When I think of the Jewish holidays I think of my family, the smell of brisket cooking in the oven, and I can feel the sense of peace and spirituality. This is what I like to imagine everyone feels and gets to experience, but too many times in Israel’s short history the holidays have come to mean something different.
On October 6, 1973, an Arab coalition launched a surprise attack against Israel during the Jews’ holiest day, Yom Kippur, hurling them into a deadly war. On the first night of Passover on the 27th of March, 2002, a 25 year-old Palestinian entered the Park Hotel on Israel’s coast and detonated a suicide vest during the celebratory Seder meal. 30 people were killed and 140 were injured. I would like to tell you that these are the only instances that Jewish holidays were utilized by terrorists, but that would be a lie.
In October of 2015, during a series of Jewish holidays, Israel began to face what has come to be known as the “Lone Wolf Intifada." This sequence of Palestinian terror attacks resulted in numerous deaths and many injured on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides. Almost an entire year has passed since the series of attacks began and while there was a period where it seemed that attacks had dwindled, the violence has returned, with five terror attacks taking place in the span of only three days.
To me, this uptick in violence signals an all too familiar pattern, warning of what is to come in the upcoming holiday season. Here are my reasons for believing that the upcoming Jewish holidays will once again spark a wave of terror.
The holidays have proven to be a prime-time for terrorists to attack Israel, using the element of surprise to their advantage. History has a way of repeating itself, so it is important to use the lessons from the past to reach better preparedness in the future.
2. West Bank settlement evacuation
There are plans to evacuate an Israeli settlement, Amona, before the end of 2016. This could lead to a rise in violence by Jewish extremists against Palestinians in the months leading up to the evacuation, which would likely spark a Palestinian response in the form of terror.
There has been an ongoing problem of incitement by Palestinian leadership. This year, ahead of the Jewish holidays, the Palestinian media outlets have continued to incite to violence with Facebook posts that have included a call to “Stab forcefully, in order to defend your honor” and to “Burn the Zionist with fire”. Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, has praised the recent wave of terror, referring to a Jordanian man who attempted to stab Israeli Border Police officers as a “martyr” in a letter of condolence that he wrote to the man’s family. This kind of public support sends a message of approval to Palestinians and encourages a perpetuation of violence
4. Temple Mount
With the upsurge of violence in 2015, Israel imposed a ban on lawmakers and officials in the Israeli government, prohibiting them from visiting the Temple Mount. The Temple Mount is a holy site for both the Jews and Muslims, but has also been the centre of violent clashes between the two groups. With the recent renewal of violence, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu extended the pre-existing ban on lawmakers, restricting them from entering the Temple Mount. However, there are members of the Israeli parliament, such as right-wing activist Yehudah Glick, who have stated that they would consider violating the rule, should the ban continue. The holidays would be the perfect time to test these boundaries and should a violation like this occur, there would undoubtedly be a retaliatory response by Palestinian extremists.
There are a few weeks left before the holidays roll about and we will be able to see if these predictions are correct. Until then, I’ll be crossing my fingers that my predictions are wrong, and that this year’s holidays will serve as the beacon of positivity they’re meant to.