There was a knock. They thought it was a guest arriving for the baby simchah


The residents of Halamish are lost for words.

“What words do you use after a beastly attack against innocent people who were just trying to celebrate the birth of a new baby?” the community’s rebbetzen, Shifra Blass, asked on Tuesday.

Residents had mostly just finished their Friday-night dinners when the attack took place.

The Salomon family had laid a table with a white cloth and prepared snacks for the visitors who were due to arrive for a shalom zachar, a celebration of a new baby.

But before the guests could arrive, Omar al-Abed turned up, having reportedly performed a DIY religious purification rite on himself with a bottle of water near the house. “The murderer was the first one to knock on the door, and as they were expecting people for the celebration, they opened it,” said Mrs Blass.

Just under 48 hours later, the whole local community, together with thousands of others, were at the funeral of the three victims.

The community is overcome with “terrible grief for the family, terrible outrage”, said Mrs Blass.

People are discussing the events of Friday night repeatedly, but many say it does not help.

“You can go through the details again and again, but there’s a difference between knowing it on an intellectual level and believing that it happened,” said Rochelle Cohen, a mother-of-five who lives a few steps away from the terror scene.

She recalled, uncomfortably, the hours of lock-down after the emergency siren sounded, during which residents knew that there was a terror incident but did not know the details.

This was the second crisis Shabbat on the settlement in less than a year. In November, residents found themselves running from their homes in pyjamas as fire spread through the area, damaging or destroying more than two dozen homes, including the one belonging to Mrs Cohen. Three Palestinians were later held on arson charges.

At the time of the terror attack, Mrs Cohen’s mother was visiting from Modiin in central Israel along with her brother and his wife and their young children. The kids “just shook for literally hours” as a scene of horror unfolded in front of the window — ambulances arriving but not leaving, and soldiers descending on the place in their hundreds. Only at 8.15 am were they allowed to leave the house.

Photographs of the Halamish murder scene shocked Israelis, with images of a blood-soaked kitchen — where food for the simchah had been prepared — were widely circulated.

The reality inside the house was far worse. “The most shocking scenes greeted us,” said Yehuda Meshi Zahav, chairman of the Zaka volunteer organisation that cleared up the home and collected human remains.

“The blood that had been spilt like water,” he said.


Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive