Bus attack by Jewish soldier:
Rabbi's condolence visit to mourning Arabs

Published: 9 August 2005
Briefing Number 151

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This Briefing describes the visit by well-known Israeli rabbi Menachem Froman to the Israeli Arab village of Shfaram to offer condolences to mourners following the fatal shooting of four Israeli Arabs by a Jewish soldier on 4 August. The visit, and the local reaction, highlight how it is possible, even at a time of conflict and mistrust, to create bonds of common humanity between Jews and Arabs.

Jewish soldier’s shooting attack on Israel Arabs

On 4 August 2005, 19-year old Jewish soldier Eden Natan-Zada shot and killed four Israeli Arabs on a bus in the Israeli Arab town of Shafaram. Many more were wounded. Natan-Zada, who had recently deserted the Israeli army in protest over the Israeli Government’s policy of disengagement, and was associated with far-right groups, was killed immediately afterwards by a mob of Arabs.

Israel’s leaders condemned the shooting in strong terms. Prime Minister Sharon called it “a heinous act”.

Rabbi Froman’s visit to Shfaram

Two days after the attack, funerals of the Arab victims took place in Shfaram, whose population is 70% Muslim and 30% Druse. The funerals were not only attended by the local townspeople. Also in attendance was the Rabbi of the West Bank settlement of Tekoa, Rabbi Menachem Froman, and his wife.

The Rabbi spent the Jewish Sabbath in Shfaram in order to attend the funerals, recite eulogies and offer words of condolence. His visit was reported on the Internet on 7 August by a small agency called the Israel Resource News Agency, and this Briefing is based on their report.

Rabbi Froman’s words of condolence and eulogy

Rabbi Froman declared in his eulogy that “all people who believe in God, no matter how they worship God, express their outrage at such an act” and added that “we the Jewish people in the land of Israel share the pain and suffering of the families today and wish to share our community’s condolences in the loss of your loved ones….”. He spoke for 10 minutes to the large assembled crowd, and also read out a letter from the Israeli Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar.

The positive reaction from the townspeople of Shfaram

Rabbi Froman is a right-wing Rabbi and strongly opposed to Israel’s disengagement from Gaza. He was greeted before speaking with chants of ‘Death to Settlers’. Yet after he spoke, the atmosphere apparently changed. His words were received with a long ovation, and according to the same report, throughout the Sabbath residents of the town and leading clerics belonging to the Israeli Islamic movement “expressed their appreciation” to Rabbi Froman for “delivering a message of peace and reconciliation at a time of conflict”.

Conclusion and key messages

The visit highlights how it is possible, even at a time of conflict and mistrust, to create bonds of shared humanity between Jew and Arab.

It also challenges the perception that Israeli settlers are oblivious to the human experience of Arabs. In fact, Rabbi Froman has a long track record of religious dialogue initiatives with Arabs, in Hebron and elsewhere. And on this occasion he must have undertaken the visit at considerable personal risk.

Has an Imam visited Israeli families of terror victims and publicly expressed his condolences in this way?