Sunday, January 21, 2018

21-Jan-18: Friday's terror and the lens of history

The security checkpoint, one of several in the vicinity of the ancient Tomb
of the Patriarchs, where the woman and her two knives were
intercepted on Friday [Image Source]
We happen to live in a land richer in history than almost anywhere else on earth. The fact that we share much of it with people whose beliefs bring some of them to self-destructive acts of violence against us is one of the tragic aspects of that specialness and causes a large measure of that history to have heavily violent overlays.

This past Friday gave us three reminders. Two have strong scriptural resonances.

Regular readers will be aware of how often the ancient Tomb of the Patriarchs (Hebrew: Ma'arat Hamachpelah, in recognition of its name according to Bereishit/Genesis 23, when our patriarch Avraham purchased it for full value, 400 pieces of silver) in Hebron has been a target for armed, terror-minded Palestinian Arabs with mayhem on their minds.

You can see some of our earlier reports of attacks in that sacred place, most of them thwarted, by clicking on the index term Tomb of the Prophets. There was yet another this past Friday afternoon. Israel National News reports that the would-be attacker was, once again,
a Palestinian Arab woman who was armed with two knives... The Border Police officers asked the woman to undergo a security inspection when she tried to escape the checkpoint. The officers arrested her and asked her to reveal the items she had been carrying. The suspect, who took out a knife, was asked by one of the officers to empty her bag, and when she did, another knife fell to the floor. The Border Police said that the circumstances of the incident and the knives found in the woman’s possession indicate that she was planning to carry out a stabbing attack. The suspect, a resident of Idna in her 30s, was transferred for further interrogation by the security forces.
The Palestinian Arab news company, Ma'an News Agency, says this about the thwarted attack:
Wafa [an arm of the Palestinian Authority] reported that a Palestinian woman was detained by Israeli forces for alleged possession of a knife. According to Wafa, the 32-year-old woman was detained after she was searched at the entrance of the Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron’s old city... Israeli forces have detained scores of Palestinians, many of the minors, for allegedly being in possession of knives following a spate of alleged and actual small-scale knife attacks by Palestinians that surged in the fall of 2015... Eyewitnesses have also said in a number of cases that Israeli security forces planted knives on slain or imprisoned Palestinians to claim that they were acting in self-defense during a stabbing attack.
What's the attraction of the Tomb of the Patriarchs? First, it's considered the most ancient, continuously-used prayer structure in the world, though the building resting on top of it - a mosque which had been converted from a large rectangular Herodian-era Judean structure, in Wikipedia's words - is relatively new, only about 850 years. It's also the place where, continuously for nearly 4,000 years, Jews have revered the burial sites of  three patriarchal couples: Avraham and Sarah, Yitzhak and Rivka, Ya'akov and Leah.

Times of Israel reports on another attack - this one not thwarted - earlier the same day. An IDF service member was injured
in an attempted car-ramming attack in the Jordan Valley. The incident took place near the entrance to the Qasr al-Yahud baptismal holy site near Jericho. The vehicle did not have the necessary permit to enter the site and did not stop when soldiers flagged it down, an army spokeswoman said. Security forces detained the driver for questioning and the lightly injured soldier was treated at the scene of the incident.
The attack was caught by an Israeli security camera:

Video source (There's a zoom-in video view of the same attack here)

Qasr al-Yahud is an Arabic name. It means Castle of the Jews and is believed to have that name because, in a less-politically-fraught era, the Arabs acknowledged that the site, a short walk from the Jordan River, is where according to tradition Joshua led the Children of Israel in the final stage of their forty-year-long journey from bondage in Egypt to freedom, autonomy and dominion in the Land of Israel. Right afterwards, they conquered (still) nearby Jericho.

The website of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority refers to its significance to another religion:
Christian tradition marks this site as the place of the “spiritual birth” of Jesus, as opposed to his physical birth in Bethlehem. As such, the baptismal site is of great sacred significance - the third holiest site in the Christian world (after the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem).
For Friday's vehicle-rammer, religious faith may well have played a role. But its details are not likely to be explained on any tourist site.

Also on Friday, according to Ma'an, forces of the IDF arrested four Palestinian Arabs in pre-dawn raids in al-Yamoun, a village north of Jenin:
The detainees were identified as brothers Jihad and Abd al-Qader Freihat. Israeli forces confiscated mobile phones and surveillance camera recordings from their house during the raid. Two other residents of al-Yamoun, identified as Yahiya Abu al-Haija and Mustafa al-Karam. The two were detained during a raid on the Jenin refugee camp... A Palestinian from the Wadi Burqin neighborhood of Jenin, just outside the Jenin refugee camp, was killed during a predawn raid on Thursday. The slain Palestinian, Ahmad Ismail, 30, was killed during an alleged shootout, as Israeli forces were conducting raids in search of Palestinians allegedly suspected to be involved in the shooting of an Israeli settler last week near Nablus.
WAFA says today that IDF raids in the same general area have continued into today (Sunday). Both those Palestinian Arab media channels are evidently too delicate to connect the arrests and raids with a specific act of murder. But it's clear they mean the cold-blooded killing of Rabbi Raziel Shevach HY"D from Havat Gilad ["10-Jan-18: Hamas praises a murderous drive-by shooting that orphans six young Israeli children"] nearly two weeks ago in the area of Nablus, or Shechem as we knew it in Hebrew.

It's where, according to the Torah,the Alm-ghty appeared to Avraham and first promised that “To your offspring I will give this land”, a promise that has been integral to the traditions of Jewish history ever since.

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