Zichron Yaakov is a picturesque Israeli town near the coast, situated between Haifa and Netanya. It is one of the oldest settled areas in modern Israel, and its quaint stone-paved streets, combined with wineries and stores displaying local artists’ wares and Israeli fashion makes it a favorite destination.
It is in the town of Zichron Yaakov that two families lived, nearly as neighbors, although they never met each other until common tragedies united them – the first tragedy being when each family lost a member to terrorist murders by Arab Israelis. And now another tragedy looms: the potential release of those murderers in a political deal with no reciprocity at all from the other side.
In November, 1980 Corporal Avraham Bromberg was 10 minutes outside of Hadera on his way home to Zichron Yaakov, when he took a ride from the wrong Israelis. These two, Israeli Arabs, members of Fatah, kidnapped Bromberg and later shot him at point blank range. Then they dumped him out by the side of the road to die.
It took three years, but the Israeli Defense Forces and the Shabak captured Bromberg’s two murderers: Karim and Mahir Younis. Karim was a student at Ben Gurion University when he was arrested.
The Younis men were brought to trial. All three judges imposed the death penalty for all three defendants.
But, as Avi Bromberg, the nephew born one year after Avraham’s murder told The Jewish Press, the death penalty has rarely been carried out in Israel’s history. On appeal, the death sentences for Mahir and Karim Younis were commuted to life imprisonment.
But the commutation was not enough for the Younis family, which has been disappointed by Israel’s treatment of Karim and Mahir. You see, the family hoped that their relatives would be part of the Shalit prisoner exchange.
“My brother has been in jail for 26 years. Even a life sentence has its limits – it’s like that all over the world. It’s only here that we’re treated differently… if this is a democracy than the law should apply to everyone equally,” is what Nadim Younis said at the time the Shalit exchange was first being discussed.
While it is unlikely that anyone in the Israeli government was persuaded by Nadim Younis’s twisted reasoning, perhaps someone had noticed that at least one Israeli was sympathetic to the murdering Younis mishpocha.
Writing in Haartetz in October, 2011, Gideon Levy wrote movingly about an “Israeli Arab, Karim Younis, who provided transportation to Maher Younis who in turn killed a soldier, has been sitting in jail for 29 years without a single furlough, without a single phone call, even without any reduction in his sentence.” Levy was castigating Israel for only expressing joy at the release of Gilad Shalit and his reunification with his family, yet failing to rejoice with the families in Gaza whose sons were returning home to them.
Speaking with The Jewish Press on Monday, Avi Bromberg revealed something that had not been discussed before. His uncle, Avraham, and one of the Younis murderers, were in high school together in Hadera.
Avi was speaking by telephone with The Jewish Press while sitting with a brother of another Zichron Yaakov family member who had been murdered by Israeli Arabs – also three cousins from the Arara Valley – ten years after Avi Bromberg’s murder.
NIGHT OF THE PITCHFORKS
When Guy Friedman entered the IDF in 1990, his original unit was with the Navy SEALs, but due to a leg injury he was subsequently transferred to a regular combat unit. Late in the night of February 14, 1992, as he slept, three Israeli Arabs infiltrated the base near Mt. Carmel at which Friedman’s Nahal unit was conducting training exercises.
The infiltrators used axes and pitchforks to hack to death Friedman and two fellow soldiers, Yakov Duvinsky and Yuri Perda. This attack shocked Israel both because of the brutality of the murders, but also because the killers were Israeli citizens. All three were members of the terrorist group Islamic Jihad.
These Arab Israeli murderers, also from the infamous Arara Valley, were tried and convicted. The judges hearing the trial found all three deserved three consecutive life sentences.
The Friedman family and the Bromberg family, united in a brotherhood of murdered kin they wish they never heard of, desperately hope and pray that Israel does not go back on the words they have held close to their hearts - in a place where Guy and Avraham can no longer be held- that their murderers will suffer the consequences of their actions.
On Sunday, July 28, dozens of Israelis rallied in protest against the government’s decision to release the prisoners. Yaron Friedman explained to The Jewish Press that they fervently oppose the release of the terrorists, especially as “the Arabs are not giving up anything.”
“To release terrorists will only lead to an increase in terrorism, and never to peace,” Friedman said. Members of the Friedman and Bromberg families were at the Sunday protest. A news clip from the protest is at the end of this article.
“Since the Shalit release, 44 prisoners have been re-arrested. These people were not in prison for violating traffic signals, they are murderers, cold-blooded murderers,” Friedman explained.
It is particularly galling to think that Israeli Arab terrorists will be released, both Friedman and Bromberg explained. “They use their Israeli IDs and Israeli rights but they don’t care about Israel,” they said.
“We will remain united because we must stop the release of Israeli Arabs.”
Both men and other families of murder victims intend to continue pelting the members of the Israeli government with information and pleas and demands.
“Now is the time to make waves,” Friedman said. “It is not yet too late, it will not be too late until the prison doors are opened.”
About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.
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