Yesterday, a 14 year old Palestinian girl, left her home in Sheikh Jarrah, stabbed a Jewish woman and then continued on to school. Driving my kids to school around 0730am suddenly there were sirens wailing, road closures and a flood of heavily armed military types patrolling the area to find the attacker. Within minutes a helicopter was churning overhead.
Does the story shock you? It probably depends on if you’re reading this from within Jerusalem or abroad and if you are local or international. If you’ve grown up in or around Jerusalem, then this is pretty commonplace activity. Maybe the fact that the attacker was a school kid and what’s more a girl might cause a bit of surprise but even on hearing the news you’re probably already chalking it up alongside a list of similar events long enough to be strung up from the Jordan river to the Sea.
The girl was caught – sitting in her classroom a few streets away – within the hour. The air was still again as the helicopter swung away and the traffic returned to normal. Her family are one of the families living under the imminent threat of eviction in Sheikh Jarrah and her grandfather has played a leading role as an activist, trying to defend their family home. News reporting this morning says the victim was her neighbour, a 26 year old Jewish woman with 5 kids.
Unlike most attackers (male), I’ve been a 14 year old girl. Did she plan it or act spontaneously? Was the victim her intended target or happened to be there? Did she expect to get away with it? Was she prepared to be shot on the spot? How did she think it would help her family?
Maybe she didn’t think. Maybe she acted because hoping and thinking and waiting didn’t seem to be working. The Sheikh Jarrah eviction cases have simmered along as an issue for years but exploded back in May when Hamas intervened and began a rocket fire attack on Israel in solidarity with the Sheikh Jarrah families. It feels a long time ago now (in Jerusalem life) but not for the families of the 248 Palestinians (predominantly in Gaza) and the 13 Israelis who were killed during the violence.
In May we teetered dangerously close to a full-blown war. Then summer came, the lid was put back on the pot and hell, there were even tour groups wandering around Jerusalem again before Omicron put paid to that. Yesterday’s incident was one in a growing wave of lone-wolf attacks that some fear may end up paralleling the violence of the ‘knife intifada’ in 2015. Nothing has been resolved for the Sheikh Jarrah families facing eviction, or those in Silwan, in Issawiya, in Jabel Al Mukaber – it’s the same story across countless communities in Palestine of daily human rights abuses.
As the end of the year approaches, despite being the home of the Christmas story, it seems harder and harder to find the love and joy and peace for all that is so desperately needed. Politicians can turn away or tune out but what about the young people who end up sacrificing their future in a coffin or a prison cell? When kids start killing, everyone has to own the responsibility.