The pregnant woman who was stabbed by a Palestinian teenager at the Tekoa settlement expressed empathy for her assailant on Tuesday, a day after she was attacked, and said that he did not seem determined to kill her.
Speaking from Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, Michal Froman, who was knifed outside a clothing store, told Army Radio that she was glad the attacker didn’t make a more purposeful effort to end her life.
“Thank God he didn’t keep stabbing me,” she said. “There was no one there to wrestle with him; he could easily have killed me.
“It’s very strange,” she went on. “When I hear about terror attacks in other places I say, ‘May the terrorist’s name be blotted out, and that I hope they kill him.” But during the attack against her, said Froman, the daughter-in-law of the late peace activist Rabbi Menachem Froman, she experienced empathy for the assailant.
“To be stabbed with a knife from from up close is something very personal, and I wondered what he went through, why he’s doing it, what does he want to get out of it? To be one of the martyrs? To be part of something? I don’t know,” she said. “I didn’t wonder why he didn’t kill me because it very much seemed to me that he came to stab and escape, to achieve some purpose that was not to kill me. I don’t know what his story was.”
The attacker, Othman Muhammad Sha’alan, a teenager from nearby Bethlehem, had entered the settlement through a hole in its perimeter fence.
He was shot by an armed civilian and apprehended by security forces after attempting to flee the scene of the stabbing through the same opening in the fence.
Froman, 30, who was injured in the shoulder, with the wounds puncturing her lung, said that she was shopping for sneakers for her daughter when Sha’alan entered the store. Recalling the moment of the attack, she noted: “Even when I saw the knife I still didn’t believe that he was really coming to stab.”
“I saw his eyes, his confusion,” she recalled. “He didn’t have a scary face; he was a youth with a baby face. I didn’t want to really believe he was terrorist.”
‘I could see he had a knife in his hand, but still, I didn’t want to believe it’
“I thought he was just one of the kids from around town and that he was looking for something,” she said. “He came inside and mumbled a few words in Arabic. The saleswoman asked him, ‘What do want? Who are you with?’ He continued to mumble, and when she understood [that he wanted to carry out an attack], she told him to get out and told us to call security.
“I was afraid that her shouting seemed to make him more aggressive. He turned around to go out; he was very confused, very afraid. I could see he had a knife in his hand, but still, I didn’t want to believe it.”
Froman said that at that point she took a few steps toward Sha’alan, whom she still believed to have innocent intentions. “I asked him ‘what do you want, what do you need?’ I thought maybe I will understand — not the Arabic but his body language.”
However, he continued to mumble in Arabic and “became more purposeful” before looking her directly in the eyes. It was then that she realized he intended to attack her.
“I took two steps back and raised by arms to protect my head,” she said. “He tried to stab once and I stumbled backward, and then he managed to stab me once behind the left shoulder and then he ran outside. He simply stabbed once and ran out, so that even reinforced in me even more the feeling that he was a lost soul or that someone sent him, or that he was doing it just to tick a box that he had done it — I don’t know.
“If he really wanted to kill he would have put in a bit more effort,” Froman said. Her own anger at the attack may come only later for her, she continued, “just like the fear only came afterward, in the hospital.”
She was relieved when doctors assured her that her 18-week-old fetus was not harmed in the attack. “It doesn’t seem to me that he or she even noticed,” she added.
Monday’s attack was the latest incident in a four-month-long wave of terrorism and violence that has shown no signs of abating. Palestinian attacks have so far killed 25 Israelis and an American student. At least 146 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire, of whom over 100 are said by Israel to have been attackers. The rest have been killed in clashes with Israeli troops. Israel says the violence is the result of a Palestinian campaign of lies and incitement, while the Palestinians say it is rooted in frustrations over Israel’s nearly 50-year occupation.
Michal Froman’s husband, Shivi Froman, told The Times of Israel Tuesday that the incident did not weaken his belief in coexistence with the Palestinians, an ideology that follows that of his father, a rabbi who worked to promote grassroots peace initiatives and dialogue between Jews and Palestinians.
“We need to approach the situation with both hands — the left hand to fight with and the right hand to embrace,” he said. “[The attack] has only sharpened my opinions.”
AP contributed to this report.