Wednesday's killings at the Charlie Hebdo weekly newspaper that marked the worst attack on French soil for decades.

National leaders and allied states described the assault on Charlie Hebdo, known for its lampooning of Islam and other religions as well as politicians, as an assault on democracy. The bells of Notre-Dame cathedral rang out during a minute's silence observed across France and beyond.

Many European newspapers either re-published Charlie Hebdo cartoons or mocked the killers with images of their own.

Montrouge Mayor Jean-Loup Metton said the policewoman and a colleague were attending a reported traffic accident when Thursday's shooting occurred. Witnesses said the assailant fled in a Renault Clio and police sources said he wore a bullet-proof vest and had a handgun and assault rifle.

But one police officer at the scene told Reuters he did not appear to resemble the Charlie Hebdo shooters.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls was asked on RTL radio after an emergency cabinet meeting with President Francois Hollande whether he feared a further attack.

“That question is entirely legitimate, that's obviously our main concern, and that is why thousands of police and investigators have been mobilized to catch these individuals.”


Police released photographs of the two French nationals still at large, calling them “armed and dangerous”: brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi, aged 32 and 34, both of whom were already under watch by security services.

Late Wednesday, an 18-year-old man turned himself into police in Charleville-Mézières near the Belgian border as police carried out searches in Paris and the northeastern cities of Reims and Strasbourg. A legal source said he was the brother-in-law of one of the main suspects and French media quoted friends as saying he was in school at the moment of the attack.

French social media carried numerous reports of police helicopters across northern France. Police tightened security at transport hubs, religious sites, media offices and stores.

There were scattered, unconfirmed reports of sightings of the assailants and police increased their presence at entry points to Paris. One police source talked of a type of “psychosis” setting in with various reports and rumors, but police had to take each of them seriously.

The defense ministry said it had brought in an additional 200 soldiers from parachute regiments across the country to Paris to take the number of military patrolling the capital's streets to 850.

France held a day of mourning for journalists and police officers shot dead by black-hooded gunmen using Kalashnikov assault rifles. French tricolor flags flew at half mast.

Tens of thousands took part in vigils across France on Wednesday to defend freedom of speech, many wearing badges declaring “Je Suis Charlie” (I Am Charlie) in support of the newspaper and the principle of freedom of speech.

Britain's Daily Telegraph depicted two masked gunman outside the doors of Charlie Hebdo saying to each other: “Be careful, they might have pens”. Many German newspapers republished Charlie Hebdo cartoons.

The attack raised questions of security in countries across the Western world and beyond. Muslim leaders condemned the shooting but some have expressed fears of a rise in anti-Islamic feeling in a country with a large Muslim population.

France's Muslim Council called on all French Muslims to join the minute of silence and said it was issuing a call for “all Imams in all of France's mosques to condemn violence and terrorism wherever it comes from in the strongest possible way.”

Police sources said the window of a kebab shop next to a mosque in the town of Villefrance-sur-Saone was blown out by an overnight explosion. Local media said there were no wounded.

Security services have long feared that nationals drawn into Islamist militant groups fighting in Syria and Iraq could return to their home countries to launch attacks – though there is no suggestion that the two suspects named by police had actually fought in either of these countries.

Britain's Cobra security committee met on Thursday. London's transport network was target of an attack in 2005, four years after 9/11. There have been attacks in countries including Spain, Kenya, Nigeria, India and Pakistan that have raised fears in Europe.

Islamist militants have repeatedly threatened France with attacks over its military strikes on Islamist strongholds in the Middle East and Africa, and the government reinforced its anti-terrorism laws last year.

A total of seven people had been arrested since the attack, he said. Police sources said they were mostly acquaintances of the two main suspects. One source said one of the brothers had been identified by his identity card, left in the getaway car.


Cherif Kouachi served 18 months in prison on a charge of criminal association related to a terrorist enterprise in 2005. He was part of an Islamist cell enlisting French nationals from a mosque in eastern Paris to go to Iraq to fight Americans in Iraq and arrested before leaving for Iraq himself.

The gunmen stormed the journal's offices on Wednesday killing journalists, including its founder and its current editor-in-chief, and shouting “Allahu Akbar!” (God is Greatest). They then escaped in a black car, shouting, according to one witness, that they had “avenged the Prophet”.

Charlie Hebdo has published numerous cartoons ridiculing the Prophet Mohammad. Jihadists online repeatedly warned that the magazine would pay for its mockery.

Charlie Hebdo's lawyer Richard Malka said the newspaper would be published next Wednesday with one million copies compared to its usual print run of 60,000.

Satire has deep historical roots in Europe where ridicule and irreverence are seen as a means of chipping away at the authority of sometimes self-aggrandizing political and religious leaders and institutions. Governments have frequently jailed satirists and their targets have often sued, but the art is widely seen as one of the mainstays of a liberal democracy.

French writer Voltaire enraged many in 18th century France with caustic depictions of royalty and the Catholic Church. The German magazine Simplicissimus in its 70-year existence saw cartoonists jailed and fined for ridiculing figures from Kaiser Wilhelm to church leaders, Nazi grandees and communists.

“Freedom assassinated” wrote Le Figaro daily on its front page, while Le Parisien said: “They won't kill freedom”.

The last major attack in Paris was in the mid-1990s when the Algerian Armed Islamic Group (GIA) carried out a spate of attacks, including the bombing of a commuter train in 1995 which killed eight people and injured 150.

Can Charlie Hebdo’s spirit include Israel?

The Islamist massacre at Charlie Hebdo has understandably captured global attention because it was a barbaric attack on France and freedom of expression. In a moment of defiant moral clarity, “je suis Charlie” emerged as a popular phrase of solidarity with the victims. Hopefully such clarity persists and extends to those facing similar challenges every day in the Middle East.

Christians and other religious minorities have been beheaded by Islamists for years, but it wasn't until U.S. journalist James Foley was beheaded that the West cared. ISIS raped and slaughtered thousands of Yazidis — leaving the surviving refugees stranded on Mount Sinjar — before the West took notice. But one Islamist besieging a cafe in Sydney, killing two, dominated global coverage for the entire sixteen-hour incident.

Western leaders and media must realize that religious minorities in the Middle East are the canary in the coalmine for the West when it comes to Islamist threats. And Israel provides the clearest early warning of all, precisely because — despite Israel's location in a region of Islamists and dictatorships — the Jewish state has free elections, freedom of speech, a vigorous political opposition and independent press, equal rights and protections for minorities and women (who are represented in all parts of civil, legal, political, artistic, and economic life), and a prosperous free market economy.

But had Palestinian gunmen similarly attacked Israel's most important daily newspaper and then escaped, would the event inspire such constant coverage or international sympathy? Israel has suffered countless massacres followed by a suspenseful manhunt for the Islamist terrorists; in each of these incidents, the world hardly noticed until Israel forcefully responded and Palestinians died (prompting global condemnation of Israel).

However, when there is an attack in Europe, North America, or Australia, there is widespread grief, solidarity, and an acceptance of whatever policy reaction is chosen. But when Israel is targeted, there is almost always a call for “restraint,” as happened last November after fatal stabbings by Palestinian terrorists in Tel Aviv and the West Bank.

If two Palestinians entered a European or North American church and attacked worshipers with meat cleavers, killing five people, including priests, the outrage would be palpable in every politician and journalist's voice. But when Israelis were victims of such an attack, Obama's reaction was spineless and tone deaf. Did Obama condemn the Charlie Hebdo massacre by noting how many Muslims have died at the hands of French military forces operating in Africa and the Middle East? Of course not. Such moral equivocation would be unthinkable with any ally or Western country except Israel.

Similarly, would Secretary of State John Kerry ever suggest that ISIS is somehow motivated by French policies (whether banning Muslim headscarves at public schools or fighting Islamists in Mali)? Obviously not. Yet Kerry did just that sort of thing with Israel when he suggested that ISIS is driven by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

And the media's anti-Israel bias is well known but became even more obvious when they couldn't get a simple story about vehicular terrorism against Israelis correct. Compare how The Guardian writes accurate headlines when France or Canada suffers an Islamist car attack but not when Israel does.

Consider all of the justifiable news coverage and outrage over the 2013 Boston bombings, and imagine if one of those happened every week. Would anyone dare suggest that the U.S. make peace with any Islamists demanding changes to U.S. policy? And yet Israel had such bomb attacks almost every week of 2002 and was invariably asked to restrain itself and make concessions to the very people bombing them (as happened again last summer, when Hamas fired thousands of rockets at Israel).

As Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has ruefully observed, “There is a standard for dictatorships, there is a standard for democracies, and there is still a third standard for the democracy called Israel.”

Even when compared to Western democracies, what other country gives incredibly forgiving medical care to terrorists and agrees to treat the children of those working to destroy it? Israel is where a Hamas family member finds refuge when he is a gay convert to Christianity but this is yet another inconvenient fact for the mainstream media (as is the fact that some Israeli Arabs supported the IDF's 2014 war against Hamas). Why report what contradicts the one-sided, anti-Israel narrative that the media and groups like Human Rights Watch have adopted? That narrative is only reinforced on college campuses (leftist college history professors openly supported Hamas last summer). Nevertheless, US funding of anti-Israel groups continues to aggravate the misinformation problem

Israel is still the country that everyone loves to hate. So it's the cheap way to please Muslim voters in Europe and oil producers in the Gulf. But what happens to Israel eventually comes to the West, because Israel is an extension of the West. And just as surrendering Czechoslovakia failed to appease the expansionist appetite and murderous rampage of Nazi totalitarianism, so too will feeding Israel to Islamist totalitarianism fail to appease that movement. In the end, there is no set of concessions — short of civilizational surrender — that the Islamists will accept.

Nevertheless, an EU court decided to remove Hamas from the European Union's terror list, even though Hamas is responsible for scores of terrorist attacks that have murdered hundreds of Israelis, North Americans, and Europeans, and has a charter calling for the destruction of Israel. And Western European countries have voted for Palestinian statehood at the UN and in their parliaments, effectively rewarding Palestinian terrorism and intransigence. Europe supports the Palestinian Authority as if Hamas couldn't overthrow it in the West Bank as easily as Hamas did in Gaza Strip in 2007. How can Europe not know that Hamas has designs on the West Bank and that any Israeli withdrawal from that territory will only facilitate such a takeover? And how can Europe believe that Israel could ever make peace with Hamas, which has launched three unprovoked wars on Israel in the last five years (in the decade since Israel withdrew from Gaza)?

Moreover, if lofty concerns about self-determination and human rights are the true motivation behind Europe's vocal support for Palestinian independence (despite its undemocratic and violent record), why is Europe deafeningly quiet on Kurdish statehood? Given that six million Jews were annihilated by a genocide on European soil, Europe's hypocrisy on Israel should embarrass the continent even more.

Worse still, Europe's gestures of appeasement only encourage the Islamists. The best response to the Charlie Hebdo attack is to redouble the free expression Islamists meant to stifle. Similarly, the best response to Islamist attacks on the only Mideast democracy, Israel, is to increase support for it. 

Noah Beck is the author of The Last Israelis, an apocalyptic novel about Iranian nukes and other geopolitical issues in the Middle East.

Kalman Levine: Born in Kansas City, transformed in L.A., murdered in Jerusalem

Rabbi Kalman Levine, born Cary Levine in Kansas City, Mo. on June 30, 1959, was murdered Tuesday morning in a terror attack at Kehillat Bnei Torah synagogue in the Har Nof neighborhood of Jerusalem. He was in the middle of the daily morning prayer service.

A man who in many ways came of age while living in Los Angeles as a young adult, Levine was killed by two young Palestinian men who also murdered three other worshippers and injured at least another 12 in the synagogue.

The assailants, Odai Abed Abu Jamal, 22, and Ghassan Muhammad Abu Jamal, 32, attacked their victims with a gun, knives and axes.  Both were killed in a subsequent shootout with police. Zidan Saif, an Israeli Druze policeman who engaged the two Palestinian attackers, was shot in the head and died of his wounds Tuesday evening in Jerusalem.

Levine leaves behind a wife, Chaya, who’s from Cleveland, and 10 children and five grandchildren. He was 55.

Shimon Kraft, Levine’s best friend from childhood, lives in Los Angeles and owns The Mitzvah Store. He shared memories of Levine just hours after he learned of the murder. He is also Levine’s former brother-in-law from Kraft’s previous marriage. He spoke about their lives growing up and how Levine, who was not raised Orthodox, was transformed when he spent six months at a kibbutz after high school and then moved to Los Angeles for college only to drop out after becoming engrossed in Torah study and inspired by an influential rabbi in North Hollywood.

Kraft described Levine as an exceedingly humble person, and while he was a serious learner devoted to increasing his knowledge of Judaism and Torah, he also had a sharp sense of humor and loved to joke around. Growing up in Kansas City, Kraft and Levine loved to watch the Kansas City Royals baseball team.

“We lived at Royals Stadium in the summer,” Kraft said. “We used to trade baseball cards.”

After Levine graduated from Kansas City’s Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy in the late ’70s, he lived on a kibbutz in Israel for six months and then returned to the United States to enroll at a pre-dental program at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles. Although he grew up in a Conservative Jewish family in Kansas City, Levine’s time in Israel led to a religious transformation that led him to become Sabbath and kosher observant.

Levine, after he came to Los Angeles, became very close with Rabbi Zvi Block, who established the first Los Angeles branch of Aish HaTorah—an international Orthodox educational group—in North Hollywood. Levine’s relationship with Block helped solidify the transformation that began in Israel, and Levine eventually decided to drop out of USC and pursue Torah study full-time.

In a telephone interview Tuesday, a discernibly heartbroken Block spoke warmly of his former student. “I became a father to all these children, to all these talmidim (students)—they are like my children,” Block said. “This is a huge loss for me. You’re talking about someone who was 18 or 19 when we first met.”

Levine was one of Block’s first five students at Aish HaTorah and the Los Angeles rabbi remembers Levine as one of the brightest young minds he ever encountered. “When you start off a program you are not sure if you are going to be successful. I feel I owe a lot of gratitude to the ones that helped me start, to the original students,” Block said.

The rabbi also said that he encouraged his small group of students to improve their knowledge of Judaism and Torah by moving to Israel to learn in an environment immersed in yeshiva students.

“My goal at the time was really to send people off to Israel,” Block said. “I thought that would be the best way for them to develop, to really pursue their Judaism to the fullest.”

While Kraft visited Levine in Los Angeles in 1977, the two decided to travel to Israel together to learn Torah. They attended two years of yeshiva before they returned to Los Angeles to attend a post-high school study program at Yeshiva University Los Angeles (YULA).

Kraft said that Levine decided to return to Israel again in the early 1980s—this time he never left. Over the years in Jerusalem, Levine built a family and continued pursuing the passion of his life—Torah. Kraft said Levine even organized a group of men who would get together for the sole purpose of self-improvement and strengthening character traits.

“He was truly great,” Kraft said. “He was so unusual, so special.” Block remembered Levine as being a great entertainer during weddings and goofing off during skits that he and others would put on for the festive Jewish holiday of Purim. “I remember him being extraordinarily talented at weddings and doing all sorts of shtick,” Block said.

On Monday night in Los Angeles, as Kraft was going to bed, he heard about the attack in Har Nof, but didn’t think more of it. On Tuesday morning though, Kraft’s son called from Baltimore and told him the news—his best friend had been murdered.

“He died in the beit midrash [synagogue], which is where he lived his whole life,” Kraft said. “It’s where he lived and died.”

Block, while on the phone, found two books of Jewish law that Levine once gave to him as a symbol of gratitude. Block recalled that Levine wrote a note in one. Eventually finding the note, Block read it aloud as he tried to hold back tears:

“Dear Rabbi Block, here is a small token of appreciation for sending me to Eretz Yisrael. If it wasn't for you it is very possible I would never have had the opportunity to learn Torah. Thank you for changing my life, Kalman Levine.”

Second light rail victim, Palestinian attacker buried in Jerusalem

Hundreds attended the funeral for the second victim of the driver who smashed his car into the light rail in eastern Jerusalem.

Karen Yemima Muscara, 22, who had come to Israel more than a year ago from her home in Guayaquil, Ecuador, to complete her conversion to Judaism, was buried Monday morning in the Mount of Olives cemetery in Jerusalem.

Muscara died the previous afternoon at the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem from injuries suffered in the Oct. 22 attack. Her mother and her sister had been flown in from Ecuador and were with her when she died. Her father arrived in Israel to attend her funeral.

She was converting after discovering that she was descended from Conversos, Spanish Jews forcibly converted to Catholicism after 1492.

Her funeral took place shortly after the conclusion of the funeral in eastern Jerusalem for the Palestinian man who drove the car that crashed into the Jerusalem light rail stop, killing Muscara and a 3-month-old girl.

The funeral for Abdelrahman al-Shaludi  was held up following disputes with Israel. He was buried at a Muslim cemetery near the Old City walls. Some 300 people reportedly participated in a funeral procession, though only family members attended the burial, according to reports.

The funeral was postponed from Saturday night following protests outside his home in the eastern Jerusalem flashpoint neighborhood of Silwan that security forces feared would grow further out of control during a funeral. The family was limited to 20 mourners at the cemetery; the names had to be submitted in advance.

Shaludi’s family had said on Sunday that it would not take his body for burial unless the restrictions on mourners was lifted.

Israel and the U.S. State Department have called the crash a terror attack. Shaludi’s parents say he lost control of the car.



L.A. native, father of infant murdered in Jerusalem terror attack recovering from injuries

UPDATE Oct. 24: Consul general David Siegel released a statement Thursday on the recent terrorist attack in Jerusalem:

“We are heartbroken at the savage murder of three-month-old Chaya Zissel Braun, daughter of Los Angeles native Shmueli Braun and New York native Chana Braun. Chaya was killed in a brutal terrorist attack in Jerusalem. We condemn this horrific act and the incitement that led to it, which is the latest of many attacks perpetrated against Israelis in Jerusalem in recent months,” Siegel said.


A native of Hancock park and now a resident of Jerusalem, Shmueli Braun, the father of the three-month old baby girl murdered on Wednesday, Oct. 22,  in a Jerusalem terror attack, is now recovering from head trauma and broken ribs, according to Hillygram, an email issued daily connecting members of the Los Angeles Orthodox community.

Braun’s parents, Moshe and Esther Braun, wrote to the Jewish Journal in an email that they are “en route to Israel”, where the shiva, or seven-day mourning period has just started for their infant granddaughter, Chaya Zissel Braun. Hundreds attended the funeral Wednesday at Har Hamenuchot in Jerusalem. 

The baby was thrown about 30 feet from her stroller when Abdel Rahman al-Shaludi, an Arab resident of East Jerusalem, intentionally plowed his car into people standing on the platform at the Ammunition Hill light rail station, injuring seven in addition to Shmueli and his baby daughter.

Shaludi, the nephew of a deceased Hamas bomb-maker, had previously posted content on Facebook that indicated his support for terrorism and violence against Israelis. He was shot by security guards as he tried to escape and later died of his wounds at the hospital.

Shmueli, his wife Chana and their daughter were reportedly coming from the Western Wall when Shaludi attacked—it was their daughter’s first visit to Judaism’s holiest site. Shimshon Halperin, the baby’s grandfather, told reporters outside Hadassah University Medical Center that the Brauns had tried unsuccessfully for years to have a baby. Chaya was their first and only child.

The baby’s grandparents, Moshe and Esther, attend Congregation Etz Chaim, Baruch Cohen said, adding that the family is “very religious, quiet, sweet [and] very private.”

Jewish-Arab violence in Jerusalem sends tensions spiraling

This post originally appeared on www.themedialine.org

Shimshon Halperin, an American citizen from Monsey, New York, is trying to find meaning in the death of his three-month-old granddaughter Chaya Zissel, killed by a Palestinian who drove his vehicle at a high speed into a crowd of people exiting the light rail at a stop in Jerusalem. She was returning from her first visit to the Western Wall with her parents. 

“She was a pure soul and she was murdered for no reason whatsoever – just because of hate,” Halperin told The Media Line. “That has to be stopped. People on both sides are getting hurt for no reason.”

Police shot and killed the attacker, 21-year old Abdel Rahman Al-Shaludi, who had served time in Israeli prisons for security offenses, and was a resident of the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, where nine Jewish families moved into the predominately Arab neighborhood earlier this week.

Halperin continued sadly talking about his granddaughter, whose ultra-Orthodox parents, also US citizens who had given birth to Chaya after eight years of infertility, are also searching for meaning.

“The parents’ message is that they believe everything comes from God,” he said. “This pure soul had a goal in this world, and she fulfilled her goal in a short period of time, and then God wanted that soul back. The lesson we have to learn is that we must do good deeds in this world to utilize our time here as much as possible.”

The attack comes a few days after an Israeli driver in the West Bank hit two young Palestinian girls in the West Bank town of Sinjil, killing Enas Shawkat, and seriously wounding the other girl. Palestinians say they are convinced that the killing was intentional – the driver insisted that it was an accident. Although that attack was in Sinjil — and not in Jerusalem — it fueled tensions in the city, where almost 300,000 Palestinians live next to almost 500,000 Jews. Some live in separate neighborhoods; and some, as in Silwan, live in mixed neighborhoods.

Israeli police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said “hundreds” of extra police have been positioned at sensitive points around the city.

“A number of different units have been deployed to deal with disturbances that took place after the attack (that killed the baby),” Rosenfeld told The Media Line. “Police are implementing a strategic program to heighten security in Jerusalem. They have set up observation posts in Arab neighborhoods and are gathering intelligence and working together with ground units to boost security.”

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat warned that there would be a “zero tolerance” policy for violence in the city.

“We must restore peace and security in Jerusalem- as I have said for months, the situation in Jerusalem is intolerable and we must act unequivocally against all violence taking place in the city,” he said in a statement sent out by his office. “Today, more than ever, it is clear that we must send police forces into neighborhoods where there are disturbances, placing them strategically and widely in significant numbers.”

Palestinian officials said they see the growing tensions in Jerusalem as a response to Israeli measures against Palestinians in the city. Most Palestinians there opt to remain residents rather than citizens because they do not want to recognize Israel’s unilateral annexation of east Jerusalem in 1967. Palestinians maintain that east Jerusalem must be the future capital of a Palestinian state, while Israel says the united city is the sovereign capital of a Jewish state. 

“Israel is taking measures in Jerusalem to drive the (Palestinian) Jerusalemites out,” Adnan Damiri, a spokesman for the Palestinian security forces, told reporters. He said he places full responsibility on what he described as the “racist, right-wing ISIS government of Binyamin Netanyahu.”

Israeli officials counter that most of the violence comes from the Palestinian side.

“Ninety percent of the incidents are done by Arabs who have attacked police officers and thrown stones on both the Temple Mount, and in Israeli Arab neighborhoods over the past few weeks,” he said.

Tensions spiked after Palestinians kidnapped and killed three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank in June. The day after they were buried, in early July, extremist Jews claiming retaliation kidnapped Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khdeir from east Jerusalem and burned him to death. Those two incidents sparked angry reactions which have coalesced in Jerusalem.

There have been a series of angry confrontations surrounding the site that Jews call the Temple Mount and Palestinians call Al-Haram Al-Sharif. Holy to both Jews and Muslims, and located just above the Western Wall, there have been a series of confrontations between police and Muslim worshippers at the site, including earlier this month, when the Jewish holiday of Sukkot coincided with the Muslim holiday of Eid Al-Adha. According to an agreement worked out with the Waqf, the Muslim religious trust, Jews are allowed to visit the site but not to pray there. Several Israeli parliamentarians are trying to push through laws that would end the ban on Jewish prayer.

Palestinians see it as an effort by Jews to take over the site. They say that Israel is trying to divide the Muslim holy site into two parts – and take one part for themselves. They point to the situation in Hebron, where a similar site that is holy to both Jews and Muslims was divided after an extremist Jew opened fire on Muslims praying in 1994, killing 29 Muslim worshippers.

“The Israeli aim is to divide the Al-Aqsa Mosque (located in the holy site in Jerusalem) to enable the Israelis to enter whenever they want,” Sheikh Abu Ali, a West Bank imam (Islamic clergyman) told The Media Line.

Another Palestinian official, Mohammad Erakat, warned that the situation is deteriorating in Jerusalem.

“This is the most serious escalation we have seen in years,” he told The Media Line. “If this continues and nothing is done, I am afraid Al-Haram Al-Sharif will be divided and given largely to settlers.”

As in any conflict, it is often the individuals who suffer most.  A group of Palestinians attacked Chanan Kupietzky, 26, as he was walking in Jerusalem’s Old City on Rosh Hashanah the Jewish New Year, with his 16-year-old brother.

“Someone came at me with a wooden two-by-four with nails in it and started hitting me on the back of the head,” he told The Media Line. “I put my hands up to protect my head, and my hand was crushed.”

He underwent surgery to repair his hand. Kupietzky says he actually had a gun with him, but was afraid to use it.

“The first think that entered my mind was that if I pulled out the gun, I would be questioned and could go to jail,” he said. “Israel will focus on you rather than on the terrorist.”

Samer Farouk, a 20-year-old plumber from the neighborhood of Beit Hanina, had a very different experience. Two months ago, he said, he was sitting on a bench near the Jewish neighborhood of Neve Yaakov, when a Jewish man stopped and asked him for a light for his cigarette. Five minutes later he came back with a group of ten men. 

“They didn’t say anything,” Farouk told The Media Line. “One sprayed pepper spray into both of my eyes and started hitting us with metal objects. The next thing I remember was waking up in the hospital.”

Netanyahu slams Abbas over deadly rail attack in Jerusalem

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for the light rail attack in Jerusalem that killed a 3-month-old girl.

The Prime Minister’s Office spokesman, Ofir Gendelman, on his official Twitter feed identified the driver of the car that crashed Wednesday into the Ammunition Hill station in northern Jerusalem as a Hamas member. Eight people also were injured in the suspected terror act as passengers were disembarking from the train.

Netanyahu in a statement referred to the fact that Abbas’ Fatah party recently formed a unity government with Hamas.

“This is how Abu Mazen’s partners in government act, the same Abu Mazen who — only a few days ago — incited toward a terrorist attack in Jerusalem,” the prime minister said, using Abbas’ nom de guerre.

The driver of the car attempted to flee the scene on foot and was shot by police, who confirmed that he was from the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan and had previously served time in an Israeli prison.

After the attack, which was captured on security camera video, Palestinians and Israeli forces clashed in Silwan, which has been a recent source of Arab-Jewish tension. Israeli security forces also reportedly raided the home of the suspect in the attack, Abdelrahman al-Shaludi, who is the nephew of Mohiyedine Sharif, the former head of Hamas’ armed wing who was killed in 1988.

Netanyahu ordered tightened security in Jerusalem. The city’s mayor, Nir Barkat, called for the reinforcement of police forces in order to “restore peace and security.”

“As I have said for months, the situation in Jerusalem is intolerable and we must act unequivocally against all violence taking place in the city,” he said in a statement. “Today, more than ever, it is clear that we must send police forces into neighborhoods where there are disturbances, placing them strategically and widely in significant numbers.”

Deadly tractor incident in Jerusalem called terror attack

A tractor rammed a bus and a car, killing one, in Jerusalem, in what police are calling a terrorist attack.

Police shot and killed the driver of the industrial digger, reportedly a Palestinian man, in the incident Monday on Shmuel HaNavi Street, in north-center Jerusalem.

The tractor hit and crushed a pedestrian, who later died, before hitting a car and overturning a bus. The bus was empty, except for the driver, at the time. The drivers of the bus and the car were lightly injured.

Video taken of the incident by a bystander and broadcast on Israel’s Channel 2 showed the tractor ramming the bus repeatedly until it toppled.

The driver was identified on Twitter as Mohamad Jabis, in his 20s, of the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber. He reportedly worked on the construction site from where the digger was taken. Pro-Palestinian tweets accused Israel Police of shooting and killing Jabis for being involved in a simple traffic accident.

Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch in an interview on Channel 2 did not name the tractor driver but indicated he may have been involved in a previous terror incident. Aharonovitch also said the man’s “entire family is under investigation.”

Tractors have been used in the past in Jerusalem to carry out terror attacks.

Amid violent clashes, Egypt closes border with Gaza

Egypt closed the border between Sinai and the Gaza Strip as clashes between its government security forces and protesters backing deposed President Mohamed Morsi continued for a second day.

The Rafah crossing was closed “indefinitely,” the French news agency AFP reported Thursday, citing an unnamed Egyptian security official. The crossing was closed due to fears of terrorist activity in the Sinai Peninsula.

Rafah is the only border crossing out of the Gaza Strip that is not controlled by Israel.

The death toll in the clashes has risen to at least 421, and the injured at more than 3,000, according to reports.

The violence began Wednesday after government security forces raided two major sit-in protests in Cairo calling for the reinstatement of Morsi.

On Tuesday, a rocket fired by terrorists affiliated with al-Qaida at the southern Israeli city of Eilat was intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system.

Last week the Eilat airport was closed for several hours due to warnings by Egyptian officials about a terror attack from the Sinai.

Iran denies involvement in Bulgaria bomb attack

Iran played no part in the bombing of a bus last year that killed Israeli tourists, its ambassador to Bulgaria said on Friday, rejecting Israeli charges that it was involved in the attack.

Bulgaria has accused the Iranian-backed Hezbollah of carrying out the July attack, a charge the Lebanese Shi'ite Islamist militia dismissed as part of a smear campaign by its arch foe Israel.

“This (the attack) has nothing to do with Iran,” Gholamreza Bageri told reporters. “We are against any form of terrorism and strongly condemn such actions.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week accused Hezbollah and Iran of waging a “global terror campaign” after the attack in Burgas, which killed five Israeli tourists, their Bulgarian driver and the bomber.

Given the link to an attack on European Union soil, Brussels is considering adding Hezbollah – which is part of the Lebanese government and waged a brief war with Israel in 2006 – to its list of terrorist organizations.

The United States already lists Hezbollah as a terrorist group and U.S. and Israeli authorities want the European Union to take a similar position, which would mean Brussels could act to freeze its assets in Europe.

Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; Editing by Jon Boyle

Bus explodes in Tel Aviv in apparent terror attack; Hamas celebrates

A bomb exploded on a bus in central Tel Aviv on Wednesday, wounding 15 people in what Israeli officials said was a terrorist attack that could complicate efforts to secure a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.

Celebratory gunfire rang out across Gaza as the news spread and the territory's Islamist rulers Hamas praised the bombing, but no one claimed immediate responsibility.

The blast shattered windows on the bus as it drove along a tree-lined street next to Israel's huge defence ministry headquarters. Israel's ambulance service said four people suffered moderate-to-severe injuries and 11 were lightly hurt.

Police said it was not a suicide attack and suggested that someone might have left the device on the number 142 bus.

The driver, who escaped largely unscathed, told reporters he had not seen anyone suspicious get on board.

“I felt the explosion … Smoke was everywhere, you couldn't see a thing,” he said. The blue and white vehicle was not torn apart by the blast, indicating it was a relatively small device.

The bombing happened on the eighth day of an Israeli offensive against the Gaza Strip and coincided with intensive diplomatic efforts to secure a lasting truce.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri hailed the explosion.

“Hamas blesses the attack in Tel Aviv and sees it as a natural response to the Israeli massacres…in Gaza,” he told Reuters. “Palestinian factions will resort to all means in order to protect our Palestinian civilians in the absence of a world effort to stop the Israeli aggression.”

Sweet cakes were handed out in celebration in Gaza's main hospital, which has been inundated with wounded from the round-the-clock Israeli bombing and shelling.


“You opened the gates of hell on yourselves,” Hamas's armed wing, the al-Qassam brigades, said on Twitter. “Oh Zionists, you have to drag yourselves out of hell, go back home now, go back to Germany, Poland, Russia, America and anywhere else.”

The last time a bomb blast hit Israel's commercial capital was in April 2006, when a Palestinian suicide bomber killed 11 people at a sandwich stand near the old central bus station.

Hamas militants have fired at least four rockets at the laid-back Mediterranean metropolis over the past week, but they scored no direct hits and caused no casualties.

Israel launched its air offensive with the stated aim of halting all missile launches out of the Gaza Strip, which lies some 70 km (40 miles) south of Tel Aviv, a cosmopolitan city renowned for its nightlife and vibrant beach culture.

Hamas had warned when the latest conflict flared that it would not confine itself to unleashing rockets.

“This was a terror attack. There is a massive preparedness within the police and security forces. We must keep awareness to a maximum. These are not normal times,” said Israel's Police Chief Yohanan Danino.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon denounced the attack, saying nothing justified the targeting of civilians.

The United States, Israel's main ally, also condemned the bus bombing. “These attacks against innocent Israeli civilians are outrageous,” the White House said.

More than 140 Palestinians, more than half of them civilians, have died so far in Israel's Gaza offensive. Five Israelis, including one soldier, have also been killed.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, trying to calm tensions over Gaza, flew from Israel to Cairo to meet Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi, who is spearheading ceasefire negotiations.

Reporting by Jeffrey Heller, Ari Rabinovitch and Nidal al-Mughrabi; Writing by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Alistair Lyon

Palestinian Olympic team goalie arrested for terror attack

The goalie of the Palestinian Olympic soccer team and Palestinian Red Crescent employees were among 13 West Bank residents arrested for an attack on Israeli soldiers.

The arrests in the Jan. 20 shooting attack against Israeli troops were announced Monday by the Israel Defense Forces. No injuries were incurred during the attack but a vehicle was damaged, according to the IDF.

Omar Abu Rois, 23, the goalie, is affiliated with the Hamas terror organization and works for the Red Crescent, according to the IDF. He carried out the attack with Red Crescent guard Salih Bar’al using AK-47 rifles procured by Munzar Abbas, 41,  an officer of the Palestinian “General Intelligence” in Ramallah who is responsible for security at the Red Crescent.

The IDF said the group, who all live in the Amari refugee camp near Ramallah, intended to carry out similar attacks in at least six other locations.

Israeli troops foil terror attack on Egypt border

Israeli troops thwarted a terror attack on Israel’s border with Egypt.

During a routine patrol on the Israel-Egypt border to prevent smuggling, Israeli soldiers stopping a smuggling attempt witnessed a man leave a bag on the Israeli side of the border and flee back to Egypt. The bag was found to contain a “powerful explosive device,” according to a statement from the Israel Defense Forces.

Army sappers detonated the device in a controlled explosion.

According to the IDF, terrorists likely were planning to use the explosive device as a roadside bomb against Israel soldiers patrolling near the southern border.

“This incident is a reminder that the smuggling routes along the Israel-Egypt border are constantly being used by terror organizations to execute terror attacks against the citizens of Israel and IDF soldiers,” said the IDF statement, which also praised the soldiers’ alertness.

Palestinian Authority condemns Tel Aviv terror attack

The Palestinian Authority condemned the terror attack in Tel Aviv in a statement released on Monday.

In the statement, the PA not only condemned the attack in south Tel Aviv early on Monday morning, but also the recent Israel Defense Forces strikes on Gaza, and attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank and in Jerusalem.

“We condemn all attacks against civilians, including the incident in Tel Aviv,” the statement said, according to a Channel 10 report.

The statement also highlighted the importance of September’s UN vote on Palestinian statehood. “Nothing will prevent us from achieving our goal,” Channel 10 reported the statement as saying.

Read more at Haaretz.com.

UPDATE: Gunmen kill at least 7 in Israel; Israel targets Gaza militants

Gunmen killed seven people in southern Israel on Thursday in attacks along the Egyptian border and Israel responded with an air strike in the Gaza Strip that killed six Palestinians, including the leaders of a group it blamed for the violence.

The series of assaults on a desert road north of Israel’s Red Sea resort of Eilat drew Israeli accusations that Egypt’s new rulers were losing their grip on the porous frontier.

Israel said the attackers infiltrated from the Hamas-run Gaza Strip via Egypt’s Sinai desert, despite stepped up efforts by Egyptian security forces in recent days to rein in Palestinian and Islamist radicals.

“This was a grave incident in which Israelis and Israeli sovereignty were harmed. Israel will respond accordingly,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement. He was due to speak further on the most deadly attack in Israel since 2008 in a televised address later in the day.

Israeli military commanders said six civilians and one soldier were killed in attacks on two buses, a car and an army vehicle. Another 25 people were wounded.

The violence, which began in the early afternoon, stretched into the evening. As the Israeli military’s chief of staff and Defence Minister Ehud Barak were briefing reporters at the scene, ambulances raced away to what reporters said was another attack by gunmen in which two people were wounded.

The military said seven gunmen were killed in southern Israel, including two who blew themselves up in suicide attacks on one of the buses and in a confrontation with soldiers.

Egyptian soldiers apparently shot dead two gunmen, the military said.

Hours later, Israel struck against the Popular Resistance Committees, an armed faction that often operates independently of Gaza’s Hamas rulers. The Israeli military said the PRC was behind the border attack.

The PRC said its commander, Kamal al-Nairab, his deputy, Immad Hammad, and three other members were killed in an Israeli air strike on a home in the southern Gaza town of Rafah.

The faction vowed “double” revenge against Israel for the attack, which local Palestinians said also killed a nine-year-old son of the owner of the house.

Earlier, in an interview with Israel Radio, bus driver Benny Bilbaski said he had seen two men in fatigues shooting at his vehicle.

“I saw that there were wounded on the bus but I continued to drive on, looking straight, not looking right or left. Once I got a kilometre past the area and I was out of range we took care of the wounded,” he said.

Barak said the incident “reflects the weakening of Egypt’s hold in the Sinai and the broadening of activities by terror elements”.

Netanyahu spokesman Mark Regev said Israel had “specific and precise information that these terrorists who targeted Israelis today came out of the Gaza Strip”.

Additional reporting by Yusri Mohamed in Ismailia, Egypt; Editing by Jon Hemming

Gates: Turmoil needs ‘bold action’ by Israel, Palestinians

The turmoil in the Middle East creates a need for “bold action” by Israel and the Palestinians toward peace, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said.

“I know there may be a temptation during this time of great uncertainty in the region to be more cautious about pursuing the peace process, but in my meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, I carry a different message: that there is a need and an opportunity for bold action to move toward a two-state solution,” Gates said Thursday at a Tel Aviv press conference with his Israeli counterpart, Ehud Barak.

Barak, in his remarks, did not mention the peace talks, which have been stalled since autumn, when the Palestinians walked out because Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would not extend a settlements freeze.

Instead, Barak said Israel would continue responding to the recent increase in rocket fire from Gaza.

“We will respond,” Barak said.  “We have to respond. And we are determined to bring back tranquility to the region. And unfortunately, this tough neighborhood, it cannot be done without the readiness and practice of using, from time to time, force.”

Barak said Israel was watching closely the wave of uprisings sweeping the region, but was confident that Egypt would maintain the peace, after longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak was deposed.

“I have a reason to believe that as long as the Egyptian armed forces are in power, they’re a major pillar of stability within Egypt,” he said. “The peace agreement, as well as other Egyptian international commitments, will be respected and kept.”

Gates was slated to meet Friday with Netanyahu and with Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian Authority prime minister.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates arrives in Israel in blast’s wake

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates arrived in Israel, where he is expected to press Israel and the Palestinians to restart peace talks in the wake of increased unrest.

Gates, who landed in Israel on Thursday morning, less than a day after a bomb attack in central Jerusalem and following days of attacks between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers, is in the Middle East assessing the U.S. posture after a wave of uprisings has shaken some regimes and supplanted others.

He is scheduled to meet his Israeli counterpart, Ehud Barak, in Tel Aviv on Thursday, followed by a meeting with President Shimon Peres. Gates is scheduled to meet the next day with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad on Friday.

Israeli media said Barak intends to raise Israeli concerns arising out of the unrest.

Gates, who has said this is his last year in a post he has held since 2006, is arriving from Cairo, where he met with the interim military leadership in Egypt that assumed power following the ouster of longtime President Hosni Mubarak.

Israel has sought reassurances that the new Egyptian regime will maintain the 1978 Camp David peace accords.

Terror attack averted on Tel Aviv bus

Israeli police were searching the Tel Aviv area for a man and woman who reportedly tried to carry out a terror attack on a bus on Dizengoff Street.

A man sitting in the back of the bus wearing a heavy coat on a hot day yelled “slaughter the Jews” in Arabic, while a woman in the front of the bus tried to prevent the frightened passengers from getting off the bus, according to reports.

A large police force, including helicopters and dogs, continued searching for the couple, who fled the scene, and for any suspicious objects throughout Wednesday afternoon.

The possible attack came shortly after Israel held a nationwide drill at 11 a.m. Wednesday in which all citizens were asked to enter their bomb shelters or protected areas at the beginning of a 90-second siren.

Gas masks also were distributed in some areas. Only 5 percent of Israelis have gas mask kits, which were collected by the army more than a year ago to be refurbished and redistributed.

Israel “is at a low level of preparedness for the chemical threat, due to the distribution of gas masks,” Col. Hilik Sofer, who heads the Home Front Command’s population division, warned Tuesday, according to Haaretz.

Three’s Company

This was one weird summer for American Jews.

On one hand, it brought an unprecedented wave of anti-Semitic terror attacks: three Sacramento-area synagogues firebombed in June, six Jews shot leaving a Chicago shul in July, an armed assault on the North Valley Jewish Community Center in August. Together, they suggest a danger unlike any that American Jews have ever faced.

On the other hand, the attacks prompted a national flood of outrage. America showed the haters they were an isolated fringe. This suggests that American Jews may be more secure than we’ve ever realized.

So which is it, safe or unsafe? Go know.

Somehow, no American Jews were killed this summer. Not until the end of August, when a Jew was shot dead on a Brooklyn street — by police, not terrorists. The officers apparently overreacted to an Orthodox spiritual seeker having a psychotic episode.

Naturally, this was the event that sent Jews into the streets in angry protest. Which suggests that Jews are like everybody else, only more so.

The summer’s troubles evoked many responses. Some concluded that Jews are alone in a hostile world, even here in America. Others decided that Jews are in the same boat as their neighbors.

Three responses are particularly worth examining. They’re noteworthy because they come from three Jewish political leaders who share remarkably similar resumes, yet who responded in starkly different ways.

The three, Zev Yaroslavsky of Los Angeles and Dov Hikind and Noach Dear of Brooklyn, may be the most inescapably Jewish of all American elected officials. Their names alone make them stand out as symbols.

This summer, as violence struck their cities, all three were in the news, shaping the community’s response.

Yaroslavsky is chairman of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. He answered the Aug. 10 community center shooting with a tough gun control measure, which bars gun sales on county-owned land. This effectively abolishes America’s largest gun show, which meets at the county-owned Pomona Fairgrounds. Gun enthusiasts replied by flooding Yaroslavsky with hate mail, much of it crudely anti-Semitic. Yaroslavsky says the letters proved gun control is a meaningful response to anti-Semites. It must be, if it bothers them that much.

Dov Hikind is a New York state assemblyman who represents Borough Park, a section of Brooklyn that’s mostly Orthodox Jews. It was there that police officers Aug. 30 shot and killed Gary Busch, a troubled, newly Orthodox Jew, after he attacked them with a hammer. Hikind lambasted the police, insisting that they should have known Busch was harmless, given the character of the neighborhood. “This is not Dodge City; this is Borough Park,” he told reporters. Get tough elsewhere, not here.

Noach Dear represents Borough Park on the New York City Council. When crowds of Chassidim protested the Busch shooting, Dear backed the police. The police have a tough job to do, he said. Wait for the official inquiries before passing judgment. “The department has been working very, very closely with the community, and we have to make sure we don’t hurt that relationship,” Dear said.

These disparate responses to the violence — attack the system, let the system work, use the system to counterattack — are characteristic of the three men. Hikind tends toward confrontation. Dear tends toward conciliation. Yaroslavsky tends to take charge.

On the surface, the three are almost eerily similar. It’s not just their Hebrew names. They’re all career politicians of the baby boom generation. They all started their political journeys as militant student leaders in the Soviet Jewry movement and went straight from there into Democratic politics.

They all started running as nice young men in Jewish neighborhoods where Soviet Jewry activism was record enough. Yaroslavsky, 51, ran for the Los Angeles City Council in 1975 in the heavily Jewish Fairfax section, moving up to the county board in 1994. Dear, 45, ran for Borough Park’s City Council seat in 1981. Hikind, 49, ran for the state Assembly in 1982.

All three speak Hebrew, a rarity among American Jews. All three frankly credit their political values to their Jewish backgrounds, a rarity among American Jewish politicians.

And yet they couldn’t be more different. Hikind and Dear are Orthodox Jews, both graduates of the traditionalist Torah Vodaath yeshiva. Yaroslavsky grew up in a secular, Hebrew-speaking, Labor Zionist home and belongs to a Reform congregation. He’s a liberal. Hikind and Dear are conservatives.

Yaroslavsky traces his values to the Labor Zionism of his youth. “It informs my view of social justice, of human rights, of opportunity for those who can’t stand up for themselves,” he says.

Hikind and Dear both credit Jewish tradition with shaping their politics. But they’re different traditions. Dear cites the Talmud as his main influence. Hikind cites the Holocaust.

Hikind, a child of Holocaust survivors, joined Meir Kahane’s Jewish Defense League during college. He still echoes Kahane’s hawkish views on Israel and militant opposition to black anti-Semitism. He frequently endorses Republican candidates when he thinks the Democrat is too soft on black militants. He’s considered a maverick in state politics.

Dear is the opposite. He sees himself as bridge-builder. He’s worked closely with local Muslims on municipal issues. During the 1980s, he befriended Soviet officials in hopes of easing Russian Jewish conditions.

“The modern mood is to be the tough guy and make others scared of you,” says Dear. Not for him. “I don’t change from tradition. I believe the Talmud is a living well. Everything we need is right there.”

He cites a Talmudic injunction he once quoted to Bill Clinton: “Be of the oppressed, not the oppressors.” You wouldn’t catch Hikind saying that.

In fact, Hikind and Dear are said to despise each other for their opposing views of Jewish pride. They’d both like to run for higher office, preferably Congress, and a race between them could get nasty. Both have been tarred by charges of financial wrongdoing. Dear is said to be under investigation. Hikind was tried and acquitted last year, and may have a clearer path.

Yaroslavsky seems the safest bet for the future. His reputation is squeaky clean, his fund-raising prowess is legendary and even his enemies call him a heavyweight. He’s a perennial favorite for mayor, though it’s not clear he wants it.

Whatever these Jewish pols’ future, anti-Semitism is sure to grow. That means political leaders such as Yaroslavsky, Dear and Hikind, willing and able to articulate a vision of Jewish life, will be more needed than ever.

“We need to work together,” says Yaroslavsky. “We can’t be oblivious to the sort of racism and anti-Semitism exhibited by certain right-wing groups out there, because the ground in these extremist communities is very fertile for somebody to come forward and pull the trigger. All of us — Jews, blacks, Latinos — are on the hit list.”

J.J. Goldberg writes a weekly column for The Jewish Journal.