The first quarter of 2022 that just ended brought with it many unfortunate international developments. As I was born in Ukraine and still have close family there, I was worried about the situation in the area. While the whole world is watching Ukraine, another place where the security situation was recently escalating was Israel, giving me another reason to worry as this is where I grew up and have many friends and family living there.
In the past few months, and especially during the last two weeks of March, 11 citizens were murdered in terror attacks across Israeli cities. The death toll and the frequency was something Israel has not seen in recent years. On March 22, four people were murdered in the city of Be’er Sheva near a shopping center. Just 5 days later, on March 27, two Israeli border patrol police soldiers were murdered while waiting at a bus station. Again two days later, on March 29, five individuals were murdered in the city of Bnei Brak. In each one of these attacks, the terrorists were using automatic weapons and shooting at a crowd, and additional citizens were injured to various degrees. These three attacks were the deadliest among a list of a few additional smaller attacks that did not result in such severe outcomes and that were barely even reported on the news.
Several important things were noted about these attacks and are currently discussed in Israeli news outlets, and I’d like to draw attention to some of them. The first to be noted is the location, as the attacks took place in central Israeli cities, something that Israelis did not experience in a while. For many who lived through the days of the Intifada, these attacks brought back traumatic memories of insecurity in the hearts of Israeli cities, sparking debates over issues such as adding security measures in public spaces, or reevaluating laws that will grant citizens such as IDF veterans rights to carry firearms, as in some of the attacks it was armed citizens who stopped the terrorist.
Another notable point about the attacks is the identities of the victims and the terrorists. While the aim of the terrorists was to kill Jewish citizens of Israel, one of the victims was a 19-year-old Druze Israeli who was in his IDF police border patrol uniform. Another victim was a Christian Israeli Arab who served as Israeli police officer, and was the first to arrive at the scene to confront the terrorist. Both were not Jewish, but nevertheless they were victims of terror that is fueled by Jew hatred. Two other victims were Ukrainian citizens who stayed away from the fighting in their country. The fact that it is not just the Jewish citizens of Israel who suffer from terror sparked a conversation within Israeli society about the bond between the Jewish majority to some of the minorities in Israel who accept the Jewish state as their home and are loyal to it, discussing the shared destiny, values and love of the country. On the other hand, of major concern was the fact that among the recent attacks, two of the three were carried out by Israeli citizenship holders, some of them with past ties to ISIS, and who served terms in Israeli jails. This fact prompted a very lively discussion about how to fight domestic terror threats.
While here in Minnesota it may seem as there is not much that we can do regarding the situation in Israel but worry and watch, there are several things that can be done. First, if you have friends or family in Israel, make sure to reach out to them and ask them how they are doing. Even if they are not living close to the places where the attacks happened, in such a small country everything feels close. Next, by raising awareness of the situation and talking about the events in Israel within your circles, people who don’t follow the news about the region will hear about this aspect of Israeli reality. Lastly, we need to remember how resilient Israelis are, and to express our support of the country’s people not giving in to terror and continuing to live their daily lives in Israel, which is a true victory against terror.
Valeria Sinelnikov Chazin is the co-founder and chair of the board of directors of Students Supporting Israel.