Defending ourselves to death
A week ago, Makor Rishon led its weekend paper with a startling headline: “Following a long period of desecration, a cemetery in the Sharon is being moved.”
Moshav Hagor is located in the center of the country. Successive IDF chiefs of General Staff, Lt. Gen. (ret.) Dan Halutz and Lt. Gen. (ret.) Gabi Ashkenazy hail from the farming community established in 1949 by veterans of the Palmach.
Along with their neighbors in Moshav Yarchiv, for the past decade, the farmers of Hagor have been subjected to the continuous desecration of their communal cemetery by their Muslim neighbors from Jaljulia, a Muslim town of ten thousand located between the two moshavim.
Adjacent to a school in Jaljulia, Hagor’s cemetery has been subjected to abuse of all kinds. Residents regularly find animal carcasses at the entrance to the cemetery. Garbage is routinely dumped on graves. Human and other feces are frequently smeared across headstones. One night, all the headstones on all the graves at the cemetery were broken. Residents mourning their dead are harassed.
After a decade of constant abuse, Hagor’s residents despaired of ever restoring the security to their cemetery and decided to take matters into the own hands. With the halachic approval of then chief rabbi Shlomo Amar, they built an alternative cemetery in another area of their moshav. Families paid thousands of shekels to reinter their loved ones at the new site. Today the only bodies remaining in their original graves are the ones with no living relatives to pay to move them.
Several years ago, Moshav Yarchiv’s cemetery was rezoned to become a new neighborhood in Jaljulia. An attempt by Yarchiv’s residents to fence off the cemetery failed. The day after they installed the fence it was stolen.
The rabbinate has refused on halachic grounds to permit Yarchiv’s residents to exhume and reinter their dead. But even if they had rabbinic permission, they have nowhere else to bury them. Due to bureaucratic hurdles, Yarchiv hasn’t been able to find an alternative burial ground.
Jaljulya once had good relations with its Jewish neighbors. But over the past decade, the town has become a hotbed for Islamic radicalism. Residents built a new massive mosque in the town. Despite repeated complaints from their Jewish neighbors, the mosque’s loudspeakers, which face Hagor, deliberately blast the call to prayer in the middle of the night.
Last October, Nedal Salah of Jaljulia paraglided into Syria from the Golan Heights and joined Islamic State. Following Salah’s action, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) discovered a cell of six more town residents who had transferred their loyalties to Islamic State, which they intended to travel to Syria to join.
In the Makor Rishon report, Hagor’s farmers voiced their despair at the failure of the government and its agencies to protect them, their dead and their property from their Muslim neighbors.
“There is no law enforcement against criminals from Jaljulya,” one resident said angrily.
Former local council head David Cohen explained that protecting the cemetery would have required the moshav to place a guard on site 24 hours a day. Hagor lacks the resources to take such action, or similar action to defend its fields. And so Jaljulya’s residents continue to assault their Jewish neighbors and spread feces on their graves.
Sunday morning, residents of Efrat awoke to the news that a terrorist from a neighboring Palestinian enclave had infiltrated the community in the middle of the night. At around 6 a.m. the terrorist, Baha al-din Odeh, stabbed and moderately wounded an IDF officer.
Efrat, a suburban community of 10,000 residents, is the largest community in the Etzion bloc south of Jerusalem. Unlike Hagor, Efrat is guarded heavily by the municipality’s security department, financed by its residents.
Among other things, the community has deployed security cameras all along its perimeters. The camera footage is monitored continuously.
When the terrorist approached the community just before 2 a.m. on Sunday, the security department detected him and immediately notified the IDF. The officer Odeh wounded Sunday morning was deployed to the community with his soldiers to locate him.
In a meeting Sunday night with community members, Efrat Mayor Oded Revivi and Etzion Brigade Commander Col. Roman Gofman explained at length the concerted actions taken in the early morning hours to protect the community’s residents.
Gofman acknowledged though that no matter how hardened a community’s defenses may be, and how determined the IDF is to defend it, a motivated terrorist will figure out a way to get inside.
Last weekend, the IDF deployed an Iron Dome battery along the border with Syria for the first time. The move followed repeated mortar fire into Israel from the Syrian Golan.
Until now, military and civilian authorities viewed mortar rounds falling on the Israeli side of the border as errant rounds. But after three mortar rounds fell into Israel in two days, those same authorities began worrying that Syrian government forces, fighting with their Hezbollah and Iranian bosses may have decided to begin deliberately bombing Israel. And so they deployed the Iron Dome battery.
To be sure, Israel faces different challenges in the Sharon around Jaljulya, in the Bethlehem-Hebron area around Gush Etzion and in the Golan Heights along the border with war-torn Syria. But Israel’s responses to all these threats share a common, destructive feature.
Israel’s strategies for defending its civilians in all three areas are overly reliant on defensive measures.
No one has the financial where withal to fortify cemeteries or agricultural fields – which are regularly torched – with armed guards. But vandals from Jaljulya aren’t vandalizing cemeteries, burning fields and blasting their mosque loudspeakers because their Jewish neighbors don’t have guards everywhere.
They are taking these aggressive actions because Israeli authorities are not making them stop.
It is the job of the government, the police and the courts to make clear that crime doesn’t pay. It is their failure to drive home this message consistently that empowers radicalized thugs from Jaljulya to spread feces on Jewish graves.
Likewise, the problem in Gush Etzion isn’t that area communities haven’t taken the necessary steps to protect their residents or that the IDF suffers from a manpower shortage. The problem is that Palestinians in Odeh’s middle-class community, which overlooks Efrat, and in surrounding villages feel free to plan terrorist attacks against their Jewish neighbors as they sit in their living rooms and watch genocidal broadcasts on Hezbollah, Hamas and Fatah TV.
As for the Golan Heights, sooner or later, Hezbollah and Syrian government forces, along with their Iranian overlords can be depended on to open a new front against Israel in the Golan Heights if they become convinced that Israel’s main countermove will be to permanently deploy a missile defense battery along the border. Missile defense batteries don’t scare enemies away. They merely challenge their ingenuity.
No one doubts that the government wants to defend Israel’s citizens – alive and deceased. But despite their good intentions, our leaders are failing us. Our political, military, police and bureaucratic leaders are failing us because our foes – at home and abroad – have come to believe that we aren’t willing to do what is necessary to defeat them.
Our leaders are failing us because they refuse to act on the sure knowledge that an over-reliance on defensive measures does not deter aggression. It invites aggression.