This is the testimony given by my friend and mentor Rabbi Arik Aschermann, who was attacked by a Jewish extremist, armed with a knife, this past Friday, while accompanying Palestinians during the olive harvests near Nablus. I had gone out to pick olives with Arik a few weeks before, and was in the Southern West Bank with a group of Leftist Jews, just returning from our own olive harvest alongside Palestinian activists and farmers, when I heard the news on Friday. This testimony was originally posted on the Rabbis for Human Rights website. When I spoke to Arik this afternoon, he sounded as determined as usual, but also said to me: “I didn’t realize until I saw the video how easily he could have killed me.”
I am wishing Arik a speedy and complete recovery, in spirit and in body, and the same to all of us here in this broken, crumbling land:
”On Friday, October 23rd, RHR and the Israeli army arranged for Palestinian farmers to harvest their olives in a grove just below the unrecognized outposts belonging to the Itamar settlement. RHR volunteers were not present with the harvesters, at the request of the army. Surprisingly, the army demanded that the pickers leave unusually early – even for a Friday – at 12:30, and the harvesters left the area. Palestinians and RHR staff then spotted Israelis stealing from the very same olive grove and they informed the security forces. The DCO (Army liason unit that coordinates the harvest) soon arrived and took ID information from the thieves. In a nearby wadi, other Israelis set Palestinian olive trees on fire.
Because the security forces didn’t answer, Rabbi Arik Ascherman went up to try to film the fire and the perpetrators. While focused on the Israelis still far away, he failed to notice an additional masked Israeli who surprised him from the side. He began throwing rocks at Rabbi Ascherman, and threatened him with a knife. Rabbi Ascherman tried to back away, while facing his attacker and trying to protect a journalist who had come up with him. However, the attacker was kicking him and swinging the knife at Rabbi Ascherman as he was backing down the steep hill. Rabbi Ascherman lost his balance. Realizing that the attacker could at that point easily crush his skull with a rock or stab him, Rabbi Ascherman decided that he had no choice but to grab the leg of his attacker.
At that point, the attacker positioned himself on Rabbi Ascherman’s back, and could have easily stabbed him. He chose not to do so, and instead ran away.
Rabbi Ascherman said that he and a number of activists who had come remained on the hill so that the Israelis would also stay, and the security forces would have a chance to apprehend them.. However, the security forces didn’t arrive until after a army jeep arrived below, causing the Israelis to run away.”
Video of part of the event is here: