It was a tragedy that is hard to forget. In March 2011, a terrorist infiltrated the town of Itamar and slaughtered five members of the Fogel family, including a 3-month-old baby girl and two other children.
The killings were discovered by 12-year-old Tamar Fogel. Volunteers from Israel’s emergency cleanup organization ZAKA, who arrived on the scene shortly after she raised the alert, said what they witnessed was “absolutely horrific” and “among the worst we have ever seen.”
That tragedy could have been prevented. At least according to Marc Provisor, head of security projects at One Israel Fund.
Provisor was in Washington last week to raise money for much-needed security equipment and infrastructure upgrades for Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria, known as the West Bank.
Provisor noted that Itamar had installed one surveillance security camera shortly before the Fogel incident. Security officials were aware that “raw probes were happening” by Palestinian terrorists, meaning they were testing the fence, determining the probability of getting caught. Itamar is large and there are two distinct sides to the town. One was being monitored. One was not.
“They [the terrorists] are more sophisticated today than ever. … Itamar knew, before the Fogels, that the community was vulnerable,” said Provisor.
Why wasn’t there another camera? Cost.
Said Provisor: “The [Jewish] community is reactive and not proactive. They had only one camera system and we could not raise the money for the other. After the Fogels, we raised the money like that.”
The cost of one security camera like the one in Itamar costs around $70,000. Smaller portable systems can cost between $13,000 and $18,000.
It’s not about politics, Provisor made clear, “It’s about human rights.”
According to a census conduct by Israel’s Interior Ministry, about 360,000 Jews live in around 150 communities in Judea and Samaria. And, according to the Israel Democracy Institute, while 58 percent of Jewish Israelis support the establishment of an independent Palestinian state given appropriate security arrangements, 58 percent believe that the Arab neighborhoods of east Jerusalem should not be transferred to the Palestinian state and 51 percent believe that under no circumstances should settlements in Judea and Samaria (West Bank) be dismantled.
While the territories remain disputed, the people are human beings in need of protection.
Provisor said that while you rarely hear of attacks like the one that happened in Itamar, attempted attacks and attacks with fewer casualties are happening on a daily basis. In the hour spent talking with this reporter, Provisor received alerts about more than half-a-dozen attacks/attempted attacks.
“A Palestinian threw a Molotov cocktail at an Israeli bus by kever Rachel [the Tomb of Rachel],” read Provisor from his iPhone. “1:55 p.m. — border police stopped an armed terrorist from infiltrating into Israel.”
Continued Provisor: “The roads are not a happy place today, mostly south of Jerusalem, between Jerusalem and Hebron. But it is not just Judea and Samaria, it’s on the other side of the Green Line, too. It’s in cities like Ramle and Lod. There is a major surge of cold violence. It’s not yet hot violence, which means guns. I’ve been really busy.”
Scott Feltman, executive vice president of OIF, said the goal of the organization is to ensure there are no more Jewish victims. He said OIF tries to secure funds and install security surveillance equipment and supply protective gear before it’s needed.
“If we’re successful,” said Feltman, “our job is harder.”
To help combat the stereotype that OIF is for the right-wingers and that settlers are all religious fanatics, Feltman and Provisor, together with a team of volunteers, take visitors to Israel into the settlements to show them what life is like. Provisor said, “It usually blows their minds.”
Travelers visit the Soda Stream factory, which manufactures and distributes home carbonating devices and flavorings for soft drinks. At that factory, Jews and Arabs work together side-by-side.
They hit area vineyards and taste succulent wines of the area. There’s Gat Shomron Winery, Givon Winery, Gush Etzion Winery and Hacormim Vineyard (which also produces fruit liquors) to name a few.
There’s a chocolate factory and a high-technology sector, too.
Over the years, Provisor, who served in the Israeli army and is an artist by profession, said OIF has evolved. Now, this tiny operation (Provisor and Feltman, who lives in N.Y., are the only two full-time employees), is consulting with municipalities in southern Israel, like those of Sderot and Ashkelon, which are the constant focus of terrorist attacks from the Gaza Strip. With the Syrian civil war in full force, northern Israeli security officials requested to borrow some of the armored ambulances OIF refurbished for use in the event of an emergency situation in the Golan Heights.
“I really want to keep people alive,” said Provisor.
And he also wants to protect what he calls “the heart of Israel.”
Provisor said people take for granted that many of the most significant events in the Bible occurred in Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley. It was here that Joshua Bin Nun drove the Canaanite nations out of the land. Joseph’s Tomb is in Nablus. The Cave of the Patriarch’s is in Hebron.
Almost all Arab towns and villages in Judea and Samaria use biblical Jewish names to refer to those areas. For example, Anata is the biblical name for Anatot, the dwelling of Jeremiah; Beitin is biblical and refers to Beit El, a site of the Holy Ark and court of Samuel the Prophet; and Bethlehem is mentioned 44 times in the Torah.
“You want to give that up?” Provisor asked, noting that if he thought it would bring about true peace, even he would do it. But he said if there was a real peace, then Jews and Arabs could live together.
“We wouldn’t have to leave,” he said. “There are 22 nations claiming rights to Islamic states. Can’t the Jews have one?”
To learn more about One Israel Fund, visit oneisraelfund.org/contact.asp.
Maayan Jaffe is managing editor of the Baltimore Jewish Times, WJW’s sister publication.