Schools opened Sunday morning amid tight security as security forces continued to hunt through Tel Aviv for a gunman who killed two people and wounded at least eight others at a cafe on Friday.
But it became clear after the first hour that parents of approximately half of the children were too frightened to send their children to school. Of 1600 preschool and kindergarten-age children, only 230 made it to class, and approximately half of all other students stayed home as well, according to the Hebrew-language Ynet site.
Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai reassured parents in a live interview on Galei Tzahal IDF Army Radio that parents who felt insecure about sending their children to school could keep them home.
“It’s okay for you to to keep your children home if you feel unsure,” Huldai said. But he also emphasized that the city had beefed up security around schools and other high-population areas in the wake of Friday’s shooting at a café on Dizengoff Street.
All schools and classes are open, including the preschools and kindergartens, and all school trips and activities are continuing as scheduled. The city raised its alert and added 24-hour patrols as security personnel continue their manhunt for the killer who murdered two and wounded eight others.
Nashat Milhem, 31, is from the northern Israeli Arab village of Ar’ara. He has already served time in an Israeli prison and is also known to be diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder which makes him even more unpredictable. Milhem is still believed to be carrying the assault rifle he allegedly used in the attack on the café.
His family identified him from the video footage broadcast from the attack on media and immediately contacted law enforcement; his father made a public apology, saying, “I am sorry. I did not raise my son this way.”
Residents in the north Tel Aviv neighborhood of Ramat Aviv reported seeing a man who fit Milhem’s description, drawing a large security force to the area.
Personnel from the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet / Shabak) and special ops police units are continuing door-to-door searchers in apartment buildings and construction sites in and around Tel Aviv as they search for Milhem.
Following the Sabbath, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the site of the attack. He praised the statements of support from the Israeli Arab community and condemnations of the attack from Israeli Arab leaders. Netanyahu then turned his attention to Israeli Arab MKs and Islamist clerics who have been responsible for the mixed messages conveyed to the Israeli Arab public. Such messages have, to a great extent, contributed to the incitement that has whipped up the frenzy of hate driving some of the Israeli Arab teens who now are intent upon murdering their fellow Israelis.
Netanyahu stated bluntly that the time has come for Israeli Arab MKs, and by extension, Israeli Arabs, to decide on who they wish to be: Arab Israelis or citizens of the Palestinian Authority.
Hana Levi Julian