The Israel Synagogue Union, a group that represents hundreds of thousands of shul attendees and thousands of gabbaim throughout Israel, on Sunday sent an emergency request to Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon requesting that the IDF provide soldiers or Border Police officers to protect shuls throughout the country. The request came a day after an Arab terrorist tried to break into a shul in Ra’anana as part of a stabbing spree that left three Israelis wounded.
In the letter, the group said that “shuls are a symbol of Judaism, and a holy place that has a great deal of meaning for many people. Hundreds of people gather in them at a time, and they have become a preferred target for terrorists. It is just a matter of time before a terrorist succeeds in carrying out a major terror attack, and conducts a massacre in a shul, as occurred last year in Har Nof.”
On Shabbos afternoon, a 20 year old terrorist from Jenin went on a stabbing rampage in the central Israeli city of Ra’anana. The victims were stabbed by an Arab terrorist at two sites in the city, after he tried to get into a local shul, but, b’chasdei Shamayim, was unable to get the doors open.
The terrorist began his stabbing spree on Anilevich Street in a quiet residential area of the city. He stabbed a couple walking down the street and ran away to the entrance of a synagogue about 200 meters away, where he failed to get in. The terrorist then entered an apartment building next to the synagogue through an open window, where he stabbed a resident. Afterwards he tried to escape into an apartment, but a dog began barking loudly, alerting police, who were on the scene by then, to the terrorist’s whereabouts. Police were able to subdue and arrest him. Under questioning, the terrorist said that he had decided to carry out the attack to avenge a relatives’s death at the hands of Israeli security forces.
One of the victims was taken to a nearby hospital in moderate to serious condition. By Sunday, the victim’s situation had greatly improved, doctors said.
The call for shul protection echoed a similar one last month by Health Minister Rabbi Yaakov Litzman in the wake of the stabbing terror attack at the Beit Panorama office building in Tel Aviv. That attack occurred in a room that was dedicated for use as a shul, just as a group was beginning to daven Minchah. Two Jews were murdered in the attack. “The attack showed up the vulnerability of shuls,” said Rabbi Litzman, “and apparently terrorists have begun to take advantage of that vulnerability. I call on the prime minister to allocate resources for the security of people who daven in shuls throughout Israel. We need to provide security for shuls in the same way that we provide security for schools, providing at least partial funding for this project,” he said.
According to Eli Ben-Harush, head of the Israel Synagogue Union, the government should follow the example of others who have taken the initiative to protect mispallelim. “In Europe they have for a long time, understood the dangers, and governments there provide security at shuls. Israel must also defend its shuls in this way.”