Dealing with the Intistaba

In this issue of the newsletter we discuss the lone wolf attacks on Israelis (Intistaba) and the compromise reached at the Kotel on prayer spaces for all.

The most vexing problem facing Israel today is the Intistaba – Palestinian lone wolves, often teenagers, trying to kill Israelis by stabbing or plowing into them with cars. David Horovitz wrote a column on the Intistaba in the January 27 edition of the Times of Israel which impressed me. How often does a columnist ask others to suggest solutions to an issue that he has raised?

Horovitz goes through the motions of suggesting the usual solutions; an end to incitement, re-educating Palestinian youth etc etc. as possible ways to to solve the problem in the long run. He ends by writing, ‘There may be better ideas than these. In fact, I’m sure there are. Let’s hear them. Let’s consider them. Let’s act on the smartest. Not for the first time, it must be said, we find ourselves in the midst of a lose-lose war with the Palestinians. Many of them seem to want to kill us more than they want their independence; many of them seem to hate us more than they love their children. We can shrug and despair about the awfulness of it all. We can argue and bitch and sneer and call each other names. Or we can look at the fresh graves of Dafna Meir and Shlomit Krigman, and insist on finding the most effective ways to prevent the unconscionable loss of more wonderful people.’

In the January 22 issue of YnetNews, Elior Levy describes Palestinian efforts to control the Intistaba. In view of Palestinian incitement, and since the stabbings and car rammings continue, it is hard to take these efforts seriously.

He goes on to describe how the glorification of the young stabbers from the village of Sair – home to 13 stabbers – leads to more stabbers. Levy quotes a Palestinian official, “When a young Palestinian is killed in a terror attack, they set up a mourning tent. Next to the tent they put a loudspeaker, which cries out non-stop: ‘The heroic martyr, the heroic martyr!’ They put up heroic pictures of the killed teenager with the Al-Aqsa mosque behind him. “All the kids see and hear everything. What do you think it does to them? They’re children who suddenly grasp how much respect their friend or cousin is getting, so they go out and commit the next attack,” the official continued.

Perhaps one way to reduce the stabbings is to change that narrative. Maybe a lot more of what the IDF has been doing would be effective. It put Sair under a two week closure in January after it became a breeding ground for stabbers. Instead of two week closures, two month closures might be more effective. If instead of hearing shouts of ‘the heroic martyr’, Palestinian youth were then to hear – ‘That stupid little s o b accomplished nothing trying to kill an Israeli. Incompetent fool that he was, all that he did was get himself killed and make life miserable for the rest of us. With all of the new checkpoints, it takes most of a day to get anywhere.’

There are those who will argue that this is ‘collective punishment’. My response is – call it what you like – saving the lives of Israelis and young Palestinian would-be stabbers is a good thing!

Some problems do get solved. YnetNews of January 31 reports, ‘The government approved on Sunday the creation of a mixed prayer area at the Western Wall in which both men and women can pray together. According to the proposed arrangement, a new prayer area will be set up south of the existing separate prayer areas. The new prayer area will be modeled on the one set up at Robinson’s Arch two years ago where Women of the Wall could worship, and will allow Reform and Conservative Jews to pray according to their custom.’

Why did it take so long? The Ynet article states, ‘The haredim are worried of the precedent set by the plan, which will in effect serve as state recognition of Reforms and Conservatives as legitimate Jewish movements.’ Our American experience is that there is room for all. A free market for ideas pressures everyone to up their game. Do the haredim fear that their ideas will lose out in a free market of ideas?

Providing a prayer space at the Kotel for all streams of Judaism makes all Jews stakeholders in Jerusalem. Recognition of the reform and conservative movements would also be a great idea. They should receive funding from the Israeli government in proportion to their percentage in the Israeli population (which is miniscule).

Paradoxically, acceptance by Israel may weaken those movements. If they no longer have this issue to energize their troops and if (in response to official recognition) the best of their youth makes aliyah, they have a serious problem. The Pew Report on trends in the American Jewish community tells us that the conservative and reform movements are already in serious decline.

In the full edition of the newsletter, we have included an article from the Times of Israel by Jeremy Stern, He writes, ‘Two weeks ago, I rescinded my shul membership. The rabbi had made a public statement against the use of halachic prenuptial agreements. For me, he crossed a red line. I cannot identify with an institution whose religious leader opposes rectifying one of the worst desecrations of G-d’s name that currently plagues the Orthodox community.’ There are no leaders without followers. Voting with our feet is a strategy that could solve the prenup problem quickly. Don’t hold your breath waiting for the Rabbinical Council of America to make a prenup mandatory for all of its members.

About the Author
Richard Chasman, 1934-2018, was a member of the Modern Orthodox community in Chicago. Professionally, he was a theoretical nuclear physicist. Richard, who described his perspective as "centrist," wrote a newsletter for more than 20 years called "Chovevai Tsion of Chicago," on subjects of interest to the Modern Orthodox community.
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