February 18, 2016
Dear Friend of Israel,
It happened several months ago in San Bernardino, California – and it happened again just days ago, albeit on a smaller, but no less horrifying scale, in Columbus, Ohio, at a deli owned by an Arab-Israeli Christian. A bloody attack motivated by hate and radical Islamic ideals.
Hany Baransi, the deli owner, moved to the U.S. from Haifa, Israel, in 1983. There is a greeting, written in Arabic, near the entrance to his deli. But there is something else displayed prominently in the restaurant – an Israeli flag. Baransi is deeply proud of his Israeli heritage. “I love my country Israel,” he told a reporter, “and I will defend it until the day I die.”
Baransi came perilously close to doing just that last week, when a man came into his restaurant and asked one of his employees (Baransi was home sick that day) what nationality Baransi was. The employee replied that Baransi was Israeli. A half hour later, the man came back, brandishing a machete, and proceeded to attack both employees and customers, injuring four.
To their credit, both employees and patrons fought back, and the attacker – a 30-year-old man of Somalian descent – was eventually chased down by police. He then attacked the police, yelling “Allahu Akbar,” and was eventually shot dead.
The U.S. has certainly seen terror attacks before, but these sort of “lone wolf” attacks have become disturbingly common. America is now seeing, at least to some degree, what Israel has experienced for the last few months, and in fact through its entire existence – attacks that have radical Islam and anti-Semitism as their motive. Home-grown terrorists have made their bloody mark on the U.S., and it seems inevitable that such attacks will happen again.
How do we respond? Perhaps we should take a cue from Hany Baransi. First, he responded with compassion to his staff who witnessed the attack, saying that, despite the financial hardship it will put on him, he will not reopen his restaurant until his staff is ready. “If this time is needed for the well-being of my employees, I am okay with that … God will provide for us.”
And, again, despite the trauma he and the staff and customers of his restaurant endured, Baransi says has no plans to back away from his open support of the Jewish state. “Actually, I have another flag, and I am going to get a bigger flag, and I am going to get a Star of David necklace and put it on my chest … Honest to God, I am not kidding. They don’t scare me. We are Israelis. We are Israelis. We are resilient, we fight back.”
May we all have the faith and spirit of this brave, defiant man. Even as we face ruthless enemies, let us continue to pray for the day that God will bless us with peace. And let us work toward it with the same resolve with which we fight those who would destroy us and our way of life.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President
P.S. Learn more about the historical and spiritual bonds between African Americans and Jews in our new booklet On the Frontlines of Faith. Receive your free copy at ifcj.org/frontlines