In recent weeks, the heart of Israel's capital has become an increasingly dangerous place for Jews. Residents and visitors alike have been subjected to a series of ominous attacks by local Arabs, which include vandalism, stone-throwing and the torching of vehicles and other property.
Even more worrisome is the fact that many of the offenses have been committed in broad daylight, signaling that the perpetrators are not all that concerned about the possible reaction of local law enforcement.
The escalating audacity of these assaults poses a direct threat to Israel's sovereignty and the rule of law, and urgent steps must be taken to crack down on Arab violence in Jerusalem before it spins entirely out of control.
One of the most serious incidents took place last month, on February 13, when two civilian employees of the Defense Ministry were nearly lynched by a mob of Arab youths near Mount Scopus in Jerusalem. The Israelis reportedly got stuck in a traffic jam, when their car was suddenly surrounded by Arabs and pummeled with stones. The driver was hit in the head by a large rock that slammed through the windshield, and was badly wounded.
The two barely escaped with their lives. This episode did not happen in Gaza or Tulkarm, but in Jerusalem. The attackers were never caught, and it appears little was done to apprehend them.
So it was perhaps only a matter of time before another such incident took place. And this past Monday, that is precisely what happened. An Israeli driving through Jerusalem's Wadi Joz neighborhood was abruptly attacked by dozens of Arabs who showered his car with stones and concrete blocks. He, too, was wounded when his windshield was shattered, and medics had to evacuate him to Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital.
Afterwards, police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld offered some astonishing advice to Israeli drivers. Speaking with Arutz Sheva, he said that motorists should check with security personnel before entering "sensitive neighborhoods" to determine whether they are safe. In other words, we can no longer assume that all of Jerusalem, our capital city, is necessarily secure enough for Jews to navigate.
This is an astounding admission of failure on the part of the police. It means they have all but lost control over the streets of various Jerusalem neighborhoods and can no longer guarantee the safety of citizens who wish to utilize them. A further sign of the police's ineffectuality came in the form of an ad published last week by activist Arieh King of the Israel Land Fund calling for volunteers to help him carry out the court-ordered removal of illegal Palestinian squatters from a home in Jerusalem.
A Jerusalem magistrate's court recently found that the Palestinians had been dwelling illegally in the structure for the past decade even though it was owned by a British Jew.
The judge ordered them evacuated by March 1 and instructed the Palestinians to pay NIS 125,000 in damages.
Incredibly, the police chose to defy the court's ruling and called off the evacuation, reportedly because of concerns that it was scheduled to take place the day before a planned meeting between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama in Washington.
After King received a new date of March 30 for the Palestinians' removal, he submitted repeated requests to the police to ensure they would oversee it. After the police did not bother to respond, King took the unusual step of placing the ad, suggesting that if the police won't do their job, then he may have no choice but to do it for them. It is hard to blame King for his frustration. After all, the job of the police is to enforce the law, not obstruct it.
Worse yet, they have failed to stem the violence targeting Jews, which has become so commonplace that it hardly even generates headlines anymore. On Sunday, for example, Arabs hurled a firebomb at an Israeli home in Jerusalem's Ma'aleh Zeitim neighborhood. The incident was barely mentioned by most media outlets.
This situation has become intolerable. A street war is being waged in Jerusalem, one in which local Arabs are attempting to frighten Jews out of various neighborhoods.
Israel cannot and must not allow this lawlessness and impunity to prevail. Steps must be taken to ensure that all of Jerusalem is safe for Jews.
To begin with, the police must significantly increase their presence throughout the eastern part of the city, boosting patrols and responding quickly to any outbreaks of violence. Stone-throwing youths should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Rocks are a dangerous weapon. They can maim, wound and kill, and those who hurl them at others should be treated accordingly.
Two months ago, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch announced that a new police station would be opened on the Mount of Olives to crack down on Arab vandalism against the Jewish cemetery there as well as to provide increased protection to Jewish visitors. The station was supposed to have opened last month, but it has yet to do so. Inaugurating it now would send a strong message that the police are serious about imposing order.
Arab violence against Jews in east Jerusalem is in danger of spinning out of control. It must be stopped now, before it turns lethal.