At some point on Thursday morning, 19-year-old Ori Ansbacher left the center for high-risk youth in Jerusalem, where she was volunteering for a year of national service.
She was reportedly in distress, telling colleagues that she wanted solitude and tranquility in nature. She then wandered off into the nearby forest.
Later that night, the evening newscast reported heavily on her disappearance and the intensive search underway to find her. It ended horribly. Ori had been sexually assaulted and murdered in what is reported to have been a particularly brutal crime. Further details have been sealed by court order.
Forensic evidence gathered at the crime scene, and a tip led authorities to a mosque in Ramallah, which the IDF raided late Friday night with the Shin Bet (domestic security) and Yamam, an elite counter-terrorism unit of the Border Police. They first searched the Jamal Abd Al-Nasser Mosque in El Bireh on the outskirts of Ramallah. The suspected murderer, 29-year-old Arafat Erfaiyeh slipped away to a nearby abandoned building where he was apprehended without resisting.
News reports indicate that Erfaiyeh is co-operating with law enforcement and helped investigators on Sunday re-enact the crime.
We now know that Erfaiyeh left his Hebron-area home on Thursday morning and headed for Jerusalem, carrying a knife. His chance encounter with Ori was opportunistic.
As with any such crime, speculation was intense and immediate that it was motivated by “nationalist” sentiments, a euphemistic way of referring to Palestinian terror. On Sunday night, this likelihood was confirmed by police, on the eve of Erfaiyeh initial court appearance on Monday.
Waiting for his hearing to begin, Erfaiyeh sat in court flanked by guards, smirking for photographers. The court heard that Erfaiyeh had told investigators that he went to Jerusalem on Thursday with the intention to kill and become a “martyr” for the Palestinian resistance or, if he survived, to do time in an Israeli prison.
Erfaiyeh knew that he would likely encounter young kids playing in the forest, or teens playing hooky, making for easy prey. Ori just happened to be the one who came along.
Members of Erfaiyeh’s family are known to support Hamas, and he has had several relatively minor brushes with Israeli authorities in the past. What is unusual, however, in the context of a terrorist incident is the sexual assault. This additional chilling aspect of the crime may well explain why authorities waited several days to determine conclusively that it was a terrorist incident.
In the hours following Erfaiyeh’s arrest, there has not been a peep of condemnation (or any comment) from the Palestinian Authority other than the reaction of the PA Minister of Religious Affairs, Yusuf Ida’is. He leveled blistering and baseless attacks against Israeli authorities for “attacking” a sacred place of worship. Of course, his comments, which received significant coverage in the state-controlled PA media, omitted any mention of the fact that a suspected murderer sought refuge in the Mosque. To Palestinians, this just becomes another incident of senseless Israeli “brutality.”
It is a foregone certainty that the PA will honor Erfaiyeh’s family for his bravery, and they will receive a monthly allowance throughout his imprisonment. Almost half the PA annual budget is allocated to provide financial support to “martyrs” and imprisoned terrorists, with most funds originating in Western countries.
If this cycle of violence has any chance of ending, or even diminishing, Western countries must present the PA with a unified position: that funding incitement and rewarding terrorism financially and with social status is not a path to peace. And if they do not stop, then the funding will cease.