What a Difference a Hundred Days Can Make

Israel isn’t the place it was 100 days ago.

We are missing 24 Jews whose lives were taken by Palestinian terrorists. We’re living among 112 orphans, including the four Henkin children who are being raised by their grandparents in the community of Peduel. We are treating 300 wounded victims of terrorism, 26 of whom are in serious condition. Many will need assistance for the rest of their lives. And then there are the trauma victims.

It’s an “under the radar” intifada. Unlike the first two Palestinian uprisings, which were clearly identified as such, this one is largely being ignored by the media and the government. Stabbings and car-ramming attacks have, incredibly, become routine. An attack in the morning in Yerushalayim is already forgotten by the time the next one occurs a few hours later at Me’aras Hamachpelah.

At the same time, it is sapping the country’s simchas hachaim. Downtown Yerushalayim doesn’t attract the same traffic; neither, l’havdil, does the Kosel. If, once, a bar mitzvah boy coming from abroad to read from the Torah at the Kosel had to send a family member or friend early to reserve a table near the mechitzah, so that the women could hear, today that’s no longer necessary. The Kosel Plaza is practically empty, even on Mondays and Thursdays.

The national sense of security has been shaken, not by Iran with its nuclear weapons program or Hizbullah with its 100,000 missiles, but by knife-wielding Arabs who live in Yerushalayim neighborhoods and work all over the city, all over the country, in local supermarkets and simchah halls. Every Arab in a car is a potential terrorist, who might suddenly swerve into a crowded bus stop. Incredibly, women and children and “responsible” family men in their 40s with well-paying jobs are all taking part in the killing spree.

There is no organized terror group to go after, no profile of a “classic” terrorist to target. There is no point in launching a major IDF operation to take over parts of Chevron or Jenin, as was done in 2002, after the Seder-night bombing of the Park Hotel, because the Israeli army is already there. The rules have changed.

The Shin Bet’s informants and eavesdropping equipment, so adept at cracking terror cells who communicate with one another and who receive instructions from Hamas in Gaza or elsewhere, are helpless against the “lone wolf” who wakes up one morning, buys an ax and decides to ram his car into a bus stop.

PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who once cooperated with Israel in fighting terrorism, is holding back, either because he’s become irrelevant or has lost interest or changed his thinking about “armed resistance.”

In the meantime, the Palestinian street is becoming more extreme, despite the fact that Arabs in Yehudah and Shomron enjoy a much higher standard of living than those in Gaza, and despite the fact that Israel has allowed the building of a new city, Rawabi, that will ultimately have 6,000 housing units for a population of 25,000 to 40,000 people, with all the conveniences.

A survey published recently by Dr. Khalil Shikaki’s Ramallah-based Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found that “in the context of the current escalation in Palestinian-Israeli confrontations, two-thirds [of Palestinian Arabs in Yehudah, Shomron and Gaza] support stabbing attacks against Israelis, though almost three-quarters express opposition to the involvement of young schoolgirls in such stabbings.”

The defense establishment is doing its best to restore quiet, and prevent an escalation in the violence. Just last week, a Hamas terror cell was uncovered in Yerushalayim that was planning to launch large-scale attacks, chalilah.

The cell, of at least 25 members, had manufactured large numbers of bombs and explosive belts for use in mass terror attacks; these were found in a raid of a Yerushalayim apartment.

Nonetheless, when it comes to “lone wolf” attacks, the security establishment has no real solution other than to point out that, relatively speaking, things aren’t so bad. We’ve lost 24 people in 100 days? We lost that number in a single day in 2000, when buses were exploding in the Second Intifada. Small comfort.

It is to be hoped that some kind of deterrence can be found to keep individuals from striking out at innocent Jews, whether it is demolition of their family’s homes or expulsion of family members to Gaza or elsewhere.

But that’s for the security forces and the courts to figure out. Our job is to remain sensitive to the loss of life of fellow Jews, to reinforce our sense of areivus, to daven for the wounded that they may be healed, and to plead that the Ribbono shel Olam put an end to our suffering, “like a father has mercy on his son, so too, Have mercy on us and save us for the sake of Your Name.”