Sorrow and terror swept the state after a Palestinian gunman murdered eight students and wounded 40 others in a Jewish school in Jerusalem on March 6. Alaa Hisham Abu Dheim, the man suspected in the attack, worked as a driver at Mercav Harav Yeshiva. He traveled by foot to the yeshiva at around 8:45 p.m. wearing a long coat that concealed a Kalashnikov automatic rifle and a weapons belt. Upon reaching the school, he shot the security guard and walked into a library where students were just finishing their prayers. He then opened fire on the crowded library of at least 80 people. Reports state that Abu Dheim then walked around the library to shoot wounded boys in order to verify they were dead before moving on.
The massacre continued for 10 minutes before Yitzhak Dadon, a student and military officer, climbed a balcony and waited for the attacker to emerge. “I lay on the roof of the study hall, cocked my gun and waited for him. He came out of the library spraying automatic fire,” Dadon said. When the attacker emerged, he shot the gunman in the head to put the terror to an end. When authorities arrived on the scene, they found six empty clips of ammunition on the floor. Yerach Tuccer, one of the first medics on the scene, said the inside of the library looked like a slaughterhouse. “The most terrible thing was to see young guys lying on the ground still holding the Torah,” he said.
Photos and videos of the library show floors, books and Torah scrolls soaked with blood. One video shows handguns and an automatic rifle on a floor drenched with blood and bullets. Survivors of the carnage described students screaming and jumping out of windows to avoid being killed. Ephraim Friedman, a student from England, said, “there were people running in all directions, people screaming from the balcony, innocent civilians. And [people] still don’t understand why we go into Gaza to root out the terrorists who direct these attacks. … Whenever we try to defend ourselves, the world screams.”
It is reported that a second gunman accompanied Abu Dheim, but this is unverified. Abu Dheim was a Palestinian resident of Israel in possession of an Israeli Identification Card, which allowed him to move freely in Israel. The fact that the attack came within Israel’s own borders has raised great concern.Traumatized and sobbing students barred from re-entering the school gathered outside and chanted “Death to Arabs.” This reaction was too harsh, but they were schoolboys dealing with the aftermath of a massacre, one that occurred simply because they supported ideas that someone else didn’t agree with.
The school shootings were the finale to a bloody day of terrorist attacks that began with the explosion of an Israel Defense Forces patrol jeep along the Gaza border after it passed over a 50-kilogram road bomb. Nine Qassam rockets were also fired into the town of Sderot, but thankfully no injuries or deaths resulted. Funeral proceedings for the eight murdered students took place Friday morning. Thousands attended while grieving students of all ages comforted each other. Meanwhile, Palestinians in the Middle East were jubilant about the attack and celebrated by marching through the streets and firing weapons into the air. Some launched mortars due to the excitement of the Columbine and Virginia Tech-like shootings.
I was reminded of something Amir Abdel Malik Ali said during the “Gears of War” event last March … something about how Hezbollah and Hamas are honorable people who deserve respect. Let me tell you something, Ali. I understand that we have different viewpoints and that there are a number of things we disagree on, and I am all for progressive debate. However, I’ve got news for you. Attacking and targeting civilians is not honorable, and celebrating the deaths of young men does not deserve respect. You have no business coming to our campus and tainting ignorant minds with misinformation about how Hezbollah and Hamas want peace in the Middle East when they are celebrating the deaths of children.
The attack has drawn condemnations from all over the world, including Russia, Germany and Jordan. President George W. Bush assured Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that the United States “stands firmly with Israel in the face of this terrible attack,” and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon condemned what he called a “savage attack.” Unfortunately, an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council could not agree on issuing a statement when Libya demanded support for a resolution condemning Israeli retaliations in Gaza.
President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority has also stated that he “[condemns] all attacks that target civilians, whether they are Palestinian or Israeli.” However, the joyous Palestinian reaction to the murder of the students has overshadowed this statement. Hamas militants have praised the school shootings in a public statement. Police and Israeli secret service have been investigating a claim of responsibility by an unknown group called the “Martyrs of Imad Mughneih.” Mughnieh, a Hezbollah commander, was assassinated last month by a car bomb, an attack that Hezbollah has blamed Israel for.
The school shootings came on the same day that Egyptian officials tried to instigate a truce between Palestinian militants and Israel. The U.S.-backed proposal would stop rocket fire on Israeli civilians in exchange for Israel ceasing to attack Palestinian militants. It would also restore trade and travel from Gaza. Many Palestinians are averse to the idea of a peaceful compromise with Israel and have strategically timed attacks in order to disrupt peace talks in the past. Accordingly, Thursday’s tragic events have triggered calls by right-wing Israelis to drop the peace talks with Abbas, but Israel has stated that it plans to go ahead with the peace talks as planned.
“It’s sad … these kids hadn’t even lived a full life [and] didn’t deserve to die,” said an anonymous second-year Asian-American studies major. An anonymous second-year studio art major added that “it should be worked out as a group because the conflict is not just between individuals; it’s idiotic that one person thinks going into a school and killing eight people is going to solve anything.” A candlelight vigil took place the Tuesday after the shootings. Those present recited Jewish prayers for the deceased, a fast recovery for the wounded and healing for the grieving.
AE Anteater is a second-year English major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.