Israel News for October 19, 2015

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Terror in Beersheva
Yesterday, a terrorist entered the central bus station in Beersheva, stabbed a soldier, grabbed his gun and started shooting. The soldier, Sergeant Omri Levi, was killed and 10 other people, including five police officers, were wounded. Security forces shot and killed the terrorist, who was identified as Mouhand al-Okbi, a 21 year old Bedouin Israeli citizen from the Negev town of Hura. He had no prior criminal record.

The Bedouin leadership condemned the terrorist attack, saying it is wrong, unacceptable, and harmful. Israeli Bedouin serve in the IDF with distinction and live peacefully with their Jewish neighbors. But there have been isolated instances of radicalization and suspected connections with terror groups among some Bedouin youth.

In a tragic twist, a security guard mistakenly identified an Eritrean man as the terrorist and shot him. A crowd then gathered around the wounded man and began assaulting him verbally and physically. He later died of his wounds.

This latest terror attack comes in the wake of five stabbing attacks, in addition to numerous rock and molotov cocktail throwing incidents, over the weekend. Not surprisingly, Hamas praised the attack and encouraged more.

Later in the week the Knesset is set to vote on a law to allow police to stop and frisk anyone for any reason. The current law allows police to frisk someone only if they have a reasonable suspicion that the person is carrying a weapon or some other object intended for use in committing a crime.

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Police Build Wall
Israeli police put up a tall concrete barrier, basically a wall, to separate the Arab neighborhood of Jabal Mukkaber from the adjacent Jewish neighborhood of Armon Hanetziv in Jerusalem. The wall is meant to stop rocks and firebombs.

The new wall looks a lot like the one that separates the West Bank from Jerusalem in many areas. Some Israelis don’t like that, because they feel it sends the message that parts of East Jerusalem are really not part of a united Jerusalem. If it’s only temporary, then they can live with it. But if it becomes a permanent fixture, it could cause a real identity crisis for a “united” Jerusalem.

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Terror hurts Arabs
The recent Palestinian wave of terror is having an unexpected victim: Arab workers. In a move that many view as unfortunate but unavoidable, a growing number of municipalities are banning Arab workers from entering schools during school hours. Some are only barring cleaning and maintenance workers, while others are barring all Arab workers. Some of the larger municipalities include Tel Aviv, Hod Hasharon, Nes Tziyona, Modiin, Givatayim and Rehovot.

As an example, Rehovot city officials announced that, “minority workers will not be allowed entry to educational institutions.” They added on their website that, “The contractors responsible for building sites near educational institutions will be contacted and asked to position a guard at the educational institutions near their building sites.”

Arab Knesset members and groups promoting equal opportunity for Arab workers are calling the moves racist and discriminatory and are demanding that the government take action.

This is truly an unfortunate situation where no one is to blame and everyone loses. The municipalities are acting based on fears that any parent can understand. Considering the totally random “lone wolf” terror spree, parents are nervous about having their kids in close proximity to Arabs, even if the chance of something happening is a million to one. On the other hand, innocent Arabs are suffering simply because they happen to share similar origins with the attackers.

There isn’t a simple solution. Putting the lives of children at risk, even if that risk is minute, doesn’t seem to be the answer. Ending the violence does.

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Corpse Returned
Last week we reported that the Security Cabinet had decided that Israel would no longer return the bodies of terrorists to their families. Well, on Friday the IDF returned the body of Iyad Al-Awawda, who dressed up as a press photographer and stabbed a soldier near Kiryat Arba.

There seems to be a major debate between Internal Security Minister Erdan, who is in charge of the police and the architect of the “no return” regulation and Defense Minister Yaalon, in charge of the IDF. Erdan wants to prevent Palestinians from turning the funerals of terrorists into tools of further incitement. Yaalon feels that holding the bodies will only make things worse.

So at this point it really depends on who controls the body. If the terrorist is killed by police, then the body won’t be returned. If the IDF does the job, then it will.

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Hasidim Enter Tomb
Thirty Breslov Hasidim entered Joseph’s Tomb Saturday night, a day after it was torched and damaged by Palestinians. The Hasidim were following the orders of their leader, Rabbi Berland, who is currently in hiding in South Africa for various improprieties. Palestinian Authority police arrived at the scene and beat five of the Hasidim, including three minors. IDF forces arrived and detained the five and escorted the rest out of the area.

The Chief Rabbi of the Kotel and Holy Places, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitz, condemned the Hasidim for trying to enter the tomb. He said that they put their lives in danger as well as the lives of security forces. He said that every effort should be made to stop them from repeating their act.

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French Reprimanded
France has recently been pushing for a resolution in the UN Security Council that would recommend the deployment of international troops on the Temple Mount. Israeli officials blasted the proposal and reprimanded the French Ambassador to Israel. US Secretary of State John Kerry said that the US opposes the idea too. Even the Jordanians are against it. That daily dose of red wine might have finally gotten to the French.

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Israelis Save Syrians
Members of an Israeli sailing club based in Ashdod were sailing the waters off the coast of Greece on a leisurely cruise. They spotted a 15 year old boy wearing a life vest floating nearby and pulled him in. Then they saw 10 more people and saved them too.

It turns out that the people were Syrian and Iraqi refugees sailing from the Turkish coast to the Greek island of Kastellorizo. Their boat capsized Saturday evening, and they were in the water for 12 hours until being rescued. Four people didn’t make it, including a 6 month old baby.

The Israeli captain said, “After we told them that we Jews from Israel, they kissed us and thanked us.”

There is hope.

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