Netanya is a symbol of hope in a midst of a terror wave in Israel
October 7, 2015
In 2005, when the city was targeted again and again by terrorists, no one could have predicted that the coastal city Netanya would become one of the hottest places in Israel. A place where developers can’t build fast enough to supply the demand. A city where people from all over the world want to live in.
Netanya was in the news often between 2001 and 2005. The headlines were mostly about deadly terrorist attacks on the city from nearby Palestinian cities during the 2nd Intifada. During this period, no wall existed between Israel and the Palestinian territory. Access from the West Bank to Israel was easy. Below are some of the headlines of the period:
On Sunday, March 4, 2001, at 8:50 AM, a suicide bomber exploded a bomb he was carrying on his person, killing two Israeli women. One of them died some two hours after the blast as doctors were attempting to save her life on the operating table. Of the 74 people who were hurt – most of them suffering from shock or scratches from flying shrapnel. The explosion took place on a pedestrian crossing opposite the central bus station in the center of Netanya. The terrorist attempted to board a bus there, but the suspicious driver did not let him on. The suicide bomber looked around, saw policemen checking out a suspicious object nearby, and decided to detonate the bomb right there.
On Wednesday, May 18, 2001 at 11:30 am, a Palestinian suicide bomber wearing a long blue jacket with hidden explosives attached to his body, approached the popular HaSharon Mall mall in the center of Netanya. The suspicious looking militant was approached by the mall’s security guard whom soon thereafter attempted to prevent the suicide bomber from entering the mall. As a result, the militant immediately blew himself up at the entrance to the mall. The blast killed five people and injured more than 100.
In the evening of 27 March 2002, a Palestinian suicide bomber disguised as a woman approached the Park hotel in Netanya carrying a suitcase which contained powerful explosives. The suicide bomber managed to pass the security guard at the entrance to a hotel, then he walked through the lobby passing the reception desk and entered the hotel’s crowded dining room where a traditional Passover Seder was held for senior citizens . At 7:30 pm the suicide bomber detonated the explosive device he was carrying. The force of the explosion instantly killed 28 civilians and injured about 140 people, of whom 20 were injured severely. Two of the injured later died from their wounds. Some of the victims were Holocaust survivors. Most of the victims were senior citizens (70 and over). The oldest victim was 90 and the youngest was 20 years old. A number of married couples were killed, as well as a father together with his daughter. One of the victims was a Jewish tourist from Sweden who was visiting Israel for Passover. It was later named the Passover massacre.
The attack was perceived in Israel as the high point of a bloody month in which more than 135 Israelis, mostly civilians, were killed in terror attacks. Following the Passover massacre attack the Israeli government launched the large-scale counter-terrorism operation Operation Defensive Shield in the West Bank which took place between 29 March and 10 May.
On Sunday, May 19, 2002, during the afternoon hours, a Palestinian suicide bomber disguised as an IDF soldier managed to slip through several police checkpoints with the assistance of a female collaborator. The suicide bomber who wore an explosive belt hidden underneath his clothes, packed with nails and bolts, and detonated the explosive device at the entrance to the main open market of the Israeli coastal city of Netanya. The blast killed three innocent civilians and injured 56 people, among them at least 10 in severe condition. Two Palestinian militant groups, Hamas and the PFLP, claimed responsibility for the attack.
During the evening of July 12, 2005 a Palestinian suicide bomber approached the popular HaSharon Mall mall in the center of the coastal city Netanya. The suicide bomber who was wearing hidden explosives underneath his clothes, detonated himself at about 6:35 pm on a pedestrian crossing, after approaching a group of four young women, who were crossing the road.
Three women were killed in the attack. An IDF corporal and another woman died of their injuries following the attack. In addition, about 90 people were injured in the attack, five of them seriously. The explosion which occurred in a busy intersection outside of the mall during the evening rush hour also caused damaged to many of the nearby automobiles, and in addition, some of the shopping center’s windows were shattered.
After the attack the local police stated that the suicide bomber carried around 10 kg of explosives, as well as nails and metal pellets, on an explosive belt that was strapped to his body. Netanya’s mayor, Miriam Fierberg, was present on the scene of the attack and immediately began assisting the injured.
On Monday, 5 December 2005, around 11:30 am, a Palestinian suicide bomber approached the entrance to the HaSharon Mall in the Israeli coastal city of Netanya. The suicide bomber detonated the explosives hidden underneath his clothes when he approached the security the guards at the entrance for the security inspection. Five people were killed in the attack and more than 40 people were injured. After the attack, the Palestinian Islamist militant organization Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack.
Netanya has been a quiet place since the 2nd Intifada ended. The IDF and the separating wall that was built between the Palestinian and the Jewish cities is the reason for it.
The rise of antisemitism in Europe in the past decade, especially in France, brought many thousands of immigrants to Netanya. Because of its central location and its beautiful beaches, the city attracted many affluent French Jews. They became a driver for an accelerated development of new neighborhoods along the Mediterranean shore. New upscale neighborhoods were built. The rapid growth elevated the city from a dormant place into an attractive place of high rise buildings that looks like Collins Avenue, on Sunny Isle beach in Miami, more than a typical city in Israel.
Today, I was asked by my wife, if I wanted to drive to Netanya and walk on it’s beautiful boardwalk. There’s nothing I could think of as a better example to demonstrate how the city has transformed since 2005. Considering that just in the past 24 hours the following terrorist attacks took place in Israel:
- A Jewish person was stabbed by a female terrorist in Jerusalem. The terrorist was killed by IDF security forces.
- A bus driver stopped his bus in Jaffa (part of Tel Aviv), open the doors and shouted to the passengers “Get out and run for your life” after a mob of Israeli Arabs stoned the bus.
- A group of masked Palestinians stopped a car with a Jewish female driver on the outskirt of Jerusalem. They stoned and kicked her. She barely escaped, bleeding in several places including her head.
- A day when in Kiryat Gat, a Palestinian terrorist stabbed a soldier as he got off a bus and ran with his weapon to an apartment building, where he tried to force his way into an apartment; most-likely attempting to murder the residents. The terrorist was killed by IDF security forces.
- A day when rocks were thrown from a bridge, by Israeli Arabs, on cars driving on a major highway (Kvish 6), forcing a temporary shutdown of the road.
- A day when a 25 years old Jew was stabbed in a shopping mall in Petach Tikva (Tel Aviv suburb). The terrorist was captured by security forces.
- A day when a Palestinian terrorist attempted to run over an Israeli soldier in a checkpoint near Jerusalem. The terrorist was shot.
Netanya is a story of hope that things will get better. We are now facing another wave of Palestinian terrorism. A time when actions of some Israeli Arabs makes me wonder if a true peace between Israelis and Palestinians is just a foolish dream. I look at Netanya with hope that its transformation in the past decade is just a preview of what is about to happen in the entire country , that in a short time Israel will become as peaceful and as an attractive as Netanya.