Murdering Jews and Americans comes with benefits. While the loved ones of the victims are paying the price in tears, terrorists are receiving monthly payments. The Palestinian Authority (PA) has a formula for paying terrorists incarcerated in Israeli prisons. The PA calculates pay on a sliding scale – the longer the sentence, the higher the monthly payment. When released from prison, those terrorists receive free university tuition and medical benefits. If the act is especially heinous, they have schools named after them and are idolized by the younger generation.
According to Palestinian Media Watch, a non-governmental organization that monitors the Palestinian Authority, each year the PA spends about $150 million on terrorists in Israeli prisons and families of deceased prisoners. Many of those terrorists make more than civil servants and military members who work for the Palestinian Authority.
Those payments are now being made to five terrorists who orphaned four Jewish children. The children were traveling with their parents from Jerusalem to their home in the Judea and Samaria regions, also known as the West Bank, when two masked Hamas terrorists stopped the car and brutally slaughtered their parents. Unmasked and in custody, the men confessed to the murders and recounted the chilling event, the details of which are outlined in media reports.
The young children in the back seat, aged four months to nine years, watched as the gunmen shot their parents: thirty-one-year-old Eitam Henkin, an American student at Tel Aviv University, and his thirty-year-old wife Naama, a graphic designer. The couple fought for their lives by struggling with their murderers over the terrorists’ weapons. Inexplicably, the terrorists decided not to shoot the children.
Today, those shooters and their three co-conspirators are in an Israeli prison receiving monthly salaries from the Palestinian Authority. The terrorists’ families receive additional payments. This policy of paying terrorists who murder Jews and Americans, along with the practice of naming Palestinian schools in terrorists’ honor, promotes an increase in terrorism throughout the region. From birth children living under the rule of the Palestinian Authority are bottle-fed hatred toward Jews. Palestinian children’s shows on Arab television depict Jews as less than human by calling them “monkeys and pigs.” Palestinian school children are taught to honor those who brutally murder Jews and Americans and to aspire to be terrorists.
Less than a month after this heinous terrorist act, I was living near the Henkin’s former home in the Judea and Samaria regions. I was serving with HaYovel, a Christian organization which helps Israeli farmers harvest grapes and olives. Prior to my trip, I was aware of the increased violence in the region.
Despite the risks, I had no fear. GOD had called me to serve the Jewish people. Then GOD gave me a burning passion to cry out against the rising hatred and attacks against Israel. As I heard stories from people affected by terrorism and visited their communities, those attacks were no longer just headlines scrolling across my computer screen.
I met one Jewish man who related that the Henkins met at his wedding and how ten years earlier he had lost loved ones in a similar attack. I heard the horrific account of a family massacred in 2011 in the community of Itamar. Those terrorists murdered the parents and three of their six children. The day after the Itamar attack, a local Arab woman sought help with an emergency childbirth. The same emergency medical technicians who administered aid at the scene of the massacre provided medical assistance to that Arab woman and her child. In the future, will that Arab child turn against those Jewish first-responders?
While traveling along the route where the Henkins were murdered, I experienced the hatred of the Palestinian children. A group of middle-school aged boys saw our Jewish bullet-proof bus and made obscene gestures in our direction. One boy acted as if he were going to throw his backpack at us. I had to fight the anger rising up in me. A Scripture came to mind from Proverbs 4:23, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” I had to guard my heart against responding to hatred with hate. I prayed for those boys to turn from their wicked teachings and for GOD to soften their hearts.
In the midst of all this tragedy, I was humbled by the response of the Jewish people. Those I met deliberately sought to bring good out of evil. David Rubin started the Shiloh Israel Children’s Fund with the purpose of helping the youngest victims of terror heal. He and his son, who was three years old at the time, were shot by terrorists while driving home. His desire to help his son led to the fund which provides art, music and animal therapies for children devastated by terrorism.
In another incident, a Jewish man suffered an attack in East Jerusalem which was instigated by a group of Muslims. They pelted his vehicle with stones, dragged him from the car, beat him and left him for dead. He managed to get to an ambulance that just happened to be in the area. At the end of his horrible tale, he emphasized that the surgeon who mended him was a Muslim.
Throughout my journey to Israel, I cherished the indomitable spirit of the Jewish people and the land where dreams of peace swirled among vineyards and ancient olive trees. But this peace will remain unattainable as long as the Palestinian Authority continues to pay terrorists. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has yet to condemn the murders of the Henkins or any of the other victims, including the recent murder of Ezra Schwartz, an 18-year-old American from Massachusetts. Schwartz died when a Palestinian gunman attacked the van he was traveling in with other students.
Those who value life and seek peace should take action. It is time to shine a light on this despicable practice of rewarding terror whether through pay or honor. It is time for the Palestinian Authority to change course, condemn terrorism and promote peace. It is time to stop this nightmare before another child is orphaned and sentenced to a lifetime of horrendous loss.
Terri Jorgenson is the Education Coordinator for CWA of South Dakota.