But murder at the doorstep
[Gush Etzion] — Three terror attacks had been perpetrated by Palestinians against Israelis in the West Bank on Sunday, and it was still only 3 pm.
The spate of violence followed a bloody weekend in which 5 Israelis were killed in two separate attacks on Friday, and 4 Israelis were stabbed and wounded Saturday night in the southern Israeli city of Kiryat Gat.
A twenty year-old woman, Hadar Buchris from Safed (Tzfat) was killed when she was stabbed in the head while waiting at the popular hitchhiking post at Gush Etzion, a bloc of communities located several miles south of Jerusalem. The attacker was shot and killed by a waiting soldier.
This is the junction from where three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped in June, 2014, setting off the violence that led to the 5-week-long Gaza War last summer.
Last Thursday afternoon, a drive-by shooter killed three men at the same location: a 49-year-old Israeli teacher, an 18-year-old student from Massachusetts on a gap year program in Israel and a 24-year-old Palestinian who was waiting at the same stop.
Half an hour before the attack that killed the young woman, the area was surprisingly serene. Jewish and Arab workers loitered, joking and smoking, outside the Rami Levy supermarket, teasing an armed guard, Shalom, for his Peruvian appearance. “Hola,” one said. “I’m Indian,” he retorted, referring to his grandparents’ place of birth.
Suddenly, a dark-skinned man in a tight grey t-shirt barreled through, yelling, in Arabic, “Where’s the meat?!” The group of men dissolved in laughter. It turned out to be the punch-line of an inside joke, and the barrel-chested man in question, Nimrod Cohen, a Jew, is a distributor for Carmel Wines. He pulled one of his Arab buddies aside to tell him a private joke: “The other day in Jerusalem, this Jew said to me, ‘I want us to blow up the mosque.’ So I said, ‘OK, blow it up, and the Western Wall with it!’” He friend laughed lightly.
“See what I mean?” he added to The Media Line “If both are gone, the mosque and the wall — get it? Now go convince [Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu.”
Despite the attacks, and the consequent pressure faced by the supermarket chain’s owner, Rami Levy, to dismiss his Arab workers, the supermarket’s deputy manager, Yinon Gutman, says “everything is normal.” Shoppers? Employees? “Everything is the same.”
A security guard who has worked at the locale since its opening six years ago, agreed: “nothing’s changed.” Dror Sharabi, a tour guide who was returning to his home in the Gush Etzion community of Alon Shvut after several days away, averred that there were “somewhat fewer shoppers than you’d usually see here on a Sunday.”
The market was sparsely populated, but it was midday on the first work day of the week.
“Some Palestinians have stopped coming to shop here,” he said. “They are also afraid. They’re even more afraid, actually.”
This was followed by a shriek as he faced the cheese counter: “There’s no 9% cheese! That’s my biggest problem!”
Khalil Abu Farrah, a resident of nearby Bethlehem, has been working in the cheese department for the past year and a half. “What good would come of it if the Arab workers are fired?” he asked. Sharabi looked up at him: “Look at him—what a sweetheart.”
The terror attacks circle ever closer to the supermarket but have yet to penetrate its perimeter. No customers or employees have ever been involved, as perpetrators or as victims, in terror attacks.
Dina Hartuv, 28, an elementary school teacher and a mother of two, told The Media Line that she has, at times, since the start of terror attacks last month, consolidated several days’ shopping into a single supermarket visit. A friends of hers, she recalled, “once walked into the supermarket and turned around and left. She was terrified.”
Hartuv said, “You can’t help it, you imagine someone jumping out and knifing you from behind.”
It is not Paris, and it is not a generalized lockdown like in Brussels, but the fear of personal, intimate terror is constant, shadowing the rhythm of the attacks themselves.
Earlier Sunday, stabbing and car-ramming attacks at the West Bank Israeli community of Maale Adumim and the Shomron Junction ended with no Israelis wounded, and one terrorist dead.
The Gush Etzion supermarket serves an upscale population. Many American brands line its shelves, among them over twelve varieties of Dijon mustard. Shalom Hurwitz, 40, an adverting and marketing executive originally from Johannesburg, South Africa, was loading a cart with chocolate confections for his children, one of whom accompanied him on his rounds. Their quick shopping expedition was, he said, a result of both “convenience and ideology. It was on our way. I’m not going to disrupt my life.”
Mr. Hurwitz has a gift for the pithy statement. “There is a slight feeling of apprehension because there are Arabs here and the majority of terrorists are Arab, though the majority of Arabs are not terrorists.”
“The Palestinians should not be allowed on our roads, at least for a while,” he said, adding that “there is no point in marketing Israel to the world. They’ll always find something wrong.”
“There are no perfect solutions in an imperfect world,” he concluded, adding that journalists asking questions are “all idiots.”
This sentiment seemed to be a matter of consensus in the West Bank, where Jewish residents feel misunderstood by much of the world, and offended by new European Union regulations requiring their products to be listed as produced in a “territory occupied by Israel.”
Across the street from the supermarket, at an organic boutique shop, an American man buying several kilos of dried, sliced apples for his son’s bar mitzvah replied to the question, “Where are you from?” with a raised middle finger.
Israeli police and emergency personnel stand in an intersection the Gush Etzion bloc, south of Bethlehem on December 1, 2014.