Tzvika Cohen and Sa’adi Ali Abu Hamed were coworkers in a mall in Ma’ale Edumim, a city four miles east of the Green Line, just outside of Jerusalem. Sa’adi, 21, was born in a Palestinian village nearby, and, like hundreds of young Palestinian men from neighboring communities, had the security clearance necessary to work at the Jewish-owned mall, where he manned a small deli’s fish counter. He was well-liked by his colleagues and customers alike; the kind of guy who remembered your regular order, asked after your wife, and was always happy to share a cigarette and a cup of coffee. Tzvika, 48, had four children—the youngest about to celebrate his bar mitzvah, the oldest, like his father, a security guard at the mall. In 2000, Tzvika’s brother, Rachamim, picked up a Palestinian passenger in his taxicab; shortly afterwards, the passenger pulled out a large knife and stabbed Rachamim 11 times, leaving him at death’s door. Rachamim eventually recovered, and his brother said he refused to hold a grudge: He was friendly with the Palestinians who worked in the mall with him, Sa’adi included.
Late last Thursday night, Tzvika was sitting in the mall’s security control room. He heard a knock on the door. It was Sa’adi, asking the guard to open up a second, saying he just had a quick question. Tzvika had no reason to doubt his colleague or question his motives. He opened the door.
You can see what happened next in the video below. Be warned, it’s gruesome, but you should watch it. You should watch it because terms like “Palestinian terrorism” or “bloody conflict” or even “stabbing attack” are abstractions, and if you hear them long enough, you eventually start to think of them as merely entries on some ghoulish spread sheet, deposits and withdrawals in human life that are regrettable but somehow inevitable. You should watch the video to know that this isn’t the case. You should watch the video to witness the savagery of a man hacking another man, a fellow laborer, a warm acquaintance with whom the attacker had shared a cup of coffee two days prior, for no other reason than wild and incurable hate.
Tzvika Cohen is still fighting for his life. Sa’adi was captured a few days after the attack. Whatever you think of Israelis and Palestinians, whatever particular solution you happen to advocate, whatever your ideology or disposition, you must watch their encounter and reconsider.
Liel Leibovitz is editor at large for Tablet Magazine and a host of its weekly culture podcast Unorthodox and daily Talmud podcast Take One. He is the editor of Zionism: The Tablet Guide.