My safe and peaceful Har Adar

This morning's deadly gunshots punctured my community's longstanding sense of security
Emergency services respond to a terror attack outside the Har Adar settlement near Jerusalem, in which three were killed and one wounded, on September 26, 2017. (Hadas Parush/FLASH90)
Emergency services respond to a terror attack outside the Har Adar settlement near Jerusalem, in which three were killed and one wounded, on September 26, 2017. (Hadas Parush/FLASH90)

I was up early this morning because I wanted to see last night’s Monday Night Football game. The game was recorded, and as I was zipping through timeouts, at about 7 am, I heard a series of gunshots.

My first thought was that it is very early for a wedding. Residents of Har Adar are used to hearing gunfire from celebrations in the neighboring West Bank villages. The nearest villages, Beit Surik and Biddu, are just a few hundred meters from my home, but we are never concerned about safety issues because we have a security fence and some very capable soldiers, border guards and neighborhood security men that stand between us, and them.

Our contact with the neighboring villagers takes place very early in the morning, when those who employ permit-carrying workers from the village drive to the gate to pick them up after they pass through the security fence. We bring the workers to our homes where they are employed as cleaners, handymen or construction workers. At the end of the work day we bring them back to the same gate. During the day, the workers are not permitted to leave our property.

Following today’s attack, about 150 of those workers were rounded up and held at the town’s amphitheater, which only last week was the site of a Beatles cover band performance celebrating Har Adar’s 30th anniversary.

I learned about today’s terror attack when I started receiving messages from friends asking if I was okay. I checked the Times of Israel for news updates, put my dogs Arye and Koby on their leashes and we headed to the site of the attack.

Hundreds of police, border police and special anti-terror units were roaming around on the road leading up the hill to the site. On the way, I passed the town hall, the kindergarten and the school. At the school, all of the kids were standing outside shouting to the soldiers just outside the fence, “We love the IDF.” Not used to the special attention, the soldiers smiled and waved at the children.

I often argue on Facebook with friends from real “settlements” that in Har Adar we have no security problems, because, unlike them, we live behind the security barrier. Indeed there had been no major security incident in Har Adar since 2012 and that event had no fatalities and is hardly remembered by residents. I have lived in the community for about 17 years and I consider Har Adar to be as safe as, or safer than, Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. It’s quiet and peaceful as can be, with the exception of the almost constantly barking dogs.

The first call I made after hearing that there were three Israeli dead was to my tenant who works as a security guard in the community. He was okay, but one of his colleagues was dead. One victim was a soldier and the third, not surprisingly, was a resident of Abu Ghosh. The residents of Har Adar do much of their shopping in the friendly Israeli Arab village of Abu Ghosh.

Looking forward, I imagine that the residents of my “peaceful” community will have to consider that we are not as safe as we thought we were just yesterday. Palestinians from the three nearby villages will be unemployed for a while, and we will all be mourning the three victims who died while trying to make the rest of us feel safe.

About the Author
Steve Leibowitz is a veteran journalist who moved from the U.S. to Israel in 1974. He is the president of American Football in Israel and the director of Kraft Family Stadium.