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Mercaz HaRav Massacre

A building in the Mercaz HaRav yeshiva.
Location Kiryat Moshe, Jerusalem, Israel
Date March 6, 2008
8:36 pm[1] – 8:56pm (GMT+2)
Target Mercaz haRav Yeshiva
Attack type Mass murder, massacre
Weapon(s) AK-47
Death(s) 9 (including the perpetrator)[2]
Injured 11[2]
Perpetrator Alaa Abu Dhein[3]

The Mercaz HaRav massacre, also called the Mercaz HaRav shooting, was an attack that occurred on 6 March 2008, in which a lone Palestinian gunman shot multiple students at the Mercaz HaRav yeshiva, a religious school in Jerusalem, Israel. Eight students and the perpetrator were killed and eleven more were wounded, five of them in serious to critical condition.[4][5][6] The attack began at 8:36 p.m. local time and ended about twenty minutes later. According to survivor Mijael Mendelson, the attack lasted about 14 minutes. Mendelson reports he saw the time before the shooting started and shortly after knowing the gunman was dead.[1] The attacker was stopped by two Israel Defense Forces officers who were former Mercaz HaRav students, Yitzchak Dadon who was a student at the time, and Captain David Shapira shot dead the attacker with their personal firearms.[7]


The shooting

The attacker, Alaa Abu Dhein, age 26, from the Arab neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber in eastern Jerusalem, who reportedly had worked as a driver at the yeshiva[8][9] entered the building carrying a box concealing an AK-47 along with several magazines, later firing as many as 500-600 rounds.[10] About twenty minutes after he started shooting, the attacker was shot by a part-time student, Yitzhak Dadon, and by Capt. David Shapira, an officer in the Israel Defense Force, and shortly thereafter confirmed dead at the scene.[11] A police patrolman who arrived at the scene before Yitzhak Dadon and Capt. David Shapira, remained outside in an effort to "freeze the situation" by preventing civilians from entering instead of making contact and stopping the shooting.[12]



  • 8:36pm - First call received by a Magen David Adom operator from a yeshiva student inside the building requesting emergency services
  • 8:37pm - First ambulances dispatched
  • 8:40pm - The first police car arrives at the scene, does not enter.[13]
  • 8:41pm - First paramedic on site reports of one wounded
  • 8:42pm - Shapira enters the yeshiva.
  • 8:45pm - Dadon and Shapira exchange fire with the attacker.
  • 8:51pm - 'A.R.A.N.' declared (multiple wounded event)
  • 8:57pm - MADA operator reports 'end of shooting' and orders ambulance staff into yeshiva[1]


List of murdered[14]

Name Age From Studied at
Neria Cohen 15 Jerusalem Yashlatz
Segev Pniel Avihail 15 Neve Daniel Yashlatz
Avraham David Moses 16 Efrat Yashlatz
Yehonatan Yitzhak Eldar 16 Shilo Yashlatz
Ro'i Roth 18 Elkana Mercaz Harav
Yohai Lipshitz 18 Jerusalem Yashlatz
Yonadav Chaim Hirshfeld 18 Kokhav HaShahar Mercaz Harav
Doron Mahareta 26 Ashdod Mercaz Harav

In addition to those who were shot to death, ten other students were wounded, three seriously.


Alaa Abu Dhein

The gunman responsible, Alaa Abu Dhein, a resident of Jerusalem, was according to his family a driver who had delivered goods to the seminary.[15] This was denied by the head of the yeshiva. Abu Dhein's family said he was an intensely religious Muslim but was not a member of any militant group.

Abu Dhein, like other Arab residents of east Jerusalem who choose not to have Israeli citizenship, carried an Israeli identity card that granted him freedom of movement and travel throughout Israel.[16][17] On January 5, 2009, Israeli High Court of Justice authorized to demolish his family's house, despite appeals by his father not to do so.[18]


Although Abu Dhaim left behind no statement describing his motive, his sister, Iman Abu Dhaim, told The Associated Press that he had been transfixed by the violence in Gaza, where 126 Palestinians, dozens of them civilians, were killed by Israeli forces from Wednesday through Monday,[8] in response to rocket fire from Palestinian groups based in Gaza.[19][20]

According to Ian Black, the attack seemed intended to send the message that Israeli attacks on its enemies, either in Gaza, Lebanon or Syria would not go unanswered. The seminary is identified with the spiritual leadership of the Jewish settlement movement in the West Bank, and especially with Gush Emunim. Jerusalem may have been chosen since there were no attacks in the city during 2007.[21]

Claims of responsibility

Hezbollah television network Al-Manar reported that a group calling itself Galilee Liberators Brigades - the Martyrs of Imad Mughniyeh has claimed responsibility for the attack, raising the possibility that the shooting was in retaliation for the assassination of Imad Mughniyeh. Israel had previously denied responsibility for that assassination.[22]

Hamas praised the attack on Thursday but did not claim responsibility for it. On Friday an anonymous phone call to the Reuters news agency took responsibility on Hamas's behalf. However, Fawzi Barhoum, a senior Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said that no claim was official unless made in a written statement signed by the military wing of Hamas.[8]



Ehud Olmert, Israel's Prime Minister, called the attack "horrible".[23] Olmert also said that the Mercaz Harav yeshiva had produced, "the finest soldiers for many generations; people who have realized the Zionist faith. This yeshiva – which was founded by Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook – has educated and nurtured tradition and legacy, as part of Israel's resilience."[24] A spokesman for Olmert said Israel would act after proper investigation and deliberation, and he condemned those, like Hamas, who celebrated the killings with parades in Gaza. “That Hamas calls this a heroic act, and praises it, this exposes them for what they are,” the Olmert spokesman said.[8]

Avigdor Lieberman of Yisrael Beiteinu blamed Arab Knesset members maintaining that the "attack can not be disconnected from the Arab MKs incitement, which we hear daily in the Knesset." Women in Green called for the establishment of eight new settlements in the West Bank in memory of the eight students killed.[25]

Dalia Itzik of the ruling Kadima party, Speaker of the Knesset and acting president while Shimon Peres is overseas, called for the demolition of the mourning tent for the killer and the demolition of his family's home.[26]

Thousands in Israel mourned the deaths of those killed, observing Jewish traditions of mourning, with the murdered victims buried on Friday. [27][28]

A Channel 1 report that three alumni of the yeshiva were planning a revenge attack against a senior Arab official affiliated with a mosque on Jerusalem's Temple Mount, allegedly with permission from several rabbis, was dismissed by Public Security Minister Avi Dichter and the Shin Bet as baseless following their investigation. National Religious Party's MK Zevulun Orlev said he suspected the allegations were an attempt to "blemish religious Zionism." [29][30][31]

Yuli Tamir, Israel's Education Minister, who made a condolence visit to the yeshiva two days after the shooting, was forced to leave after she was kicked in the back twice, spat at, and verbally attacked by dozens of youths outside building, who called her a "murderer" and said that "the Left is to blame for everything."[32] She said: "This reminded me of the days before (former Prime Minister Yitzhak) Rabin's murder. It's unfortunate that there is a public which cannot put limits form [sic] itself. I only came to pay my respect to the murdered, not to engage in politics."[24] The next morning Yuli Tamir threatened to cut of funding for the yeshiva, claiming it did not have "democratic values." [33] The yeshiva told Ehud Olmert that he was not welcome, saying it wanted to "save him and us the embarrassment."[34]

The Israel Football Association called for a minute's silence prior to the weekend's football matches, though it was marred in Sakhnin where some supporters of the Arab team of Bnei Sakhnin booed. Sakhnin spokesman Mundar Haleileh said his club honored the moment of silence, "but we don't have full control over all fans. The association made the decision, and perhaps mixing politics with soccer is a matter to be discussed."[35]

On March 17, hundreds of right-wing activists attacked Arab homes in the east Jerusalem neighborhood Jebl Mukaber in an attempt to raze the house of the family of the gunman. For three hours, the activists chanted "revenge, revenge", vandalized property of the Arab village (which the police tried to prevent), and clashed with the police, whom they accused of "guarding the murderers." Many of the protesters were part of the settler movement and carried signs with slogans such as "Expel the Arab Enemy" and "The Land of Israel for the Jewish People" while others shouted "kill the Arabs". Despite a heavy police blockade at the entrance to Jebl Mukaber and a massive deployment of security forces in the area, the marchers managed to enter the village, stone residents' homes and damage a couple of cars belonging to villagers. The police declared the demonstration illegal, and finally forced the protesters to leave.[36]

On the one-month anniversary of the attack, former Sephardi Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu told some 1,000 attendants that in retribution for the massacre the government should establish a yeshiva or Jewish township for every one of the lives lost that evening. He went on to explain,

Even when we seek revenge, it is important to make one thing clear, the life of one yeshiva boy is worth more than the lives of 1,000 Arabs.

However, other National Religious voices were more moderate. In the same one-month commemoration event, the Chief Rabbi of Ramat Gan, Rabbi Yaacov Ariel, reminded his audience that,

We do not seek revenge, only retaliation . . . we are against killing innocent people or harming children.


The Israeli human rights group B'Tselem released a statement condemning the attack which read: "B'Tselem severely condemns the Palestinian terror attack that took place in a yeshiva (religious school) in Jerusalem, in which 8 Israeli civilians, including 4 minors were killed and many other persons were injured. Attacks aimed at civilians are immoral, inhuman, and illegal."[38]


Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian National Authority, stated "We condemn all attacks against civilians, be they Palestinian or Israeli."[39] However, the Palestinian National Authority daily newspaper, Al-Hayat al-Jadida, honored the shooter with the status of "martyr." The paper also prominently placed a picture of the gunman on the front page, with the caption, "The Martyr Alaa Abu Dheim." In a front-page article on the killings, his act is again defined as a "martyrdom-achieving" action.[40]

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri stated that "This heroic attack in Jerusalem is a normal response to the crimes of the occupier and its murder of civilians".[41]

In a poll taken two weeks later, 84 percent of Palestinians supported the attack on the Mercaz Harav yeshiva. The pollster, Mr. Shikaki was "shocked" and said the result was the single highest support for an act of violence in his 15 years of polling. [42]


See also


  1. ^ a b c "Twenty minutes of fire until terrorist killed". Nana 10. Retrieved 2008-03-09.  (Hebrew)
  2. ^ a b "Mercaz Harav hit by worst terror attack since April 2006". Retrieved 2008-03-07.  
  3. ^ "'Terrorist was a driver for the Yeshiva'". Retrieved 2008-03-07.  
  4. ^ "Eight killed at Jerusalem school", BBC News Online, March 6, 2008
  5. ^ Terror Attack At Jerusalem Seminary - Merkaz HaRav Yeshiva - 8 Dead National Terror Alert Response Center, 6 March 2008
  6. ^ Jerusalem seminary attacked UPI, 6 March 2008
  7. ^ Gunfire kills at least 8 at Jerusalem seminary CTV, 6 March 2008
  8. ^ a b c d Kershner, Isabel; Steven Erlanger (2008-03-08). "8 Burials for Jerusalem Seminary’s Dead". The New York Times.  
  9. ^ Channel 4 - News - Peace talks must go on, says Abbas
  10. ^ "Gunmen 'Terrorist fired 500-600 bullets before he was killed'". Jerusalem: Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2008-03-06.  
  11. ^ "Gunmen open fire in Jerusalem Jewish seminary". CNN. Retrieved 2008-03-06.  
  12. ^ Jerusalem police chief: Cop on duty should have stopped yeshiva attacker
  13. ^ J'lem police chief: Cop on duty should've stopped yeshiva attacker Haaretz, 19 March 2008
  14. ^ "Yeshiva head: This is continuation of 1929 massacre".,7340,L-3516126,00.html. Retrieved 2008-03-07.  
  15. ^ Gunman was seminary driver - police. Channel 4, UK.
  16. ^ Eight arrested in probe of Jewish seminary attack -
  17. ^ The Canadian Press: Shooting in Jewish seminary threatens Jerusalem's delicate coexistence
  18. ^ "Demolition of Mercaz Harav terrorist's home authorized".,7340,L-3650679,00.html.  
  19. ^ Attacks Mar Israeli-Palestinian Talks : NPR
  20. ^ Israel signals it’ll talk despite attack - Israel-Palestinians -
  21. ^ Black, Ian.A double act of revenge: carefully planned atrocity strikes at Israel's spiritual heart
  22. ^ Lis, Jonathan; Yair Ettinger and Amos Harel. "Eight killed in terrorist attack at Jerusalem yeshiva". Jerusalem: Ha'aretz. Retrieved 2008-03-06.  
  23. ^ Copans, Laurie. Israel Say Peace Talks to Continue
  24. ^ a b Vered, Luvitch. Education minister verbally attacked at Mercaz Harav yeshiva
  25. ^ Lieberman: Jerusalem attack is product of Arab MK incitement. Haaretz.
  26. ^ Knesset speaker calls for demolition of Jerusalem yeshiva terrorist's home Haaretz.
  27. ^ McCarthy, Ron.[1]. The Guardian.
  28. ^ Eight die in Jerusalem gun attack. The Press Association.
  29. ^ 'Rightist rabbis urge Jews to avenge enemies 'measure for measure'.' Haaretz 12/03/2008
  30. ^ Report: Yeshiva graduates plan revenge attack against Arab figure
  31. ^ Yeshiva students warned against Shin Bet agent, Jersualem Post
  32. ^ "Itzik: Destroy mourning' tent, home of Jerusalem terrorist". 10 March 2008.,7340,L-3517507,00.html. Retrieved 2008-03-10.  
  33. ^ IMRA - Monday, March 10, 2008 Yuli Tamir threatens to ultimately cut funding of Mercaz Harav
  34. ^ Stricken J'lem yeshiva: PM not welcome to visit Haaretz, 10 March 2008
  35. ^ Moment of silence marred in Sakhnin Haaretz, 10 March 2008
  36. ^ Paz, Shelly. "22 nabbed in right-wing Jebl Mukaber protest". Jeruslam Post date=2008-03-16. Retrieved 2008-04-03.  
  37. ^ YNet: Rabbi Eliyahu: Life of one yeshiva boy worth more than 1,000 Arabs
  38. ^ B'Tselem - 7 March. 08: 8 Israeli civilian including 4 minors killed by Palestinians in Jerusalem
  39. ^ "Eight teens killed in Jerusalem attack". Retrieved 2008-03-06.  
  40. ^ PMW Bulletins Feb. 2008
  41. ^ "8 shot at Jerusalem school". Retrieved 2008-03-07.  
  42. ^ Poll Shows Most Palestinians Favor Violence Over Talks - New York Times
  43. ^ "El Gobierno condenó el atentado en Jerusalén". Retrieved 2008-03-07.   (Spanish)
  44. ^ "Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada". Retrieved 2008-03-08.  
  45. ^ "Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Qin Gang's Remarks on the Attack at a Jewish School in Jerusalem". Retrieved 2008-03-07.  
  46. ^ "EU Presidency condemns Jerusalem terror attack". Retrieved 2008-03-08.  
  47. ^ "Attentat contre une école talmudique à Jérusalem - Mon site SPIP". Retrieved 2008-03-08.   (French)
  48. ^ "- Startseite". Retrieved 2008-03-08.   (German)
  49. ^ "- עמוד פתיחה". Retrieved 2008-03-08.   (Hebrew)
  50. ^ "Ministry Of Foreign Affairs Of Georgia - News". Retrieved 2008-03-08.  
  51. ^ "India condemns attack on Israel seminary". Times of India. Retrieved 2008-04-02.  
  52. ^ "Department of Foreign Affairs - Minister Ahern condemns killing of Israeli religious students in Jerusalem". Retrieved 2008-03-07.  
  53. ^ "MOFA: Statement by Foreign Minister Koumura on the terrorist shooting attack in Jerusalem". Retrieved 2008-03-08.  
  54. ^ "JTA, Jewish & Israel News". Retrieved 2008-03-08.  
  55. ^ "Jordan stops public mourning of gunman". Retrieved 2008-03-08.  
  56. ^ "Norway condemns terrorist attack in Jerusalem -". Retrieved 2008-03-08.  
  57. ^ Mar’i, Mohammed. "Annan, Carter to Launch Mideast Peace Mission", 8 March 2008. ArabNews.
  58. ^ "Embassy of Sweden - News". Retrieved 2008-03-08.  
  59. ^ "British Embassy Tel Aviv, News: PM Brown condemns Jerusalem terror attack". Retrieved 2008-03-08.  
  60. ^ "Press Releases Foreign & Commonwealth Office". Retrieved 2008-03-07.  
  61. ^ "Libya Blocks UN Council Condemnation Of Jerusalem Attack". AFP via 2008-03-06.  
  62. ^ "President Bush Condemns Terrorist Attack in Israel". Retrieved 2008-03-07.  
  63. ^ "Condolences on Attack against Rabbinical Students". Retrieved 2008-03-07.  
  64. ^ Obama calls Livni, back's Israel's right for self-defense - Israel News, Ynetnews
  65. ^ Livni, in U.S., speaks to Obama by phone, pressing Iran issue - Haaretz - Israel News
  66. ^ Hillary Rodham Clinton, Senator for New York: Statement of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton on Terrorist Attack in Jerusalem

Coordinates: 31°47′16.15″N 35°11′48.54″E / 31.7878194°N 35.1968167°E / 31.7878194; 35.1968167


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