A Jerusalem Day attack on Jews near the community of Maale HaZeitim in the Arab Ras al Amoud neighborhood has increased tension between Jews and Muslims in the region, amid intensified demands from Jewish residents that Jerusalem police forces crack down on threats to security.
At approximately 10pm on Wednesday night, as the music of the celebrated flag-dancing “Rikudegalim” festivities in Jerusalem’s Old City reverberated on the Mount of Olives, a family returning from Jerusalem Day celebrations was brutally attacked in their car by 5-7 Arab men throwing large pieces of stone and firing firecrackers at the vehicle from the traffic circle preceding the entrance to Maale HaZeitim. Most of the men wore kefiyyehs and other face coverings.
The traffic circle at the top of Ras al-Amoud, lined with an Arab restaurant, billiard hall, hair salon, produce store, mini-market, and taxi company dispatch center, has become a haven for terrorist activity against Jewish families, with Arab attackers hiding out behind a large green dumpster located at the far end of the circle. Despite statements by store owners that they are not involved in the attacks, periodic assaults have reached a new level recently, with little children and other pedestrians being targeted by the terrorists.
The traffic circle is the only way to reach the Maale HaZeitim neighborhood from western Jerusalem, and despite the vulnerability of families there and their repeated reports to police of problems in their neighborhood, the Jerusalem municipality has not stationed a regular police presence on the site. And despite occasional visits by border police and city police to Maale HaZeitim, the traffic circle 30-40 yards away from the neighborhood has remained dangerous, as security forces cannot see the circle from the neighborhood, nor reach it in time to stop an ongoing attack.
According to reports by the attacked family, the car ahead of them, driven by an Arab, slowed down during the duration of the attack, in order to prevent them from getting away. While the family suffered no physical injuries, their car suffered serious damage.
Border police were called in, arriving approximately 15-20 minutes later. When they arrived, residents reported that they remained at the entrance of the community, until a few insistent residents urged them to go out to secure the circle on behalf of the many children and teenagers who would be returning by foot from Jerusalem Day celebrations in the Old City, just a 20 minute walk away.
Despite no emergency warning system in the community, news of the attack quickly spread between neighbors. Approximately 20 minutes after the attack took place, some 15 to 20 men from the community walked to the circle and remained there for an undetermined amount of time. No violence was reported.
Residents expressed outrage that guards stationed at the entrance to the neighborhood were aware of the masked men, but did nothing to either warn residents of the danger of travelling at the circle, or to remove the threat from the area.
“Instead of installing two or three cameras that will protect the people that are visiting the graves on the Mount of Olives, the government wired the mount of olives with hundreds of cameras protecting the dead, but where are the cameras protecting the living people? It’s insane that after tens of cars and pedestrians in the last few months have ben stoned from the same place and from the same street, the police are not stopping it,” Aryeh King, veteran resident of Maale HaZeitim and CEO of the Israel Land Fund told the Jewish Press. “There’s no question that if the police and the authorities responsible for the security of the Mount of Olives really wanted, they could have stopped it a long time ago.”
“What happened last night, that on the day of the liberation and the unification of Jerusalem, it took more than 20 minutes for police to get to the place where Jews were being stoned, when at the same time there were thousands of police securing this special day in other parts of the city, is something that is unacceptable,” King said. “Whoever cares about the Mount of Olives and for the people that are visiting the Mount of Olives, their voices need to be heard.”
Shani Hikind, the executive vice president of American Friends of Ateret Cohanim, and the honoree of Monday night’s 3rd annual Ateret Cohanim Yom Yerushalayim Dinner, told the Jewish Press that the Jews of New York and across the world “cannot abide” attacks against Jews in Jerusalem. “On behalf of Jews throughout the world, we deplore any acts of violence directed toward any citizen in Jerusalem. Nothing will be accomplished by efforts to intimidate and physically harm people in the capital of Israel,” Hikind said. “Jerusalem will always be the united capital of our beloved Israel, and we are happy to celebrate Yom Yerushalyaim in New York City this evening.” Her organization would respond to the attacks by “strengthening Jewish communities and neighborhoods throughout the capital – building more houses, bringing in more families.”
According to a report by Israel HaYom, there has been a drastic 50 percent drop in the number of Jewish burials taking place on the Mount of Olives since the 1967 Six Day War. The report revealed that taxi drivers from all over Israel sent a letter to the police commissioner stating that they would not drive through the region during certain hours of the day, for fear of risking their lives and their sources of livelihood.
Though local Arab residents of Jerusalem have resorted to violence and fear tactics in order to drive out the Jewish residents of the Mount of Olives, the number of requests for information on renting and buying in the area have increased. Ir David’s mountaintop apartment building, “the Choshen”, is full, and only a handful of apartments remain open for rental in Maale HaZeitim, a project of Dr. Irving and Cherna Moskowitz, Ateret Cohanim, and Kedumim3000. Across the street, new residents are beginning to move into apartments in Maalot David, a recently-completed residential project on the site of the former Mount of Olives police station. Plans are in place to erect 100 more apartments for Jewish residents adjacent to the site.
About the Author: Malkah Fleisher is a graduate of Cardozo Law School in New York City. She is an editor/staff writer at JewishPress.com and co-hosts a weekly Israeli FM radio show. Malkah lives with her husband and two children on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.
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