By Danielle Crittenden Frum
One of Fig Tree & Vine’s missions is to be a “bummer free” zone from bad news relating to Jews and Israel. We are all about beauty and joy. When we travel to Israel, we write about it as if we were visiting Italy or Spain. Israel is a land of wine, food, culture and design. Why must media coverage focus almost exclusively on terror and politics?
Over these past six months, however, terror has forced its way into the country’s civil life. Random stabbing attacks on city streets have shattered the feeling of safety among urban Israelis. During my most recent visit, two weeks ago, I reported on how different and creepy it felt to walk through the Old City of Jerusalem. But when I arrived in Tel Aviv, those feelings vanished. Tel Avivians are, well, Tel Avivians. Nothing short of an incoming barrage of missiles will keep them from sitting outside at cafes or going to the beach.
I spent a week visiting with artisans and doing other FT&V work accompanied by my 24-year-old daughter Miranda. (Miranda lives part-time in Israel as a writer and model; during my trip she moonlighted as my Fashion & Style editor, picking out new jewelry collections for us as well as styling our photo shoots) We spent a lot of time in Old Jaffa, where silversmith Ben-Zion David keeps his studio and shop in one of the ancient limestone alleyways. We ate lunch at Dr. Shakshuka in the shadow of the clock tower. Later I stopped for a snack at an Arab cafe and was amused to discover I’d stumbled into a hookah bar. Regrettably, we did not have time for dinner at the famous seafood restaurant, Manta Ray, right on the beach just to the north of the old Jaffa port. And I was disappointed that my tasks (and an injured toe) kept me from walking the magnificent seaside promenade that links Jaffa to Tel Aviv.
So I surprised and horrified to receive this alarmed email from Miranda on Tuesday morning U.S. time:
Subject line: Terror attack in Jaffa.
Message: I’m safe but wow happened at the jaffa port and manta ray restaurant.
The next message read:
I was running there this morning. Best running spot in the city
Israeli press is reporting that the stabber attacked tourists
The Israeli press was right. The stabber – later identified as a 22-year-old Palestinian and member of Hamas – went on a 20-minute rampage at dusk, wounding 12 people and killing American combat veteran Taylor Force, 28. Force had traveled to Israel with fellow Vanderbuilt graduate school students to learn about global entrepreneurship. He’d survived tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan — but not, heartbreakingly, a leisurely evening stroll along the beach. As the New York Times noted , “The attack was unusual because it occurred in Jaffa, a place where Arabs and Jews often mix along the usually crowded seaside boulevards.”
Two Arabs were among the injured, as well as a Russian tourist and his pregnant wife.
But it was Miranda who alerted me to maybe the most Tel Avivian detail to emerge from the tragedy. A peaceful, pony-tailed hippy was playing his guitar near the promenade where the stabbing occurred. The young man,Yishay Montgomery, would later tell local television, “I was sitting on the beach and I heard screaming coming from down the road. I immediately got up and started running after [the terrorist] with the guitar – I hit him on the head with it. He was so shocked he didn’t know what to do with himself.”
The stabber managed to keep running, however. Montgomery chased him, brandishing his now-wrecked guitar and screaming “Terrorist! Terrorist!” to alert passers-by to the danger.
Montgomery may have saved many lives before the attacker was fatally shot by police. Israelis instantly dubbed Montgomery the “Guitar Hero.” An online fundraising campaign was set up to replace his guitar: Within 11 hours, the fund had surpassed its goal of $2,000.
Montgomery later showed up in a bar managed by FT&V photographer Eliran Dahan. The “guitar hero” was presented with a free bottle of champagne. I suspect Montgomery will not have to buy a drink in Tel Aviv for some time.