The Solution to Israel’s Wave of Terror

October 15, 2015

10 min read


The Jewish people’s alternative to despair.

As the wave of terror continues throughout Israel, with multiple attacks every day by Arabs using knives, guns, and cars to kill Jews, the Jewish population is protesting, demanding that our government do more to protect its citizens. After a 13-year-old boy on his bicycle and another man was stabbed in Pisgat Ze’ev on October 12, citizens staged a protest.

One protester, Tovi Harari declared: "As you can see, we are in a state of fear, fear to send our children to school. I haven't sent my daughter to school for three days already.

"The situation can't continue like this. There has to be some sort of solution. The prime minister must wake up, and understand we can't continue like this. They stab in the streets, and we have no security. You can't walk around the streets. I don't remember there ever being something like this."

There has never been a situation like this.

When Ms. Harari was asked what solution she proposed, she faltered. “If only I had a solution! The prime minister needs to think about it. To implement a curfew, I don't know...that's what he's prime minister for. …It's simply frightening to leave your home. ...Right now there's the protest, so we all came together, but in general the streets are silent. No one is there."

I have lived in Israel for 30 years, through six wars, and I agree with Tovi Harari: There has never been a situation like this. Previously when under attack, Israel always had a military solution. During the Terror War of 2000-2004 (called “the Second Intifada”), when suicide bombers were murdering Jews in buses, cafes, malls, and Bar Mitzvahs, the I.D.F. went into the terrorist strongholds in towns under the Palestinian Authority and uprooted the terror cells that sent the bombers. When Hamas in Gaza launched thousands of rockets at Israel, the I.D.F., through aerial attacks and ground forces, pounded the enemy into submission.

Now, however, almost all of the terror attacks are perpetrated not by organized cells, but by individuals, who need nothing more than a kitchen knife to kill a Jew. The terrorists are women as well as men, Arab Israeli citizens as well as residents of the P.A., middle-class university students as well as the disenfranchised rabble, and youths as young as 13 years old. How do you defeat an enemy who is interwoven in the fabric of your society? Can the warp extirpate the woof?

The terrorist who today (Oct. 13) plowed his car into a Jerusalem bus stop and then jumped out and used a meat cleaver to kill the saintly Rabbi Yeshayahu Krishevsky and to maim several others, was an Israeli Arab employee of Bezeq, Israel’s national telephone company. He carried out the attack using a Bezeq car.

Afterwards, Bezeq released a statement expressing its “deep outrage,” declaring that it is praying for the wounded victims. Bezeq then added:

"We emphasize that there were no warning signs, and there were no clear changes in the worker's conduct that could have prevented the act of terror.”

No warning signs. No way to prevent the act of terror. So what can we do?

Prime Minister Netanyahu has, yet again, called an emergency meeting of his security cabinet. The morning after the double murder in the Old City, the cabinet passed a slew of emergency measures. Yet, the terrorism has not abated. Demanding that the Prime Minister stop the terrorism is as futile as demanding that he stop European anti-Semitism.

There does not seem to be a military or political solution.

While the security forces must do everything possible to stem the terrorism, our grim reality is that this time, there does not seem to be a military or political solution.

Despair and Irrationality

Despair drives even the most intelligent and well-meaning people to irrational – and dangerous – conclusions. The Oslo Accords, which led to nothing but the deaths of a thousand Israeli men, women, and children, is a prime example.

Leil Leibowitz, writing in Tablet in the wake of the terrorist murder of Eitam and Naama Henkin, eloquently opined:

[Israel] accepted security risks that no Western country would ever countenance, and allowed large, foreign-armed terrorist armies to mass on territory that it handed over in exchange for nothing, in a particularly dangerous part of the world. …

If peace talks are no longer on the table, the government of Israel should mount a decisive campaign against those who shoot mothers and fathers in front of their children’s eyes – one aimed at destroying the infrastructure that nurtures this kind of terrorism.

Just days later, however, after repeated stabbing attacks throughout Israel, Mr. Leibowitz offered a different solution,

…the unilateral disengagement plan that Ariel Sharon was working to accomplish before he suffered a massive brain aneurysm. Look at a map of Judea and Samaria, as Sharon did several times a day, and you’ll notice that the lion’s share of Jewish communities are neatly aligned in a way that allows them all to remain a part of Israel should Israel decide to unilaterally annex a thin strip of the West Bank. Annex it, and annex the Jordan Valley, too, a very thinly unpopulated area that is essential to maintaining Israel’s security…. Israel could then erect a large wall – a practice that has proven successful over the past decade in stopping some of the most murderous Palestinian terrorists from reaching their targets inside Israel – escort all Palestinian prisoners currently held in Israel to the other side of that barrier, and wait.

What is the brilliant and articulate Mr. Leibowitz suggesting? Isn’t “unilateral disengagement,” such as Ariel Sharon foisted on the flourishing Jewish communities of the Gaza Strip, what led to thousands of rockets fired at Israeli towns and cities and two costly military campaigns to stop the carnage? Sharon assured us that if, after every Israeli settler and soldier withdraws from Gaza, the government of Gaza dares to shoot a missile over the internationally recognized border, Israel would take strong steps and the world would support us. We lived – and died – through the opposite scenario. Hamas shot thousands of rockets before we mustered the political will to counter-attack, and the world was outraged by our self-defense.

And now the usually clear-thinking Mr. Leibowitz recommends a similar solution, only this time, instead of shooting rockets at Sderot and the sparsely-populated South, terrorists in the surrendered areas will shoot rockets at our only international airport and at the population centers of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, where the majority of Israelis live. And what about the mixed Jewish-Arab towns of Ramle and Lod? What about the Arab citizens of Israel who live in Haifa and Nazareth, who are holding pro-terrorism rallies? Would you also “escort” them to the “other side of the barrier”?

When there is no rational solution, even intelligent people resort to irrationality. I would like to propose a supra-rational solution.

Echoes of 1967

Only once before did Israel experience such utter desperation. It was in 1967, when Gamel Abdal Nasser promised to conquer Israel and “drive the Jews into the sea.” With four Arab armies amassed at our borders, outnumbered in planes, tanks, and troops, Israel waited grimly to be overrun. Prime Minister Levi Eshkol broke down in tears during a radio address to the nation. The Rabbinate consecrated every park in Israel as a cemetery. The prevailing dark humor was: “Last one out, turn off the lights.”

Then, miraculously, in six days, Israel trounced its enemies, captured all the major Jewish holy places, and tripled its territory.

Military historians credit the victory to Israel’s flying below the radar and destroying Egypt’s entire air force during the first hour of the war on June 5. But Ehud Ya’ari, Israel’s pre-eminent military journalist, wrote in a 1992 Jerusalem Report article about the many “coincidences” and unlikely mishaps that accounted for the success of Israel’s surprise attack. To give just a sample:

The representative of [Egyptian] army intelligence in El Arish warned on June 5 at 4 a.m. that the attack would begin “within minutes.” His message reached [Commander-in-Chief] Amer’s command bunker in Cairo in time; an aide-de-camp signed a copy, but no one bothered to look for Amer.

On the morning of the attack, Egyptian officers stationed at the radar station at Ajlun in Northern Jordan, picked up the scrambling Israeli aircraft, and sent a red alert message to Cairo. The sergeant in the decoding room of the supreme command tried to decipher the message using the previous day’s code and failed. He put the cable down and forgot about it. The message was also received in the operations room of the general staff, but no duty officer was there to handle it.

Immediately after the Six-Day War, Moshe Dayan, the military hero with the eye-patch who was Israel’s Minister of Defense, visited the newly liberated Western Wall. As is the age-old custom, he put a note between its ancient stones. As soon as Dayan left, reporters irreverently extracted the note and read it. The secular military hero had written a quote from Psalms: “From God this has come about. It is wondrous in our eyes.”

Desperation turned to victory through Divine intervention. We have no other solution.

The Two Steps

The universally successful Twelve-Step Program is a proven example of transforming desperation into victory by turning to God for help. The first two steps are:

We admitted that we were powerless over _________________, that our lives had become unmanageable.

We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

Of course, this is the same formula that liberated our ancestors from slavery to the world’s most powerful and technologically advanced empire – Egypt. The downtrodden Israelites had hoped for a political solution, that when the current tyrannical Pharaoh died, he would be replaced by a more humane ruler. When the new Pharaoh proved even worse than his predecessor, the Israelite slaves, in desperation, called out to God. The Divine response was the miracles of the Exodus.

Perhaps this is the reason that the Torah commands us to tell the story of the liberation from Egypt to our children throughout the generations. This is the Jewish paradigm: When despair impels us to turn to God, miraculous redemption ensues.

As I sit here in my home in Jerusalem’s Old City, hearing sirens of police and ambulances rushing to yet another scene of terrorism, of Jewish blood spilled by those who believe that killing a Jew is their ticket to Paradise, I could easily fall into despair. Instead, I will <cry out to God to redeem us. I know that God can send a solution in ways that we humans can’t even dream of.

As David Ben Gurion, Israel’s crusty first Prime Minister, declared: In Israel, if you don’t believe in miracles, you’re not a realist.

Next Steps