“Merkaz Harav” (The Rabbi’s Center) is a famous Jewish religious college near the entrance of Jerusalem. The college is named after its founder, Rabbi Avraham Kook, the first chief rabbi of Israel, and the founder of the concept of religious nationalism. Merkaz Harav is the leading educational institution of the settlers in the Judea-Samarian territories, as well as of the right wing religious politicians in Israel.
Il’a Abu Dahim, age 25, worked as a mini-bus driver for his family’s transport company. He would often drive Arab workers from his east Jerusalem village of Gebal Mukhbar, as well as many Jewish students. Gebal Mukhbar has been considered a relatively friendly Arab village, with its residents holding full Israeli citizenship.
For the past few months, Dahim had been receiving instruction from one of the terrorist networks, and had been scouting out the scene at Merkaz Harav. At 8:20 PM on Thursday, March 6, Dahim parked his van about 200 meters from the entrance to the college. He loaded his pockets with 8 bullet-filled magazines, two handguns, and a commando knife. He placed a Kalashnikov automatic rifle in a cardboard television carton.
At 8:30 pm he arrived at the entrance. Three students spotted him and joked, “Are you bringing us a television?” Dahim didn’t answer, placed the box on the stone divider wall, took out the rifle and began shooting. Two of the three students were killed instantly. The third fled into the building.
Dahim went up to the library, where there were over 25 students studying religious books. Dahim began firing round after round. About half of the students managed to flee to a side room and close the door. By the time Dahim had finished, 8 students were murdered (almost all of them teenagers!), and another 12 injured. Some of the wounded called out to him with tears, “Enough… stop…” while he shouted, “Allah is great! (Allah Akhbar)” and kept shooting.
In one of the apartments next to the college, David Shapira, captain of an elite paratrooper division in the Israeli army, and father of a 4 year old and a 2 year old, had just finished giving his children a bath. Shapira heard the shots. At first he thought it was noise from a Purim (feast of Esther) party, but then soon realized it was gun fire.
Immediately Captain Shapira left the children with their mom, grabbed his rifle and ran toward the college. When he got to the entrance, two policemen said, “What are you doing? You don’t have protective vest or anything.” He said, “Get out of my way,” and ran up the stairs TOWARD the shooting. He jumped from doorway to doorway in a “zig-zag” pattern until he got within shooting range. There, in standing position, he fired and killed the terrorist.
Shapira then returned home to finish putting the kids to bed. His wife Hodayah (pregnant with their third child) was obviously partly in shock. So far Shapira has refused to be interviewed by the press, saying, “I was only doing my duty.”
The response from the Arab community has been mixed. Those influenced by Hamas or Hizballah or other Jihadists celebrated with joy, waving flags and passing out candy. On the other hand, many of the Arab leaders denounced the terrorist act, including leaders in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and the Palestinian authority.
The fact that the shooting took place at the leading right wing religious institute has symbolic and emotional significance that will likely influence the political climate in Israel and among the Palestinians.
The fact that the terrorist was from a local Arab village within Israel and not from the Palestinian territories makes for a very complicated security situation. Does this mean that all Israeli Arabs must now be considered a security threat? If not, how can we defend from terrorist activity within Israel? If so, how can Israel possibly control and monitor hundreds of thousands of potential enemy or innocent Arabs within its own borders?
These struggles are both military and spiritual; they represent the clash of the forces of good and evil that will continue through the end times until the Great War that takes place right before the Second Coming of Yeshua (Jesus).
Yeshua said that when we see these events starting to take place, we should be alert, because the end is near. We must watch, pray, and repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand (Matthew 24:3-44).
Both our teen group and our young adults group were meeting at the very time that the terrorist attack took place, less than a mile away. At congregation on Shabbat everyone prayed for mercy and for salvation. Scriptures declare repeatedly that in the midst of the tribulation of the end times, many will be saved, particularly in Israel, and also in all the nations of the world (Jeremiah 30:7, Daniel 12:1, Joel 2:31-32).
In the midst of these difficulties, let us lift up our eyes, for the time of salvation is near.
Asher serves as president of Tikkun Global family of ministries and congregations, dedicated to the dual restoration of Israel and the Church. He is founder of the Revive Israel five-fold ministry team, and oversees both Ahavat Yeshua and Tiferet Yeshua congregations in Israel.
He and his wife Betty share a passion for personal prayer and devotion, local evangelism and discipleship in Hebrew, and unity of the Body of believers worldwide.
Asher was raised in a conservative Jewish home and holds degrees from Harvard University, Baltimore Hebrew College and Messiah Biblical Institute. He has authored numerous books, tracts and articles.