The surge in Palestinian terrorism against Israelis last week left two dead, four injured and UCF’s Jewish community in a state of mourning.

“It's hard to hear about this when you're back home, but here in Israel, the grief and fear is very real,” said Lexi Goldstein, a UCF sophomore who is currently interning in Israel for the summer.

Palestinian terrorist Muhammad Tarayrah, 17, infiltrated the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba, located near the city of Hebron, on the morning of June 30. Tarayrah slipped into Hallel Yaffa Ariel’s bedroom through an open window and stabbed the 13-year-old Israeli to death.

A security team, alerted by the settlement’s alarm system, arrived at the Ariel household shortly after the attack. Tarayrah, who had not yet fled the residency, wounded one of the Israeli security personnel before he was shot and killed.

Paramedics were able to resuscitate Ariel at the scene, but the teenager was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.

“You don’t murder a sleeping child for peace,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a public Facebook video. “You don’t slit a little girl’s throat to protest a policy you don’t like. You do this because you’ve been brainwashed. You’ve been brainwashed by a warped ideology that teaches you that this child isn’t human.”

Since the wave of Palestinian violence erupted in September 2015, there have been a slew of attacks in and nearby the city of Hebron.

Rabbi Chaim Lipskier, the executive director of Chabad at UCF, said the global Jewish community must unite in the face of adversity.

“With terrible news like that, part of you wants to sit down and cry,” Rabbi Lipskier said. “Each and every single one of us needs to be there for each other and support each other in times of tragedy. We will continue to carry a torch and try to be there for our people."

On July 1, 48-year-old Rabbi Michael Mark, a father of 10, was driving from the West Bank to Jerusalem to visit his mother when he was killed by a Palestinian gunman. The attack occurred near the Aduraim Junction, located just 15 kilometers from Kiryat Arba, where young Ariel was murdered the day before.

The rain of bullets caused Rabbi Mark’s vehicle to overturn. His wife was critically injured and taken to the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem. The couple’s daughter, 14, sustained a gunshot wound to the stomach and their son, 15, was lightly wounded. Both children have been released from the hospital.

Knights for Israel President Ben Suster said the Jewish community is shaken by the tragedies and even more so by the prominent leaders, including Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who refuse to denounce these acts of terror.

“We’ve seen crushing attacks in Orlando, Istanbul, Dhaka and Baghdad,” Suster said. “But what separates these attacks from the attacks on Hallel and Rabbi Michael is that the former were condemned as terrorism while the latter were justified as a form of resistance by too many people.”

UCF senior and international relations major Rezwan Haq said Knights do not have to travel to the Middle East to advocate for peace. As a Muslim student who is active in both KFI and the Muslim Student Association, Haq said he has learned the importance of raising awareness in one’s own community.

“Gradual progress is better than no progress at all,” Haq said. “While most people may be apathetic to this conflict, the only way we can make people aware of it is through education and compassion. It’s up to us to be the leaders of tomorrow.”

In addition to the two fatal attacks, border police thwarted an attack by a knife-wielding Palestinian woman on the morning of July 1 at the Cave of the Patriarchs, a holy site located in the West Bank. The suspect was shot and later died of her wounds.

And on Tuesday, Israeli soldiers shot a Palestinian woman armed with a knife at a bus stop in the northern West Bank.  The assailant was given treatment at the scene before she was taken to a nearby hospital.

Aaron Weil, who currently serves as the executive director of Central Florida Hillel and formerly as an Israeli soldier, said terrorism is not a solution.

“Murdering innocents at the Pulse nightclub here in Orlando or in a child’s bedroom in Israel is still murder,” Weil said. “It’s up to each of us in our own faith groups and cultures in America to make it very clear that violence is unacceptable everywhere and every time.”


Shana Medel is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Email her at

Originally published on July 7, 2016.

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