Grief and anger at site of synagogue attack in Jerusalem | Israel
FROMMaking their way through construction debris at a traffic intersection in occupied East Jerusalem where seven Israelis were killed by a Palestinian militant on Friday night, three first responders wearing plastic gloves and reflective vests scraped up handfuls of blood-stained earth and placed it in a bag.
After sunset on Saturday, at the end of Shabbat, they arrived with torches, trowels and spatulas. Their task was to collect every drop of spilled blood for a proper Jewish burial.
Members of the local ultra-Orthodox community watched as the men worked under the red flashes of police and ambulance sirens. Some people sang, prayed and chanted “death to the terrorists”. A group of children lit memorial candles arranged in the shape of a menorah.
On Friday night, a Palestinian named Alkam Khairi, 21, drove into Neve Yaakov, a Jewish settlement on the outskirts of the Palestinian side of the holy city, and began shooting at passers-by near a busy synagogue before running away and being shot dead by police. His victims included a 14-year-old boy, a 68-year-old Ukrainian woman and a married couple in their 40s, who rushed to the scene to help after hearing gunshots and screams. Three others remain in the hospital.
The attack was the most brutal by a Palestinian against an Israeli since 2008, and comes in the midst of an ongoing week of bloodshed that has left 20 Palestinians and Israelis dead.
For many Israelis, the heartbreaking scene in Neve Yaakov was reminiscent of the second intifada, or Palestinian uprising, that claimed the lives of about 1,000 Israelis and 3,500 Palestinians in the 2000s. It has also added to fears that the wave of violence that raged almost a year ago in the north of the occupied West Bank is about to overwhelm other areas.
“We immediately arrived in the area when we heard that there was an attack, but Eli was missing. We only found out that he had died very late at night in the hospital,” said Merav Kenan, a friend of Eli Mizrahi, who was shot at point-blank range while trying to calm the militant. Mizrahi’s wife, Natalie, was shot in the back while giving him CPR and died after she was taken to the hospital.
“He was a good man and brave. It’s a terrible day,” Kenan said.
No Palestinian faction has claimed responsibility for the attack, and Khairy is believed to have acted alone, although the considerable skill he displayed with weapons led investigators to speculate that he received firearms training.
He had no knowledge of the secret services and his motives remain unclear, but Jewish and Arab media reported that an East Jerusalem resident who, like most other Palestinians in the city, had Israeli residency but no citizenship rights , was named after his grandfather, who was killed by an Israeli settler in 1998.
The suspect in the case, who was never charged, was represented by lawyer Itamar Ben-Gvir. Since last month, Ben-Gvir, a far-right extremist, has been Israel’s national security minister, an important cabinet member in the toughest administration in the country’s history.
The new government has already promised a series of punitive measures against the Palestinians in response to Friday’s attack and Saturday’s gun battle that left two people injured. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he will apply sanctions against the families of terrorists and this week will introduce steps to “strengthen the settlements” — steps that are illegal under international law.
However, it is unlikely that these actions will be enough to satisfy the right-wing Israeli public, Netanyahu’s voters. Grief mixed with anger in Neve Yaakov on Saturday evening, with young people at the picket calling for an attack on Arab neighborhoods, and Israeli Channel 13 journalists surrounded by a mob of young people destroying equipment and shouting “leftists, go home.” The precedent suggests that copycat and price tag attacks are likely on both sides.
“At first we thought it was an Arab wedding shooting. We often hear this around here. Then we realized it was closer,” said Berta, 45, who lives in the same apartment building where the Mizrachis lived.
“I saw something like this 30 years ago, but I never thought it would happen again. I think it will always be like this,” she said. “There is never peace in this place, and anyone who lives here just has to get used to it.”