Earlier this month a Palestinian tried to run over an Israeli soldier at a roadblock near Hebron in the West Bank. Other soldiers fired at the driver, who was wounded, taken to hospital, and died there.
It turns out that the Palestinian, Tharwat Ibrahim al-Sha’rawi, was a 72-year-old woman. The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC), in a report on the incident, says she was a mother of five, and it can safely be assumed that she was a grandmother as well.
Tharwat al-Sha’rawi was the widow of a terrorist killed by Israeli fire near Hebron in 1988, and a son-in-law of hers is a Hamas member now imprisoned in Israel. A knife was found in a bag inside the car she drove. And “two weeks before her death,” the ITIC notes,
Tharwat al-Sha’rawi wrote a will and spoke with her daughter Ihlam. She said the following: “I think I am going to die soon.… If I die, oh, Allah, let me die as a shaheeda and not in my bed” (Shasha.ps, November 8, 2015).
Even in the world of today’s terrorism, now very much in the spotlight after the Paris massacres, Tharwat al-Sha’rawi’s age and personal status would appear to make her unique.
If so, she is hardly the Palestinians’ first innovation. They did much to pioneer the phenomenon of the female terrorist with figures like Leila Khaled and Dalal Mughrabi. They also were the pioneers of airline terror, still very much with us as in the downing of the Russian plane over Sinai.
To this record of inventiveness can now be added: the grandmother-terrorist.
And the latest wave of Palestinian anti-Israeli terrorism has seen yet another novelty: the lone-wolf child-terrorist.
If “child” is defined as someone under 18 years old, then this phenomenon is not so new; there already were “child” suicide bombers in the Second Intifada, and there have been several teenage stabbers in the current wave. But an attack last Tuesday managed to go one-up on the teen-terrorist phenomenon.
Riding the light rail in the northern Jerusalem neighborhood of Pisgat Ze’ev, 14-year-old Muawiyyeh Alkam and his 11-year-old cousin, Ali Alkam, both also from Jerusalem, carefully watched the guard on the train, then drew their knives and pounced on him. The guard, who was lightly wounded, managed to shoot and wound Ali Alkam, while Muawiyyeh Alkam was pinned down by passengers until the police arrived (report and video here).
The next day, 14-year-old Muawiyyeh told police that the boys’ aim was to “kill Jews,” and that the attack was meant to be revenge for another cousin (age 19) who was shot dead in Jerusalem on October 10 after stabbing two security officers. Based on Muawiyyeh’s confession, a Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court extended his remand by a week.
As for 11-year-old Ali, he’s recuperating smoothly in Jerusalem’s Hadassah-University Medical Center. Under current Israeli law, which sets no penalties for people of his age, Ali—murderous hatred, revenge wishes and all—will soon be walking free. Anat Berko, a Likud member of Knesset who is a terrorism expert, has tabled a bill to lower the minimum age of imprisonment for terror offenses.
Overall, in the terror wave that started on October 1, 14 Israelis have been killed and close to 200 wounded. Compared to the Second Intifada (2000-2004, 1000 killed), the casualty rate is still low. In between the Second Intifada and the current wave, Israel has also fought a war with Hizballah in Lebanon, been hit by thousands of rockets from Gaza and fought three wars with Gaza-based Hamas, along with numerous other terror attacks of various kinds.
How are Israelis holding up? Last week a survey by the Israel Democracy Institute made waves with, among other findings, the datum that 84.3% of Israeli Jews—and 83.4% of Arab citizens of Israel—say they would not emigrate even if offered citizenship by another Western country.
Although the survey was taken before the latest terror wave began, there is no reason to think those figures would have been much affected by it, since Israelis have a record of remarkable grit and resilience going back to the establishment of besieged Israel in 1948, and earlier when the prestate community was also under attack.
Those attempting to understand—and there are many of them—the “Israeli-Palestinian conflict” or “Israeli-Arab conflict” would be wise to begin from a standpoint of humility. Hatred that drives a grandmother, or a child, to indiscriminately ram and stab is nearly unfathomable. A whole industry of attempts—particularly Israeli and American—at compromise and conciliation have not put a dent in it.
Also nearly unfathomable is resolve and love of one’s homeland and country so great that it stands firm against the horrors and atrocities.