Frightened by the wave of anti-Semitism in France, Janine Solomon moved to the quiet Israeli suburb of Ra’anana two years ago. Standing in a crowd of frightened and angry residents on the town’s main street in the aftermath of the first of two stabbing attacks in the city on Tuesday morning, she joined their chorus of protests and cries for revenge.
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“We came here to feel safe. Now my children refuse to walk to school alone, just like they did in Paris. It’s like France here now. It’s dangerous!”
There was angry and emotional chatter around the scene of the attack from new immigrants like Solomon in French, Spanish and English alongside the shouts in Hebrew as the ambulances carrying the victim and the terrorist made their way to the hospital on the city’s main artery, Achuza Street, which had been closed off to all traffic.
Police and security personnel had taken the wounded terrorist and surrounded him, protecting him from the furious bystanders, until the ambulance arrived and he could be put inside - a process that took nearly an hour. As he was wheeled into the ambulance, the angry shouts rang out, “Take him straight to the cemetery, forget about the hospital!”
The hero of the moment was real estate agent Michael Rahavi. When Rahavi heard the screams of the stabbing victim at the bus stop in front of his Achuza Street office, steps away from the bus stop where the assault was taking place, he grabbed the first useful object he saw in his office - an umbrella - dashed out and used it to subdue the attacker until police arrived minutes later. Rahavi said that “I hit him with it and others kicked him,” he said. “If I had a gun, I would have fired.”
The terror attack and its aftermath is a scene that is depressingly familiar in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv or the West Bank, but until recent weeks, have been extremely rare and nearly alien to those who chose to live in places like Ra’anana, Holon, or Afula - which are neither major cities, nor settlements on contested land. Ra’anana in particular is a magnet for thousands of well-heeled immigrants from across the world - South Africa, the United States, Great Britain, and most recently, France, looking for a peaceful place to raise families.
Both immigrants and locals in Ra’anana, during previous waves of attacks, joked regularly that their suburban home is simply too boring to be of interest to terrorists, and most heave a sigh of relief as they arrive home safely from Tel Aviv or Jerusalem.
But Tuesday morning’s events shattered any sense of immunity from the unrest that is rocking the rest of the country. The bubble of illusory security had burst.
As the crime scene tape was removed, the blood washed from the sidewalk, and Achuza street reopened to traffic, Ra’anana Mayor Ze’ev Bielski stood in the middle it, speaking to the press reassuringly promising to quickly restore order.
Next to him, the stunned and angry residents of his city stood around and scoffed. “Only God can keep us safe now,” said one. Another said that only one measure could make him feel secure. “Put a checkpoint at the entrance to Ra’anana,” he said. “No Arabs allowed.”
Read the latest analyses and opinions on the escalating violence throughout Israel and the West Bank: After years of calm, fear is dividing Jerusalem (Nir Hasson) | Israel's 'Mr. Security' tells nation 'it could be worse’ as terror attacks multiply (Yossi Verter) | War-weathered Israelis feeling helpless in wake of 'unpredictable' attacks (Judy Maltz)