By Nehemia Gershuni-Aylho’s count, there were more than 100 incidents of terror and violence directed against Israel’s Jewish citizens and the country’s security forces in the first five days of 2016 alone.
A data analyst gaining recognition for his statistical studies of Israel’s politics and security environment, Gershuni-Aylho is meticulous in his analyses – he graphed, for example, an analysis of 3,672 individual terror attacks in 2015 with such detail that viewers can see what sort of attacks were most prevalent (stone throwings, by a wide margin), the age of the attackers (most were in the 18-21 range) and even which days of the week were more likely to see terror incidents (Friday, followed by Sunday).
Gershuni-Aylho’s work paints a numerical portrait of a country battling terrorism, unable, as yet, to quell the violence. But while Israelis are understandably on edge, and even as security across the country is necessarily being tightened to stop these attacks, some are nonetheless reacting in concerning ways, as two recent examples suggest.
On Jan. 6 in Athens, an Aegean Airlines flight to Tel Aviv was delayed after Jewish Israeli passengers alleged that two Arabs aboard the plane were terrorists. When security personnel re-checked their documents, they found no cause for concern, but even so, as many as 60 or 70 passengers reportedly refused to take their seats. Eventually, the Arab men agreed to leave the plane. One of the Jewish passengers said the Arabs appeared “scary.”
“We’re entitled to express our concerns,” he added.
Two days earlier, Israel’s Channel 10 aired footage of a Jewish resident of Afula threatening “consequences” if Arabs moved to the northern city. When asked whether Arabs should fear for their lives, he answered “Yes.” “We don’t have any problem with the Arabs,” a woman added. “But everyone should just watch over their own territory, and everyone will have a good life.” The man, addressing an Arab interviewee, put it differently. “I don’t want you here,” he said.
These incidents are not the norm in Israel, where in spite of everything, people rarely descend into blatant xenophobia. And on those few occasions when they do, you can always count on Jewish voices to be among the first to denounce those sorts of reactions as antithetical to Judaism and unrepresentative of Israelis and Jews around the world. Still, these events are a stark reminder that in order to be a light unto the nations, we must be a light unto ourselves.
Ruti Tehrani, a 54-year-old bus driver in Tel Aviv, clearly understands that. Last week, she was driving the Tel Aviv-to-Petach Tikvah route when Jewish passengers demanded an Arab man on the bus be removed. Tehrani investigated the situation and discovered that the man was ill, not, as some passengers claimed, acting suspiciously. She refused to move him and told the complainants that they could exit the bus if they were still concerned. According to reports, more than a few did.
“Here… everyone’s equal – Jews and Arabs,” Tehrani later told Israel’s
Channel 2. “My upbringing was to respect everyone and not discriminate against anyone.”
“I’m aware of the current security situation, but there’s a limit to everything.”