It took me three minutes on foot to reach the promenade that overlooks the Old City of Jerusalem on Sunday. From my Armon HaNatziv apartment in Jerusalem, a phone call woke me, and my brain registered the sirens. Panic. I threw bandages into my purse and began to run.
The driver of a large flatbed truck, Palestinian Arab Fadi al-Qanbar, left his four children without a father to murder four other children, forcing their mothers and fathers to bury them yesterday. I was there; I was at 22-year-old Shir Hajaj’s funeral at Mount Herzl Military Cemetery. I heard her mother or sister screaming and her father praying.
Al-Qanbar may not have known who specifically he was going to target but he premeditated this attack; he had stolen Israeli license plates, fixing them to his vehicle so that he could reach his target undeterred.
The Palestinian Authority’s PalTimes posted the video that has now circulated only in right-wing international media outlets, of Arabs passing out sweets to commuters in celebration of this terror attack. In contrast, BBC featured its disturbing bias on Twitter, writing, “Driver of lorry shot in Jerusalem after allegedly ramming pedestrians, injuring at least 15, Israeli media report.” No count of the Israeli fatalities, just blame shifting and headline deception at its most sinister.
Furthermore, rather than reporting about the young Israeli victims, BBC ran after an interview with Abu Ali, al-Qanbar’s uncle, featuring it on their news site with the headline: “Jerusalem attack: Uncle of the lorry driver speaks out.” Their story lead points to “repercussions” in al-Qanbar’s neighborhood, making the terrorist’s family into the victims of the story, again ignoring the Jewish victims. According to Israellycool, in a Jan. 9 report, the “BBC’s current text article only includes the Israeli attack victims by way of quoting an IDF tweet and including a screenshot of the tweet.”
The New York Times also did a disservice to Shir’s father, Herzl Hajaj, quoting him to say: “These are our children. We send them to the army; we know they might not return.” It might be seen as heartless without Hajaj’s final few words: “But to tell you that I believed it would happen to me? Never.”
Shir was one of four young, non-combat Israeli soldiers who were murdered by a Palestinian Arab terrorist two days ago, while on an educational trip to learn about the culture of Jerusalem. The other three, Erez Orbach, Shira Tzur and Yael Yekutiel, were all only 20 years old. Erez was also American, as are both Shira’s parents. In the wake of the attack, the spokesman of Gaza’s leading political party and internationally listed terror group Hamas, Abdul-Latif Qanou, called al-Qanbar’s murders a “heroic” act and charged P.A. Arabs to “escalate.”
By the time I reached the Armon HaNatziv Promenade on Suday, contingents from the Israeli army and the Israel Police, Magen David Adom medics, ZAKA rescuers and other volunteers had streamed to the beautiful vantage point, where piles of backpacks and purses had been gathered and were being covered in respectable plastic. Exposed at the edge of another sheet, a hand lay on the ground. And through the uniforms and emergency vehicles, a small woman plodded, perhaps uncertainly, down the road toward home, with a new bag of toilet paper and a plastic grocery bag hanging from her hands.
A religious Jewish boy with black ringlets falling on his cheeks sat on his bicycle, watching the crane that had been brought in to raise the industrial truck off at least three of the victims. al-Qanbar had sped his truck toward the crowd of IDF cadets milling beside their tour bus, crushing many as he killed the four mentioned and injured about 15 others. Now, turning the vehicle, he came back and once again drove onto several of the fallen soldiers.
As the truck was circling back, the commanding officers told a second circle of IDF soldiers some feet away, “Don’t look, don’t look!” and many listened and ran. The soldiers’ tour guide, Eitan Rond, and a few of the other soldiers riddled al-Qanbar’s windshield with bullets, stopping the attack.
The physically injured soldiers were already taken by ambulance before I arrived on scene, but there remained many young Israelis fighting shock, fear and trauma.
Erin shivered violently as I held her, sitting on the promenade wall. Her green IDF uniform was not warm enough to fight back the January wind or the shock that blew through her body. An Israeli medic knelt in front of her and helped her slow her breathing; another came a few minutes later with a trauma jacket, and Erin’s fingers shook as I told her to zip the jacket closed, reaching to help her. “I’m sorry this happened,” I said, and was silent. How could I say, “Everything will be OK”? Erin lost close friends this week. She almost lost her life.
Within a day, thousands had gathered in Gaza to celebrate the murderous attack, hundreds of green Hamas flags scattered throughout the crowd. I’m grateful to say that in contrast, on Monday night, Germany illuminated the Brandenburg Gate with the Israeli flag. How I would have loved to see the White House similarly clothed.
As we all begin to understand the global threat of terrorism, it is on us to speak out and to act. Please stand with the citizens of Israel as they seek life and not death, peace and not fear. Please remember Shira, Shir, Erez and Yael.