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entries tagged with: Itamar


Israelis troubled about Palestinian response to Itamar

JERUSALEM – The Palestinian reaction to the grisly killings of five Israeli family members in the Jewish settlement of Itamar, on the west bank, has prompted many Israelis to ask the same question of the Palestinians that the world often asks of the Israeli government: Are they really serious about peace?

On the one hand, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas went on Israel Radio on Monday to condemn the March 11 killings of the Fogel family members, including a 4-year-old boy and a 3-month-old girl, as “despicable, inhuman, and immoral.”

On the other hand, a day after the attack, members of Abbas’ Fatah faction participated in an official dedication ceremony in the west bank town of Al-Bireh for a town square dedicated to the memory of Dalal Mughrabi, a terrorist involved in killing 37 Israelis in a 1978 bus hijacking on Israel’s coastal road. No PA government officials attended the ceremony, Reuters reported.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu derided the Palestinian Authority’s reaction on Sunday to the Itamar killings as full of “weak and mumbled” statements and accused the Palestinians of continuing to incite against Israel in their mosques and schools. Meanwhile, in Gaza, Hamas members reportedly handed out candy in celebration of the attack.

The Palestinian leadership must “stop the incitement that is conducted on a daily basis in their schools, mosques, and the media under their control,” Netanyahu said. “The time has come to stop this double-talk in which the Palestinian Authority outwardly talks peace and allows — and sometimes leads — incitement at home.”

The brutal murders of the Fogel parents, Udi, 36, and Ruth, 35, and three of their six children — Yoav, 11, along with Elad, 4, and Hadas, 3 months — shocked and angered a nation that had seen terrorist attacks dwindle in recent years. The circulation of photos of some of the stabbed children — apparently distributed to news media by relatives of the victims — offered gruesome pictures of the blood-soaked scene.

A group called the Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades of Imad Mughniyeh claimed responsibility for the attack. Israeli forces combed the area after the attack, and the Palestinian Authority agreed to participate in a joint investigation to find the killer or killers.

The attack sparked angry demonstrations throughout Israel and the west bank in support of the settlers, with demonstrators holding signs reading “We are all settlers” and “Peace isn’t signed with blood.” One of the largest rallies took place in Tel Aviv near the army’s national headquarters.

After a funeral in Jerusalem for the Fogels drew an estimated 20,000 people, some settlers went to Palestinian villages to carry out revenge attacks, throwing stones and destroying property.

For its part, the Israeli government on Sunday announced the approval of some 500 new housing units in the west bank, in the settlements of Gush Etzion, Ma’ale Adumim, Ariel, and Kiryat Sefer.

In the attack, which took place late last Friday night, two sons, aged 8 and 2, were spared, apparently because they were sleeping in a side room that escaped attention. A daughter, Tamar, 12, returned home late at night from a Bnei Akiva youth program to discover the door to the house was locked. Alarmed, she contacted a neighbor, and they entered the home together and encountered the gory scene.

Volunteers for ZAKA, the Orthodox-run search-and-rescue organization, described the scene shortly after the terror attack as “absolutely horrific.”

“We saw toys lying next to pools of blood, Shabbat clothes covered in blood, and everywhere the smell of death mixing with the aroma of the Shabbat meal,” one volunteer said.

The Fogel family had relocated to Itamar following their removal from the Gush Katif settlement in Gaza, which was part of Israel’s 2005 withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. They had lived for a while in the Jewish west bank city of Ariel before moving to Itamar, which is near the Palestinian city of Nablus.

Danny Dayan, chairman of the Yesha Council settler umbrella group, called the approval of new housing in response to the attack “a small step in the right direction.” He said it was “deeply troubling that it requires the murder of children in the arms of their parents to achieve such an objective.”

At the emotional funerals, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said the Fogel parents personified devotion to the Zionist vision and were pioneers.

JTA Wire Service


Murders of settlers are attacks on all Jews


Itamar’s mayor comes to Englewood, speaks of Fogel family

First-responder addresses students about massacre, settlement life

Rabbi Moshe Goldsmith, mayor of Itamar, the west bank settlement where five members of the Fogel family were murdered March 11, shows students a slide show about life in the town. Photos by Jerry Szubin

Rabbi Moshe Goldsmith was in synagogue last month when he saw, he said on Tuesday, “three times, a white light” surrounding Udi Fogel, who was killed, along with four family members, the next day.

“Martyrs of Israel, those who give their lives for Israel, have the highest place in heaven,” Goldsmith said.

The mayor of Itamar, where the Fogels were murdered, shared this and other details about the west bank settlement with the eighth-grade class at The Moriah School in Englewood. He also spoke at several other area schools, including Torah Academy of Bergen County and Ma’ayanot Yeshiva for Girls, both in Teaneck.

A student asked, “Are you scared to live in Itamar?” Goldsmith answered, “People are brave and strong, but they are cautious. They carry guns and lock their doors. The important thing is to go on living and be happy.”

Goldsmith opened his presentation with a video that provided a snapshot of family life in Itamar. It featured residents talking about their work, growing crops like cucumbers, and also showed a recent event for disabled children. One resident said, “This cucumber grows from the very same soil our ancestors grew [crops] on.”

Afterward, Goldsmith told the children, “We are here to show you Eretz Yisroel is alive. You’ve seen stories of tragedy … but when you open a siddur on Shabbat [you will see] HaShem says, ‘I will stop the desecration, take my people and bring them back to our land…, and make the desert bloom.’”

Leah Goldsmith, his wife, spoke to the children about making aliyah. Though she believes it is God’s will that Jewish people are to be “collected back,” she also believes that it requires effort on the part of Jews. “No bird with wings will come to get you,” she said.

She told the eighth-graders that she and her husband first met as seventh-graders growing up in Flatbush. Together, she said, they have built their life in Israel.

“Eretz Yisroel is a real place,” she said. “When we got there it was rocks and empty. Today it is green, and the land is giving its blessing.” She added, “Each of you has an important role, and we welcome you all to come and visit.”

The initial presentation was followed by a slide show. It showed pictures of the Fogel home, which terrorists broke into on March 11, and also images of the family members who were killed: 3-month-old Hadas, 4-year-old Elad, 11-year old Yoav, and their parents, Udi and Ruth.

Goldsmith said that the murderers broke through the electrical fence that surrounds Itamar. Although the fence is monitored by video camera, the attackers chose a blind spot in the camera’s vision, he said, concluding that they were planning the operation and studying the community, possibly “for months.”

The fence is also wired to detect motion. When it senses something, the town’s security force “sends a Jeep,” Goldsmith said. In this instance, the town’s security force did detect motion and security guards did arrive. But they did not see anyone and assumed the disturbance was due to wild animals that live in the area.

Goldsmith stressed the attackers’ stealth and calculation.

“The terrorists locked the door on the inside and began to massacre the family,” he said. He described the widely reported details of the assaults. Afterward, Goldsmith said, “they ran out a window. They didn’t notice the [other] children [who were] sleeping, or they would have killed them, too.”

Goldsmith explained that he is on the “response team,” a security force in Itamar. Members have special radios they use to alert one another to any disturbance.

“I took my rifle and vest and told my wife Leah to lock the door,” he said. “I walk into the house and I don’t want to look,” he said with a sigh.

He did not share graphic details.

After seeing the devastation, he said, “we ran from house to house to make sure everyone is OK.” Since then, he added, “it’s been one long day … even here in America now.”

He stressed his belief that Itamar is on the “front lines” of fighting to protect the Jewish state.

“People say ‘the settlers,’” he said, seeming to imply that that is used as a derisive term. “But we are here for all of you. Because Israel is there for all Jews around the world.”

He also said that Itamar has sustained a disproportionate number of casualties in attacks on Israelis.

“In the last decade, 22 people of Itamar were murdered for the land of Israel,” he said.

One child asked, “Why did [the killers] go to one house and then just leave and not go on to other houses?”

Goldsmith speculated, “They wanted to do this savagely and quickly. If they had made noise, they would not have gotten away.”

Several boys asked questions about the identities of the perpetrators and whether and how they will be caught.

Goldsmith responded, “God willing, Israel has a very strong army and we’ll catch them.”

This reporter asked if this view of the settlers articulated by Goldsmith — as being on the front lines and protecting other Israelis and Jews worldwide — is part of the belief system that enables Itamar’s residents to live in such a dangerous place.

Goldsmith replied, “No doubt in the world now, there is a struggle between good and evil. The same forces that destroyed the Twin Towers are threatening democracy throughout the world. Unfortunately, this evil is against people who want to live in peace. The people of Itamar represent the Jewish people around the world. We have to drive in bulletproof buses.… We are the ones being targeted on the front lines.”

Leah Goldsmith added, “The media depict where we live as some faraway Oz.… Yes, we are on the front lines, but if you look at a map of Israel, we are actually in the center.”

She later told this reporter, “I am proud to be a settler and to use the term,” adding that in her view, the halutzim — pioneers who created small Jewish communities throughout Israel in the years before 1948 — were in a sense “settlers.”

In a one-on-one interview, Moshe Goldsmith told this reporter, “The deed to the land of Israel is the Bible. When push comes to shove, if we are true believers we have to accept the word of the Creator.”

Asked if there is any truth to the claim that some settlers have antagonized Palestinians, Goldsmith replied, “What happens is [that critics of Israel] take sporadic incidents. The fact that they can name them shows how few they are. Arab terrorists who attack Jews are numerous. You can’t compare the numbers.”

He said that when people feel they are under siege, they may act wrongly. But, he stressed, “even people [in the settler community] who become enraged, they don’t murder.”

He added, “We have no problem with people who want to live in peace. We have a problem with people who sanctify death.”

He said that in his view, in the big picture, “We are the ones being abused. We have given blood for peace and Iran, Hezbollah, and [other extremists in the Arab world] continue [to threaten]…. You have to be blind not to see the truth.”

After the event, several students shared their thoughts about the attack on the Fogel family.

“The first time I heard I was in class learning Torah, when the rabbi showed us a video of CNN,” said Jeremy David, 14. “I was shocked. How could I not know this? Who could kill a 3-month-old baby? I felt a mix of shock, fear, and guilt for not knowing.”

“About the Fogel family, it was sad and uncalled for what happened,” said Jason Goldberg, 14.

“It was unfair; they were innocent people,” said Dan Poleyeff, 14.

“Those terrorists are cowards because they went after kids,” added Benny Weisbrot, 13.


Arrest of two Palestinians for Itamar killings can’t console Fogels’ kin

Marcy OsterWorld
Published: 22 April 2011

JERUSALEM – They came armed with knives and wire cutters looking for a Jewish target.

It was a Friday night, the Shabbat of March 11, and Palestinian teenagers Amjad Awad, 19, and Hakim Awad, 18, both from the Palestinian village of Awarta, hurried through the dark before climbing over the fence of the nearby Jewish settlement of Itamar, in the west bank.

The first house they entered was empty of people, but they found an M-16, magazines and a flak jacket. They took the material with them.

Next they entered the Fogels’ home.

The attack that took place there would shock Israel and reverberate around the world.

First they murdered 11-year-old Yoav and his 4-year-old brother, Elad. They continued on to the bedroom where the children’s parents, Ruth and Udi, were sleeping with 3-month-old Hadas. The Fogels struggled, but to no avail. It wasn’t until the killers heard Hadas cry that they realized a baby was in the room; they murdered her, too.

Before leaving the house, the two men stole another M-16.

Two other Fogel children — sons Roi, 8, and Yishai, 2 — were sleeping in a side bedroom and were spared. A daughter, Tamar, 12, returned home at about midnight from a youth group activity to discover the grisly scene.

Meanwhile, the two killers returned to Awarta on foot and went to the home of Hakim’s uncle, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine member Salah E-Sin Awad, and told him of their attack. The uncle helped them hide the stolen weapons and knives and burn their bloody clothes.

These were the allegations the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office made Sunday, just before Passover, releasing details about the Fogels’ murders after the two Palestinian teens were arrested for the attack. Police said the teens confessed to the killings.

The arrests close a circle but bring no consolation, relatives of the Fogels told Israeli media.

“We are very proud of the state and the security services,” Ruth Fogel’s brother, Yochai Ben Yishai, told the Israeli news outlet Ynet. “But on a personal level, there is no consolation. The pain remains sharp.”

The Israeli military announced Sunday that Israeli security services — including the Israel Defense Forces, the Shin Bet security service, and police — were involved in the teens’ arrest.

“For the family this is not a complete answer, but without it they could not be given even a partial answer,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, adding, “We will reach murderers anywhere.”

Amjad, who worked as a laborer in Israel, and Hakim, a high school student, were arrested several days apart earlier this month. Amjad, who is not related to Hakim, reportedly said that he went to Itamar to “die a martyr’s death.”

The suspects have been identified as members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, like their uncle and several members of their families, some of whom were arrested as accomplices. But Israeli authorities said it appears the two murderers did not act on behalf of the terrorist organization.

Dozens of residents of Awarta had been detained by Israeli security services in recent weeks in an effort to identify the Fogels’ murderers.

Awarta village council chief Kais Awad, speaking to Ynet, demanded an international inquiry into the arrests, saying he has “major doubts over the Israeli findings” and that the murder confessions were obtained under duress.

“They’re children; it isn’t possible that they committed this awful act,” he said.

Several Israeli lawmakers from the Likud and National Union parties reportedly called for the death penalty, which has never been used in Israel in terrorism cases. Israel’s only judicial execution was of the Nazi Adolf Eichmann.

JTA Wire Service

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