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For many Israeli Jews, there was a clear line between Israeli Arabs and Palestinians. Ben-Zagmim thought that Israel should flex its muscles against the Palestinians in the West Bank, but not react against Israeli-Arabs, some of whom he enjoys good relationships with. An Arab colleague, he added, shares his disdain for the kidnapping.
Some, however, see things differently.
“I didn’t cry but the tears are inside,” said Eli Mazger, 56, for whom the boys’ blood felt “like part of my blood.” Heading to his car in the mall parking lot just after 10 p.m. local time on the day the discovery of the youths’ bodies was announced, he asked: “Why are there still Arabs here at this time?” To him, after the kidnapping, every Arab, whether Palestinian or Israeli citizen, is “suspicious.” Mazger advocated a blanket curfew, saying: “Every Israeli Arab should need to be at home at 7pm.”
Such calls are fringe, and don’t have support in the government, where the focus is on responding strongly against Palestinian terrorists. Though no evidence had yet been presented tying Hamas’ leadership to the kidnapping, Netanyahu averred in his statement that “Hamas is responsible, and Hamas will pay.”
Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon released a statement shortly after the boys were found, declaring: “In their memories, we must ensure that this tragic end be turned into an opportunity to create a better and safer Israel. Israelis have the willingness and the fortitude necessary to endure the hardships of a long-lasting operation aimed at eradicating Hamas.”
He promised: “We will not stop until Hamas is completely defeated. The homes of the terrorists must be demolished and their arms caches destroyed. Our mission will not be complete until all the terror organizations are deterred from attacking Israelis and understand once and for all that the people of Israel will not be threatened.”
At the West Bank yeshiva where the boys studied, Mekor Chaim, Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, the renowned Talmudist who heads the school, framed the murder as an act of simple anti-Semitism, implicitly rejecting the views of those who say the youths placed themselves at increased risk by hitchhiking in occupied territory just outside the tense city of Hebron.
“These boys, our boys, have died al Kiddush Hashem” — in sanctification of God’s name — “simply because they are Jews,” Steinsaltz declared. “We cannot just light a candle and say a prayer. It is up to us now to live our lives in Kiddush Hashem, to sanctify God through our deeds and our lives.”