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OPINION

Terror Close to Home

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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Bernat Armangue

There’s no place more central to Jewish history in all the Land of Israel than Hebron. That’s where Abraham purchased a burial plot for Sarah, and all his family, in Genesis 23.  More than God giving the Land to Abraham and his descendants, Abraham actually purchased the burial plot so there would be no doubt. That, and as the resting place of our patriarchs and matriarchs, make Hebron central to Israel and Jewish life today.

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Sadly, terror came to Hebron again Saturday night, a city heavily populated by Palestinian Arabs and known as a hotbed of terror. Hebron is very close to home. Physically, it’s just 25 minutes from my house. The Biblical and historical connection are unbreachable. While only a small percent of Hebron’s actual residents are Jews (a consequence of the Arab riots in 1929 that left dozens of Jews dead, many more badly injured, and the entire community expelled until after the 1967 Six Day War), it and the adjacent Jewish community of Kiryat Arba remain highly threatened.  Security is tight. Tension is often high. Jews are not welcome.

While terror attacks like what happened this week could (and do) happen anywhere, there’s something particularly egregious in a place that’s so indisputably central to Jewish history. A 50-year-old Israeli man was killed, and four others injured, including the dead man’s son, the head of security for Kiryat Arba, a medic, and a Palestinian Arab.

Thanks to the quick thinking and response of the head of security, and an off-duty soldier, the terrorist was stopped and killed before others could have been killed or hurt.  Videos are circulating on Israeli media of the head of security using his car to ram into the terrorist, followed by the IDF soldier responding to the scene, and neutralizing the terrorist.  All of it was quite heroic and professional, especially considering that the head of security was injured himself, and the soldier was armed, but had no protective gear. 

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It's also been reported that the terrorist, a member of Hamas, was not only married and the father of three, but was suffering from terminal cancer.  That’s significant because rather than just dying from the cancer, he embraced the Palestinian Arab culture of murdering Jews. By dying as what they will refer to as a “martyr,” his family will now be the beneficiary of the immoral stipends that the Palestinian Authority pays to terrorists and their families, “enriched” by their father’s act of hate and terror as their legacy.  

Just like many places throughout Judea and Samaria, the original Bible Belt, Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews live side by side, even in some instances on top of one another, and interact daily in many facets of life.  The terrorist took advantage of this, and first opened fire the Jewish father and son who had been shopping at a Palestinian Arab convenience store. Then he fired on the medics and security who arrived at the scene to help. 

Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews interacting can be seen interacting daily. All it takes is for one sick Palestinian Arab, whether suffering from a terminal illness or unbridled hate, or both, to turn normal coexistence into a scene of carnage. Because acts of terror like this could happen anytime, soldiers and Israeli security personnel need to be on high alert all the time.  

This week’s terror attack hit close to home not only because of the physical proximity to where I live.  We have had terror attacks closer, with neighbors, and neighbors relatives, being killed and injured.  More than once my neighborhood has been on lockdown while security personnel hunt for a terrorist that’s breached the community. 

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I’ve been to Kiryat Arba and Hebron dozens of times.  I have been there as a tourist and worshipper, and have been there many times visiting my son when he was in the army.  On one visit in particular, we happened to find him guarding a checkpoint where Palestinian Arabs are screened before coming into the Jewish part of the city. The tension was palpable. 

Note that Jewish traffic and pedestrians don’t typically go into the Arab part of the city because it’d be too dangerous.  I saw how he was on high alert. At one point, he whispered to me in English that one particularly troublesome family was approaching. I saw how that even with heavy security, it was still possible for Palestinian Arabs to smuggle weapons and carry out a terror attack. I didn’t stay long so as not to interfere or distract.  As a father, I wanted to stay to be sure he was OK. I also left with a sense of pride that even with the difficult family approaching, and tension that was clear, how my son behaved respectfully and professionally.  

Being in the wrong place at the wrong time, I am aware that it could have been him, or me.  Now, it’s the family of a 50-year-old father that is mourning.  

I also spend time in Hebron and Kiryat Arba bringing gifts to soldiers on behalf of the Genesis 123 Foundation and Christians with whom I work around the world, to show our love and appreciation.  In the summer we bring hundreds of kilos of cold watermelon and drinks and distribute them throughout the cities, and greater Judean mountain region in which I live.  As winter begins and evenings get cold, we’re returning to making and delivering fresh, hot, homemade soup to the soldiers.  I am mindful that when I go to give out the food and show our support, to be very careful.  I don’t want to stop for long, interrupt, distract, or interfere with their work. I am even careful where I park my car so as not to block them in any way should something happen at that moment.  

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This week’s attack, and others that have happened recently leaving several Israelis dead and dozens injured, underscore how it could happen any time, any place.  Once, I was speaking to a soldier who shared that they know the Palestinian terrorists in the area are heavily armed.  My son and others told me about overnight raids to seize weapons and cash meant to use in terror attacks.  Sometimes these are in the media, but mostly not. But as much as may be seized, there’s lots more out there, just waiting for an evil terrorist to pull the trigger, literally. 

Yes, it’s a tragedy on all levels, and terror must be defeated not enabled, celebrated, or funded.  I pray this will be the last Israeli victim and the last Israeli family to grieve. This specific terror attack also highlights another complex part of the problem.  The Israeli father and son who were the terrorist’s first victims, were shopping in a Palestinian Arab store as if that’s perfectly normal, helping the owner to make a living.  A consequence of this specific terror attack is that other Israelis will think twice about shopping at this particular Arab-owned store, and many others like me will give a second thought to doing so in other stores, or bringing Arab workers into our homes and communities which are regular occurances.  That impacts them financially and adds unwanted stress. I don’t believe all Palestinian Arabs are evil like the one who is now being hailed as a “martyr” for killing a 50-year-old father. But as long as their society celebrates and funds terror, evil and its consequences will trickle down.  It brings it close to home on many levels. 

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