As Israel Mourns Slain Teens, Everyone Wants Someone To Blame

Reactions Run the Gamut From Numbness to Rage

Anguished Nation: Israelis mourn and light candles in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv after the announcement that the bodies of the three missing Israeli teenagers were found.
Getty Images
Anguished Nation: Israelis mourn and light candles in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv after the announcement that the bodies of the three missing Israeli teenagers were found.

By Nathan Jeffay

Published July 01, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

The discovery of the bodies of three Israeli teens kidnapped in early June in the occupied West Bank touched Nissim Ibarith in a way that most other Israeli tragedies haven’t.

“They were just boys,” said Ibarith, a Palestinian Israeli from the Arab town of Umm al-Fahm.

Ibarith heard the news during his shift sweeping the parking lot at a popular American-style mall just 10 miles from his hometown and felt “angry,” he told the Forward.

But some of his feelings would still likely anger many Jewish Israelis. “Maybe a soldier, okay,” said Ibarith. “There is a war, there are problems. But a child? What did he do and what can he do?”

Ibarith, who is 26, spoke of Israel as “my state,” and said that he also felt an affinity to the Palestinians killed as a result of his country’s search operation in the West Bank. He is caught in the middle and feels pain “for the two sides,” he said, commenting: “I’m a Muslim Arab and also a citizen of Israel.”

The location of this strip mall makes it a commercial center for a highly diverse population. Pardes Hanna, within whose borders it sits, is a mainly Jewish town, surrounded by a variety of socially and religiously diverse Jewish locales. The mall also serves a large part of the heavily Arab Wadi Ara area, which borders the West Bank. The region includes Ibarith’s hometown, which is known as a stronghold of the Islamic Movement of Israel, an Islamist, anti-Zionist organization. On June 27, Umm al-Fahm was the focus of fury for many Israelis after protesters at a demonstration there were heard calling for more kidnappings.

Ironically, in his statement issued soon after the youths’ death was announced, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to exclude Arab citizens like Ibarith from sharing in the national sense of grief over the murder of their fellow citizens. He instead seemed to speak as the leader of world Jewry.

“They were abducted and murdered in cold blood by human animals,” Netanyahu said in his statement. “On behalf of the entire Jewish People, I would like to tell the dear families — the mothers, fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, and brothers and sisters — we are deeply saddened, the entire nation weeps with you.”

Around here, some Arabs are without any of the dual loyalties that Ibarith professed. At a train station near the mall, just after the news broke of the bodies being discovered, one Arab man gave the Forward short shrift when asked for his reaction. “I didn’t hear, and it doesn’t interest me,” he said. “I don’t get involved in politics.”

Asked if this was only politics, he replied, “What is it if it’s not politics?”

Meir Ben-Zagmim at the strip mall.
Nathan Jeffay
Meir Ben-Zagmim at the strip mall.

At the mall, Meir Ben-Zagmim said that the discovery of the bodies came to him as a shock. “I thought they would come out alive,” said the 60-year-old truck driver, who wears a yarmulke. “I was sure they would make a prisoner swap and they would come out alive.”

Anat, a 44-year-old lawyer who would give only her first name, said the opposite. She as-good-as-mourned the teens from the moment they were taken, and felt little new emotion when the bodies were discovered. “I knew it from the first day that they were dead,” she said.

Rutie, who also declined to be fully identified, took some comfort in the discovery of the bodies. The 53-year-old mother was shopping with her 12-year-old daughter, who said she was “hurting” from the news. “I felt it’s good they found them, so at least the families know — so they aren’t in limbo,” the girl’s mother said, adding, “I thought there was a possibility they wouldn’t find them for years.”

Many Israeli Jews have had the sense of being tied up in the tragedy since the boys’ kidnapping took place on June 12. Ben-Zagmim said: “I felt it like their families felt it.” He explained that his feelings stemmed from his connection to the victims and their families as a Jew and as an Israeli. But not everyone felt that connection.

At the train station, Alon, 26, said that he wasn’t “moved more than for other people in the world.” He “didn’t feel a connection especially as an Israeli or as a Jewish person.”

Alon’s father, Ilan, arrived to give him a ride, and had surprisingly strong sentiments. He felt a connection to the teens, he said, but not to their parents, on whom he placed responsibility for educating them in the West Bank and for allowing them to hitchhike. When asked if the parents deserved the same solidarity as was given to Noam Shalit, the father of former POW Gilad Shalit, he was irritated. The respective circumstances of each case, he said, were “totally different” as Shalit was a soldier performing a national duty. Neither father nor son would give their full names.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.