Jerusalem synagogue attack: Israeli worshippers return to prayers

Worshippers return to the synagogue in Jerusalem where four worshippers, a police officer and two Palestinian attackers were killed Tuesday, determined not to let the attack change their lives.

Howie Chaim Rothman, Canadian living in Israel, among wounded Tuesday in bloody attack that left 5 dead

Security tightens in Jerusalem

8 years ago
Duration 2:17
Canadian Howie Chaim Rothman injured in synagogue attack that killed 5

Worshippers returned today to the synagogue in Jerusalem where four worshippers, a police officer and two Palestinian attackers were killed Tuesday, determined not to let the attack change their lives.

"There was a mix of determination and prayers this morning at the synagogue here in West Jerusalem," CBC's Middle East correspondent Derek Stoffel reported.

Jewish worshippers pray at a synagogue in Jerusalem on Wednesday where two Palestinian militants killed four rabbis and a policeman a day earlier. (Ronen Zvulen/Reuters)

"A large group of people went for early-morning prayers, 24 hours after the bloody attack that left four members of the congregation and one police officer dead."

Howie Chaim Rothman, the Canadian-Israeli who was injured in the meat-cleaver attack, underwent several surgeries in a Jerusalem hospital Tuesday. His condition improved slightly to stable from serious, Stoffel reported, citing the hospital.

Rothman's sister said he had been placed in "a medically induced coma" after the surgeries, and he may be in that state for two or three days.

Elsewhere in the ancient city, there was a nervous calm.

Killing people at prayer

"If there is unrest, often it happens as the sun goes down here," Stoffel said. "Yesterday, we did see small demonstrations both in Gaza and the West Bank." 

While there were scattered celebrations of the fatal attacks among Palestinians, the broader opinion may be less inflammatory.

A relative of Abdelrahman Shaludi, a Palestinian who killed two Israelis with his car last month, stands at his family home after it was razed by Israeli authorities in the East Jerusalem Silwan neighbourhood on Wednesday. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images)

"There is a growing movement we are seeing today on social media with Palestinians saying it's not right to kill people who are praying, who are at worship," Stoffel said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said yesterday that the homes of the synagogue attackers would be destroyed.

Israel had halted its much-maligned practice of punitive home demolitions in 2005 after officials determined it was not an effective deterrent. The government had a change of heart recently, however, and revived the tactic in certain cases.

On Wednesday, Israeli forces demolished the house of Abdel-Rahman Shaloudi, 21, an East Jerusalem resident shot dead by police as he tried to flee after mowing down commuters at a light railway stop on Oct. 22.

A three-month-old baby and a 22-year-old tourist from Ecuador were killed when he rammed the tram stop with his car. Seven other people were injured.

Blood washed away

At the site of Tuesday's killings, the bloodstains had been washed away, but four memorial candles burned as about a dozen men chanted their daily prayers and police newly stationed outside guarded the Kehillat Bnei Torah congregation.

"It's a little scary, but we're going to have to go on with our lives. We're staying here, we're not moving anywhere … this terrorist attack is not going to change anything," said Avraham Burkei, a member of the synagogue in Jewish West Jerusalem.

Palestinians in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem also voiced concern about their safety amid the surge in violence, as police set up checkpoints in their neighbourhoods, and tethered surveillance balloons floated overhead.

Tuesday's synagogue attack was the deadliest in Jerusalem since 2008.

Bad to worse

For Palestinians, a push by far-right Jews to be allowed, in defiance of a decades-old ban agreed by Israel, to pray at a holy compound where al-Aqsa mosque now stands and Biblical Jewish Temples once stood, has prompted anger and suspicion.

Israel says it has no intention of changing the prayer arrangements at the site and has accused Palestinian leaders of inciting violence. There have been almost nightly clashes in East Jerusalem in recent months between Palestinians throwing rocks and setting off firecrackers and Israeli police firing stun grenades and tear gas.

"It's gone from bad to worse — it's never been this bad," Uday Abu Sbeitan, a 65-year-old Palestinian, told Reuters as a police helicopter hovered low over his Mount of Olives neighbourhood.

"Women are scared for their children at night — that they might be arrested or kidnapped."

With files from Reuters