An Atmosphere of Fear

Yehudah Meshi Zahav, the head of ZAKA, whose hundreds of young chareidi volunteers do the holy work of removing the deceased and bringing them to burial, is not a cowardly person. He is usually among the first at the scene of every shooting attack.

Yesterday he received the message about the combined shooting and stabbing attack on the #78 bus in Yerushalayim by two terrorists, who killed two people and injured 16.

After the deceased was placed in the white plastic body bag and removed by the ZAKA staff, Meshi Zahav sat down on a wall and held his head in his hands. He then called his family: “No one leaves the house unless it is absolutely necessary.”

When I met him two hours later I asked him why, after seeing horrific mass terror attacks in Yerushalayim 15 years ago, with dozens of fatalities on exploding buses, he suddenly issued those instructions to his family now?

Meshi Zahav had a ready response. The attacks then were more severe in their scope, but they were pinpointed. Today, the terrorists are all over, in every neighborhood, in every street.

Indeed, that is the way the citizens of Israel feel, exactly two weeks after the brutal murder of the Henkins, Hy”d.

“There’s been a turnaround,” a senior defense official says. The atmosphere that ISIS in Iraq and Syria disseminated has reached here as well. The young Muslims live with the feeling that they can take their fates in their hands and effect dramatic changes. If they managed to banish the Americans, and even Iran and Syria and all their armies can’t overcome them, then we, too, the Muslims in Israel, can win with simple steps such as stabbings, firebombs, and, if necessary, shootings. And if we won’t win, then we’ll at least sow fear and terror among all the Jews in Israel and beyond.

That’s the key word, sources in Israel say. It’s not that the clashes are on a high level. But they are frightening and create a sense of frustration that the Israeli army cannot stop what is happening, with women and children going wild with knives, screwdrivers and whatnot. “Sowing fear” is a concept that we’ve heard a lot about, but never believed it could reach the heart of Israel, with its much-vaunted military might.

The incidents of the last few days have affected hundreds of Israelis. Some were murdered, Hy”d. Others were injured; still others were overcome with fright. The combined effects have driven the citizens of Israel into a state of fear. The streets are emptier than ever before; Jews are even afraid to go to the Kosel, and they look left and right as they walk in the streets. It is clear that the leadership cannot let things continue this way. Ministers and officials are meeting once or twice a day to try to find a solution.

Today, no one in Israel understands better than Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that the future of his rule is at stake if he doesn’t switch tacks. And while in the past he waited for decisions and investigations, today the Israeli government is closer than ever before to skipping over these obstacles and taking off the gloves. They will destroy homes and lay siege to Arab cities and neighborhoods. They will throw hundreds of rioters into jail and, most important, will change the rules of opening fire to enable every Israeli who feels threatened by a knife or some other means to pull out a weapon and shoot.

All these things alone will not lead to calm. That will only come after the masses of rioting Arabs will feel they have something to lose; when the younger Arabs living in Yerushalayim will understand that if they or anyone in their family throws stones or firebombs, not to mention stabs or shoots, they will immediately lose their homes, which will be imploded within two weeks, and they will also lose all social and medical benefits within Israel.

Not only that. Today it is already clear that Israel will have to reduce its economic aid to the Palestinians, who have become ungrateful in the face of billions of dollars Israel has infused into their economy, of all the medical services that they receive in Israel and the myriad employment opportunities that Israel offers. They have paid it all back with murder. Israel will have no choice but to remove the Palestinian construction workers and find other workers to do the work, as long as the worker building a tower in Tel Aviv doesn’t come off the scaffolding with a screwdriver and begin stabbing.

The religious and chareidi sector will also have to change certain habits after opening the yeshivos and institutions to “Arab employment.” These employees’ brothers and families are returning bad for all the good they have gotten, and have marked the chareidi sector as the second most desirable target for attacks, after IDF soldiers.

When the 12,000 Arab workers are dismissed from their places of work in the religious and chareidi neighborhoods, the Palestinian street will understand that they will gain nothing from their actions.