Update on the Situation in Israel: Jewish Federations of North America

By on January 29, 2023

Jewish Federations were horrified by the string of terror attacks that took place in Israel over the weekend. In the most deadly attack, seven civilians were shot dead by a Palestinian terrorist in Jerusalem, many as they emerged from synagogue services on Friday night, the 78th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

Jewish Federations of North America put out this statement following the attack, and we mourn the seven victims: 14-year-old Asher Natan, married couple Eli and Natalie Mizrahi, 56-year-old Rephael Ben Eliyahu, 68-year-old Shaul Hai, Ukrainian citizen Irina Korolova and 26-year-old Ilya Sosansky. May their memories be for a blessing. In addition, numerous injured are recovering in hospital. Read here for more about the attack and here about the victims.

That synagogue attack was followed by a second terror attempt a few hours later on Saturday morning near the capital’s Old City, when a 13-year-old Palestinian boy with a hand gun shot Jewish residents on their way home from synagogue services. Two Israelis – a father and son – were injured in the second attack. Later that night, an armed terrorist infiltrated the town of Kedumim but was stopped by security forces, who were on the highest levels of alert, before he managed to carry out an attack.

The latest wave of terror came following increasing tensions in Israel. The morning before the synagogue attack, an Israeli army raid in the West Bank city of Jenin against a terrorist cell left nine Palestinians dead — most of them gunmen and members of the cell, though at least one civilian was also killed. The Israel Defense Forces said that the operation was aimed at stopping imminent attack plans by a local Islamic Jihad terror cell. The group had prepared explosives and firearms, according to the IDF. See further details here.

Recent months have seen a regular pattern involving Israeli security raids, with forces arresting wanted terrorists in Palestinian towns. As occurred in Jenin on Thursday, suspects frequently choose resistance and firefights with IDF forces rather than surrendering to arrests, leading to large numbers of casualties. This has led to almost daily attempts at “retaliatory” terror attacks against Israeli security forces and civilians, although very high levels of vigilance and protective measures had, until now, effectively prevented Israeli deaths.

Immediately after Shabbat, the Israeli cabinet met in emergency session, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the following:

“On behalf of the citizens of Israel, I would like to send my deepest condolences to the families of those who were murdered in this awful and despicable terrorist attack in our capital Jerusalem. This was a reprehensible attack at the entrance to a synagogue on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“I thank my friend, US President Joe Biden, who spoke with me and expressed outrage and condolences over this terrible murderous attack. I also thank the many other leaders, including from Arab countries, for standing alongside Israel at this time. We are all praying for the wellbeing of those who were wounded in the two attacks.

“Our response will be strong, swift and precise. Whoever tries to harm us – we will harm them and everyone who assists them…. While we are not seeking escalation, we are prepared for any scenario.”

The Security Cabinet also agreed on numerous other measures, including:

  1. The home of the terrorist who carried out the terrorist attack in Jerusalem will be sealed immediately ahead of its demolition.
  2. National Insurance rights, payments and additional benefits for the families of terrorists that support terrorism will be revoked.
  3. Legislation on the revocation of Israeli identity cards of the families of terrorists that support terrorism will be discussed at an upcoming Cabinet meeting.
  4. Firearm licensing will be expedited and expanded in order to enable thousands of additional citizens to carry weapons.

Following the attacks, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced that he would not reconsider his earlier decision to end security cooperation with Israel, despite pleas from US and European leaders. At the same time, in some parts of the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, Palestinians took to the streets to celebrate the attacks, handing out candies and launching fireworks. See more here.

Also in response to the attacks, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris phoned Israel’s President Isaac Herzog to “condemn the attacks, give strength to the people of Israel, and express deepest condolences on behalf of herself and the people and leadership of the United States, after a painful Shabbat on which seven civilians were murdered and five injured in terror attacks.” Secretary of State Antony Blinken will be visiting Israel this coming week.

President Herzog also received calls from German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, French President Emanuel Macron, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, and other world leaders.

Following the weekend attacks, the Jewish Federation-sponsored Fund for Victims of Terror of the Jewish Agency, immediately began to work alongside Israeli authorities to offer immediate, urgently needed assistance to victims and their families. The Fund is also in contact with the Embassy of Ukraine in Israel, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in order to provide assistance to the family of the murdered Ukrainian citizen who was working in Israel as a caregiver. In addition, those injured in the attacks will receive emergency assistance from the Fund in the coming hours.

Jewish Federations of North America continue to monitor the situation on the ground closely and will update as needed.

Julie Platt, Chair of the Board of Trustees
Eric Fingerhut, President and CEO