The Jewish religious calendar of the Days of Awe started with Rosh Hashanah, continued with Yom Kippur and the harvest festival of Sukkot ending with Simchat Torah-the celebration of Ha Shem’s gift of the torah. In Israel it has been the scene of daily violence and pitched battles on the Temple Mount between rock and Molotov cocktail throwing Palestinian protesters and Israel security and border police. This period of Jewish religious observance sorrowfully culminated in a murderous Palestinian spectacle in both Samaria and yesterday in Jerusalem.
Thursday, Palestinian terrorists committed a random drive by shooting murdering Rabbi Eitam and Naama Henkin z”l (of blessed memory) from the community of Neira in their car while traveling on the road between Itamar and Elon Moreh in Samaria. She was killed instantly by the wanton gunfire. Rabbi Eitam Henkin heroically opened his door to shield the couple’s four sons, ages 9 to less than three months in the back seat, later succumbing to his mortal wounds. When the vehicle with its flashing emergency lights and a door open was approached by an Israeli paramedic one of the older Henkin surviving boys screamed, “they murdered my parents. “ Rabbi Eitam and Naama Henkin were American Olim from a respected Orthodox family.
The One Family Fund began an emergency appeal for support of the four orphaned and traumatized Henkin boys who are now in the care of their grandmother. The Palestinians ‘celebrated’ this heinous crime. Israel National News reported that Friday, October 2, 2015, thousands attended the funeral s of Rabbi Eitam and Naama Henkin who were interred in Jerusalem’s Har Hamenuchot Cemetery located near the western entrance to the capital city.
From New York, Prime Minister Netanyahu excoriated Palestinian President Abbas, condemning him for his silence. This was in the wake of a speech by Abbas suggesting that Israel hadn’t implemented the Oslo Accords in effect justifying non –observance of prevailing agreements. Of course, the UN lent its tacit support by agreeing to raise the flag of the Palestinian Authority at the UN. The PA has never been admitted as a full member , although it holds observer non-state status, enabling it to avail itself of membership in a number of UN organizations and treaties including access to International Courts.
Then Saturday, we had another burst of Palestinian terrorism. The murders of two Rabbis Nehemia Lavi and Aharon Bennett near the Lion’s Gate in Jerusalem stabbed to shouts of “allahu akbar” all while recorded on security cameras. A news release from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs noted what occurred:
At around 7:30 p.m. on Saturday evening (October 3, 2015), a knife-wielding Arab attacked Rabbi Aharon Bennett, his wife, their 2-year-old son and baby daughter who were on their way to pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City. Rabbi Nehemia Lavi, an Old City resident and IDF reserve officer, went down with his gun to try and save those wounded by the Arab terrorist in the attack, but the terrorist stabbed him and seized his weapon. Border Police forces stationed nearby shot and killed the attacker. ?
Israel Hayom reported, “15-year-old Moshe Malka sustained moderate wounds in another Jerusalem stabbing attack.” The State Department issued a statement requesting calm by all parties involved.
In the wake of Saturday’s murderous events in Jerusalem PM Netanyahu scheduled a meeting with his Security Cabinet for Monday. From New York he said:
Israel is waging an all-out war on Palestinian terrorism. This battle must be fought with determination and focus. We are increasing our prevention and punitive measures. We all feel outraged, but we have to let the IDF, Shin Bet and police fight terrorism, and no one should take the law into their own hands.
Could we be witnessing another Temple Mount Intifada? Saeb Erekat, PA senior negotiator said it looks like the beginning of a Third Intifada, so did the perpetrator of the Jerusalem murders. The Times of Israel (TOI) reported, 19 year old Muhannad Halabi posting the day before the attack on his Facebook page, “The Third Intifada is here”.
As Israel Hayom noted, Israel security officials made references to an all out campaign against Palestinian terrorism in Judea and Samaria akin to Operation Defense Shield during the Second Intifada:
A source privy to consultations held by top government officials over the past few days said that if the Palestinians “want a third intifada they will end up with a second Operation Defensive Shield. Steps will be taken on the ground to undermine Hamas infrastructure.”
Operation Defensive Shield, waged in 2002, was a large-scale military campaign targeting Palestinian terrorist infrastructure across Judea and Samaria in an effort to stave off increasingly deadly attacks.
Following Saturday’s attack, which came amid growing tensions in Jerusalem and a series of violent riots on the Temple Mount, the defense establishment decided to limit access to Al-Aqsa Mosque to Muslim worshippers aged 50 and over, who will be allowed to enter the compound through the Lions’ Gate only. No restrictions have been placed on Muslim women’s access to the compound.
Access for Jews and Muslims alike to the volatile holy site is often restricted for security reasons.
The Second or Temple Mount Intifada was fomented by the late Yasser Arafat emboldened by two events in 2000: the pell mell IDF withdrawal from the Southern Lebanon Security zone creating a vacuum for Shia Hezbollah to move in and his rejection of a peace deal at Camp David proposed by then PM Ehud Barack with the support of former President Clinton. Arafat triggered the uprising to coincide with the visit by the late PM Ariel Sharon to the Temple Mount on September 28, 2000.
Operation Defensive Shield began in earnest after the March 27, 2002 suicide bombing by Hamas of the Park Hotel in Netanya hosting a Passover Seder with largely elderly holocaust survivors. 30 civilians were killed and 140 were injured, the most casualties in the worst single event during Operation Defense Shield. It began on March 29, 2002 with Israeli tanks mounting a siege of Yasser Arafat in the Mukata in Ramallah. The IDF engaged in urban warfare in Palestinian major towns in the Samaria and the West Bank, withdrawing in May 2002 with cordons of these communities remaining during the Second Intifada. In one operation alone in Jenin 23 IDF soldiers were killed in close quarter attacks with armed Palestinian terrorists. The Second intifada went on for nearly five years. Arafat, the first PA president died in a French hospital before the end of the Second Intifada in November 2004. He was succeeded by Mahmoud Abbas elected for a four year term in 2005 now serving in his 11th year. According to the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism Israeli casualties during the Second Intifada were 731 civilian and 231 IDF service personnel. The Israeli security fence was constructed resulted in reducing terrorist attacks from the disputied terroritories.
The rise of murderous Palestinian terrorism during the Days of Awe comes amidst the entry of Iranian Revolutionary Guards units and Russian forces in neighboring Syria and cross border exchanges with Assad regime forces on the Golan. There are also allegations that some of the current Palestinian terrorist actions may involve Fatah, Hamas and Iranian proxy Palestinian Islamic Jihad. A further complicating element has been the castigation of Israel security and border police actions on the Temple Mount by Jordan’s King Abdullah II, the patron of the Jordanian religious leaders of the Waqf that control the Al Aksa Mosque complex. The late Moshe Dayan in the immediate aftermath of the liberation of Jerusalem in the June 1967 Six Days of War granted control of the Mosque complex atop the temple Mount to the Jordanian Waqf. Adding his voice to the chorus of fundamentalist Muslim objections to Israel controlling security of the Temple Mount was Ayatollah Khamenei objecting to the ‘Zionist enterprise’ defending the security and access to this spiritual center of the Jewish nation of Israel. Stay tuned for developments.