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Mercaz HaRav massacre

Mercaz HaRav Massacre
The attack site
Location The Mercaz HaRav yeshiva at Kiryat Moshe, Jerusalem, Israel

31°47′16.15″N 35°11′48.54″E / 31.7878194°N 35.1968167°E / 31.7878194; 35.1968167{{#coordinates:31|47|16.15|N|35|11|48.54|E| | |name=

Date 6 March 2008
8:36 pm[1] – 8:56 pm (GMT+2)
Attack type
Mass murder, massacre, school shooting
Weapons AK-47
Deaths 9[2] (including the perpetrator)
Non-fatal injuries
Perpetrator Lone Palestinian assailant (Alaa Abu Dhein)[3]
Defenders Yitzhak Dadon and David Shapira

The Mercaz HaRav massacre, also called the Mercaz HaRav shooting, was an attack that occurred on 6 March 2008, in which a lone Palestinian gunman shot multiple students at the Mercaz HaRav yeshiva, a religious school in Jerusalem, Israel, after which the gunman himself was shot dead. Eight students and the perpetrator were killed. Eleven more were wounded, five of them placed in serious to critical condition.[4][5][6]

The attack began at 8:36 p.m. local time and ended about twenty minutes later. According to survivor Mijael Mendelson, the attack lasted about 14 minutes. Mendelson reports he saw the time before the shooting started and shortly after knowing the gunman was dead.[1] The attacker was stopped by long-time Mercaz HaRav student Yitzchak Dadon and off-duty Israel Defense Forces Captain David Shapira who fought back using their personal firearms.[7][clarification needed]

The attack was praised by Hamas and, according to a subsequent poll, was supported by 84 percent of the Palestinian population, the highest result showing support for violence in 15 years, which the pollster concluded was the result of recent actions by Israel in Gaza and the West Bank.[8][9] It was condemned in official statements by various countries around the world.

The shooting

The attacker, Alaa Abu Dhein, age 26, from the Arab neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber in East Jerusalem, who, according to his family, worked as a driver for a private company that made deliveries to the yeshiva,[10] entered the building carrying a box concealing an AKM along with several magazines, later firing as many as 500–600 rounds.[11]

Less than twenty[not in citation given] minutes after he started shooting, the attacker was shot by a part-time student, Yitzhak Dadon (40). Dadon said that he waited on the roof of a nearby building with a rifle. "He came out of the library spraying automatic fire ... the terrorist came to the entrance and I shot him twice in the head."[12]

Capt. David Shapira, an officer in the Israel Defense Forces who was living nearby but not on duty at the time and was a graduate of the yeshiva, heard the gunfire, entered, and shortly thereafter confirmed that the shooter was dead at the scene.[13] A police patrolman who arrived at the scene before Shapira, remained outside in an effort to "freeze the situation" by preventing civilians from entering instead of making contact and stopping the shooting.[14]


File:Yeshivat Mercaz haRav.jpg
One of the yeshiva buildings
  • 8:36 pm – First call received by a Magen David Adom operator from a yeshiva student inside the building requesting emergency services.
  • 8:37 pm – First ambulances dispatched.
  • 8:40 pm – The first police car arrives at the scene; officer does not enter.[15]
  • 8:41 pm – First paramedic on site reports of one wounded.
  • 8:42 pm – Shapira enters the yeshiva.
  • 8:45 pm – Two detectives arrive on the scene.
  • 8:45 pm – Dadon shoots the attacker.
  • 8:51 pm – 'A.R.A.N.' declared (multiple wounded event).
  • 8:57 pm – MADA operator reports 'end of shooting' and orders paramedics into yeshiva.[1]



Name Age From Studied at
Neria Cohen 15 Jerusalem Yashlatz
Segev Pniel Avihail 15 Neve Daniel Yashlatz
Avraham David Moses 16 Efrat Yashlatz
Yehonatan Yitzhak Eldar 16 Shilo Yashlatz
Ro'i Roth 18 Elkana Mercaz Harav
Yohai Lipshitz 18 Jerusalem Yashlatz
Yonadav Chaim Hirshfeld 18 Kokhav HaShahar Mercaz Harav
Doron Mahareta 26 Ashdod Mercaz Harav

In addition to those who were shot to death, ten other students were wounded, three seriously.


File:Alaa Abu Dhein.jpg
The perpetrator, Alaa Abu Dhein

The gunman, Alaa Abu Dhein, a resident of Jerusalem, was, according to his family, a driver who delivered goods to the yeshiva;[17] this was later denied by the head of the yeshiva. [clarification needed][citation needed] The gunman's family said he was an intensely religious Muslim but not a member of any militant group.[citation needed]

Abu Dhein, like other Arab residents of east Jerusalem who choose not to have Israeli citizenship, carried an Israeli identity card that granted him freedom of movement and travel throughout Israel.[18] On 5 January 2009, the Israeli High Court of Justice authorized the demolition of Abu Dhein's family home.[19]


Although Abu Dhaim left behind no statement describing his motive, his sister, Iman Abu Dhaim, told the Associated Press that he had been radicalised by the violence in Gaza, where 126 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces from Wednesday through Monday,[10] in response to rocket fire from Palestinian terrorist groups based in Gaza.[20][21]

According to journalist Ian Black, the attack seemed intended to send the message that Israeli attacks on its enemies, either in Gaza, Lebanon or Syria would not go unanswered. The seminary is identified with the spiritual leadership of the Jewish settlement movement in the West Bank, and especially with Gush Emunim. Jerusalem may have been chosen as there had been no attacks in the city during 2007.[22]

Claims of responsibility

Hezbollah television network Al-Manar reported that a group calling itself Galilee Liberators Brigades—the Martyrs of Imad Mughniyeh has claimed responsibility for the attack, raising the possibility that the shooting was in retaliation for the assassination of Imad Mughniyeh. Israel had previously denied responsibility for that assassination.[23]

Hamas praised the attack on Thursday but did not claim responsibility for it. On Friday an anonymous phone call to the Reuters news agency took responsibility on Hamas's behalf. However, Fawzi Barhoum, a senior Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said that no claim was official unless made in a written statement signed by the military wing of Hamas.[10]



Ehud Olmert, Israel's Prime Minister, called the attack "horrible".[24] Olmert also said that the Mercaz Harav yeshiva had produced, "the finest soldiers for many generations; people who have realized the Zionist faith. This yeshiva — which was founded by Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook — has educated and nurtured tradition and legacy, as part of Israel's resilience."[25] A spokesman for Olmert said Israel would act after proper investigation and deliberation, and he condemned those, like Hamas, who celebrated the killings with parades in Gaza. "That Hamas calls this a heroic act, and praises it, this exposes them for what they are", the Olmert spokesman said.[10] However in their grief Olmert was not welcomed to visit the place of Torah learning. A yeshiva spokesperson told Ehud Olmert that he was not welcome at that time, saying it wanted to "save him and us the embarrassment."[26]

Dalia Itzik of the ruling Kadima party, Speaker of the Knesset and acting president while Shimon Peres is overseas, called for the demolition of the mourning tent for the killer and the demolition of his family's home.[27]

Thousands in Israel mourned the deaths of those killed, observing Jewish traditions of mourning, with the murdered victims buried on Friday.[28]

A Channel 1 report that three alumni of the yeshiva were planning a revenge attack against a senior Arab official affiliated with a mosque on Jerusalem's Temple Mount, allegedly with permission from several rabbis, was dismissed by Public Security Minister Avi Dichter and the Shin Bet as baseless following their investigation. National Religious Party's MK Zevulun Orlev said he suspected the allegations were an attempt to "blemish religious Zionism."[29][30][31]

Yuli Tamir, Israel's Education Minister, who made a condolence visit to the yeshiva two days after the shooting, left and later claimed '[I] was kicked in the back twice, spat at, and verbally attacked by dozens of youths outside building', they called me 'murderer' and they said that "the Left is to blame for everything."[32] She had said at the Yeshivah itself "This [hostility to the left as she saw it] reminded me of the days before (former Prime Minister Yitzhak) Rabin's murder. It's unfortunate that there is a public which cannot put limits from [sic] itself. I only came to pay my respect to the murdered, not to engage in politics."[25] In fact no political assassinations took place in the aftermath of the killing spree, nor were there any threats of political assassinations. The next morning Yuli Tamir threatened to cut of funding for the yeshiva, citing a lack of "democratic values".[33]

The Israel Football Association called for a minute's silence prior to the weekend's football matches, though it was marred in Sakhnin where some supporters of the Arab Bnei Sakhnin team booed. Bnei Sakhnin F.C. spokesman Mundar Haleileh said his club honored the moment of silence, "but we don't have full control over all fans. The association made the decision, and perhaps mixing politics with soccer is a matter to be discussed."[34]

On 17 March, hundreds of activists attacked Arab homes in the east Jerusalem neighborhood Jebl Mukaber in an attempt to raze the house of the family of the gunman. For three hours, the activists chanted "revenge, revenge", vandalized property of the Arab village (which the police tried to prevent), and clashed with the police, whom they accused of "guarding the murderers." Many of the protesters were part of the settler movement and carried signs with slogans such as "Expel the Arab Enemy" and "The Land of Israel for the Jewish People" while others shouted "kill the Arabs". Despite a heavy police blockade at the entrance to Jebl Mukaber and a massive deployment of security forces in the area, the marchers managed to enter the village, stone residents' homes and damage a couple of cars belonging to villagers. The police declared the demonstration illegal, and finally forced the protesters to leave.[35]

At an event one month after the attack, former Sephardi Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu told some 1,000 attendants that in retribution for the massacre the government should establish a yeshiva or Jewish township for every one of the lives lost that evening. However, other National Religious voices were more moderate. In the same one-month commemoration event, the Chief Rabbi of Ramat Gan, Rabbi Yaacov Ariel, reminded his audience:
We do not seek revenge, only retaliation ... we are against killing innocent people or harming children.[36]

The Israeli human rights group B'Tselem released a statement condemning the attack which read: "B'Tselem severely condemns the Palestinian terror attack that took place in a yeshiva (religious school) in Jerusalem, in which 8 Israeli civilians, including 4 minors were killed and many other persons were injured. Attacks aimed at civilians are immoral, inhuman, and illegal."[37]


Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian National Authority, stated "We condemn all attacks against civilians, be they Palestinian or Israeli."[38] However, the Palestinian National Authority daily newspaper, Al-Hayat al-Jadida, honored the shooter as a "martyr". The paper prominently placed a picture of the gunman on the front page, with the caption, "The Martyr Alaa Abu Dheim". In a front-page article on the killings, his act is again defined as a "martyrdom-achieving" action. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri stated that "This heroic attack in Jerusalem is a normal response to the crimes of the occupier and its murder of civilians".[39]

In a poll taken two weeks later by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, 84 percent of Palestinians supported the attack on the Mercaz Harav yeshiva. The pollster, Mr. Shikaki was "shocked" and said the result was the single highest support for an act of violence in his 15 years of polling. According to The New York Times, the pollster posited in his own words that recent Israeli actions had "led to despair and rage among average Palestinians who thirst for revenge", including the death of 130 people as a result of attacks on Gaza, the killing of four militants in an undercover operation in Bethlehem and plans to expand several Israeli settlements in the West Bank.[8]


  • 23x15px United Nations: The United Nations Security Council failed to agree on a condemnation of the attack due to opposition from Libya which wanted to link the condemnation to a resolution calling for censure of Israel over its actions in Gaza the previous week.[40]


Praise for the attack

According to The Jerusalem Post, in March 2008, Abdel Bari Atwan, editor-in-chief of Arab language newspapers, as well as a London based Pan-Arab paper, said the murder of 15 year old students "was justified" and that the celebrations in Gaza following the murders symbolized "the courage of the Palestinian nation" and "marks Israel's destruction."[64] Conversely in his English language appearances on BBC Dateline and Dutch television, and in his book he stated "We have to learn to live together in peace and co-operation in a multi-cultural society in one democratic secular state for two people. One state for both peoples governed by a representative democracy and on an equal footing. We manage it here in London, it is working in South Africa, and there is enough room for everyone in Palestine. I respect the Jewish people and their religion. I do not want to destroy Israel but I do want to end racism and the current Apartheid system."[65]

See also


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External links