Reprinted from Gush Shalom
SOMETIMES, A small incident can pierce the darkness and reveal a frightening picture.
This happened last Sunday in Beersheba, the capital of the Negev.
The picture was frightening indeed.
THE INCIDENT started as a routine attack, one of many we have become used to in recent weeks. Some call it "the Third Intifada," some speak of a "Terror Wave," some are satisfied with "Escalation."
It is a new stage in the old conflict. Its symbol is the knife-wielding lone Palestinian individual -- either from East Jerusalem, the West Bank or Israel proper.
It is not connected with any of the Palestinian parties. Before the deed, the attacker had no known connection with any militant group. He or she is completely unknown to the Israeli Security Service. Hence it is impossible to prevent such actions.
One morning the future shahid wakes up, feels that the time has come, takes a large kitchen knife, goes to a Jewish neighborhood and stabs the nearest Israeli Jew, preferably a soldier, but when there are no soldiers around -- any Jewish civilian, man, woman or even child.
The attacker knows well that they will probably be killed on the spot. They want to become a shahid -- a martyr, literally "witness to the faith."
In earlier intifadas, the attackers were generally members of organizations or cells. These cells were invariably infiltrated by paid traitors, and almost all perpetrators were caught, sooner or later. Many such acts were prevented.
The present outbreak is different. Since they are carried out by lone individuals, no spies are aware of them. The acts cannot be stopped in advance. They can occur anywhere, anyplace -- In Jerusalem, in the other occupied territories, in the heart of Israel proper. Any Israeli, anywhere, can be knifed.
To get the whole picture, one must add to this the stone-throwing groups of Palestinian youngsters and children along the highways. The groups form suddenly, spontaneously, generally composed of local teenagers, and throw stones and firebombs at passing cars -- first making sure that they are Jewish Israeli. Often they are joined by mere children, who are eager to prove their courage and devotion to Allah. One caught was 13 years old.
Stone-throwing incidents sometimes lead to the death of drivers, who lose control of their cars. The army responds with teargas, rubber-coated steel bullets (which cause acute pain but rarely kill) and live ammunition.
THE OUTBREAK -- which does not yet have a definite name -- started several weeks ago in East Jerusalem. As usual, one may add.
The center of the Arab Old City is the holy place called by the Jews "the Temple Mount" and by the Arabs "Haram al-Sharif" -- the Holy Shrine. It is where the ancient Jewish temples once stood.
After the Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans some 1,945 years ago, the place was desecrated by the Christians who turned it into a dunghill. When it was conquered by the Muslims in 635, the humane Khalif Omar ordered it cleaned. Two holy Muslim buildings were erected -- the beautiful Dome of the Rock, with its conspicuous golden dome, and the even holier al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest mosque in Islam.