Clouds menaced over this small settlement on the side of a highway, threatening to drench the dozens of people who had gathered to dedicate a jagged piece of limestone. “Her words were truth, and she epitomized mirth and beauty,” read the Hebrew words engraved on the rock, below a name: Shlomit.
A year ago, on this same spot, the clouds overhead had threatened snow, as Shlomit Krigman, 23, lay dying on the ground, the latest victim of a series of stabbing attacks wracking the country, this time inside the supposedly cosseted confines of her adopted home, Beit Horon.
Friends and family gathered to dedicate the stone on February 12, remembering Krigman the poet, Krigman the youth counselor, Krigman the daughter. The memorial ceremony served as a stark reminder that a year had passed since her death, but in that year, locals say, not enough has been done to fix the security holes, both literal and figurative, that allowed two Palestinians to infiltrate the settlement and embark on a deadly stabbing spree.
In the year since the attack, the local and national governments have shored up some of the settlements defenses: The “weak spots” in the fencing were patched up, and a private security guard was brought in to protect a kindergarten near where the stabbing took place.
But Beit Horon residents’ requests for some additional security measures are being stalled, mostly for what appear to be bureaucratic issues.
Mourning Krigman, community residents said that simple measures to prevent future, similar tragedies — extending the settlement’s fence next to the kindergarten, getting an extra security guard — are bound up in bureaucracy or have been dismissed outright by the relevant ministries.
After the brief ceremony outside, residents of Beit Horon, which lies half an hour’s drive from Jerusalem on Route 443, a major highway linking Jerusalem and Tel Aviv moved to the settlement’s community center for a memorial service, together with Krigman’s friends and family.
Walking up to the building, Yehudit Tayar, a resident and volunteer medic who was one of the first on the scene after the terror attack, said, “However many chairs we put out, it won’t be enough.”
She was right. Friends and family filled the 150 chairs set up in the hall, and an almost equal number stood on the edges of the room. At one point during the service, the side doors had to be opened to allow for more people.
Krigman was born in Beit Horon, but grew up in Shadmot Mehola, a settlement in the Jordan Valley. She moved back after high school, performing her national service as a counselor for the local Bnei Akiva youth group and living with her grandparents and with adoptive families.
At the service, she was remembered as something of a contradiction — straightforward but profound; easygoing but deeply committed to her beliefs; a loner who could talk to friends for hours; a joker who could suddenly turn serious.
Friends read Krigman’s poems, including one about the Jerusalem winter cold written 18 hours before she was stabbed to death.
One of her adoptive mothers remembered her as a “potato girl, who’d didn’t like rice or spaghetti — who doesn’t like spaghetti?
“So beautiful, and you didn’t know. So modest, and you didn’t know. So talented, and you didn’t know. So prophetic, and you didn’t know,” her adoptive mother added.
With trembling hands, Krigman’s father Tzachi spoke about her as an artist, who never went anywhere without a sketchbook and colored pencils, and as a a writer, who penned two full novels and started a third. One of them, a fantasy, was published and will hit bookstores soon, he said.
‘A series of miracles’
On January 25, 2016, just before 5:00 p.m., Ibrahim Al’an and Hussein Abu Ghosh climbed the hill on the back-side of the settlement, crawled up a drainpipe, through a fence and into Beit Horon, coming out near a park next to the community’s kindergarten.
Inside, they came across Krigman and 58-year-old Adina Cohen, one of the kindergarten’s teachers.
Krigman was fatally wounded. She died early the next morning. Cohen, who attended the memorial service, was seriously injured. She has since recovered, physically at least. According to friends, she still suffers from post-traumatic stress.
At the time, residents said only “a series of miracles” prevented the terror attack from being worse.
It was Tu B’shevat, a sort-of Jewish Arbor Day, and at the same time, dozens of children were supposed to be in that park, planting trees to commemorate the holiday. But they didn’t. The tree-planting was called off because of a forecast predicting snow, which never actually fell.
If Al’an and Abu Ghosh had broken into the settlement at 4:30 p.m., they would have been there as the children were being let out of the school. But they didn’t. They were apparently slowed by the wet ground, slippery from recent rain.
The pipe bombs they brought with them also didn’t function properly, Tayar said.
Residents cite both these “what ifs” and the reality of what happened to justify their calls for additional security.
But Beit Horon is in somewhat of an odd position. The small, narrow settlement of just over 1,200 people hugs the Route 443 highway between Jerusalem and Modiin. It is situated inside the West Bank, but on the “Israeli side” of the security fence that surrounds much of the West Bank.
Thus, while it’s security is technically under the purview of the Defense Ministry (as with all other West Bank settlements), in practice, since the security barrier went up during the Second Intifada, the Israel Police and Public Security Ministry have been responsible for Beit Horon.
Before the security barrier went up, IDF soldiers guarded the settlement. Afterwards, Border Police officers took their place. But they too were removed approximately two years ago, said Efi Gilad, who sits on Beit Horon’s representative board.
Its position on the “Israeli side” of the fence hasn’t stopped terror attacks from striking the area. Before Krigman was killed, an IDF soldier was also stabbed to death at a nearby gas station. Molotov cocktail and rock-throwing attacks occur frequently along the 443 highway.
Beit Horon pays for its own guard — Ehsan, who was working the night of the stabbing and shot dead the two terrorists. But following the terror attack, residents turned to the government and requested it provide a security detail.
Following lengthy discussions, the Defense Ministry agreed to pay for Beit Horon to get a security guard, beginning on January 27, Gilad said.
‘We chased after this. We got the promise. Now we just hope that the government comes through on it’
But as the end of January approached, the ministry pushed back the date to March 1.
Midway through February, Gilad said the residents fear it will be pushed back again.
“We chased after this. We got the promise. Now we just hope that the government comes through on it,” he said.
When asked about the guard, the Defense Ministry directed The Times of Israel to the IDF’s Central Command, which said: “The post is meant to be filled in the next month.”
In the meantime, the residents of Beit Horon have tried “all kinds of ways” to get additional patrols near the settlement.
They have “put out refreshments and soup” in order to entice the military units serving in the area to stop by the settlement, Gilad said.
The residents also asked the ministry to have security cameras, like the hundreds that already line the 443 highway, be set up on section of road outside the settlement.
There request was denied, Gilad said.
When asked why, the Defense Ministry referred The Times of Israel again to the army. The IDF said it was not familiar with the request, which makes sense as it was made to the ministry, not the military.
Protecting the kindergarten
In addition to a guard for the settlement as a whole, residents have also looked to shore up their defenses at the location of the attack itself: the kindergarten.
For years, the kindergarten was run out of trailers in the northern portion of the settlement, where it was surrounded by other buildings.
About two years ago, however, Beit Horon constructed a permanent building for the school, along a small strip of land at the settlement’s most narrow point, squeezed between a wadi and the settlement’s main road, which runs along the West Bank security barrier.
The back of the kindergarten presses directly against the fence surrounding the settlement.
Gilad and other parents from the settlement are asking the Defense Ministry to extend the fence surrounding the school.
This would only necessitate the cost of the work, as there are posts, panels and razor wire left over from the army’s previous efforts to extend the settlement’s fence.
“It’s just lying there,” Gilad said.
He was speaking literally. The materials are stacked in piles and coils outside the school.
Since last year’s terror attack, the building’s security guard has been paid for by the local Binyamin Regional Council. However, from the start this was supposed to last one year, according to Gilad.
That year has ended, but the local council is for now still paying for the guard on school days. In Gilad’s mind, they’re living on borrowed time.
Together, the Education Ministry and Israel Police are ultimately responsible for school security. Under their rules, any institution with more than 100 students is entitled to a guard.
Beit Horon has about 120 students in its kindergartens, but they are split up between two buildings, which are approximately 1,000 feet (300 meters) apart. Therefore, in the eyes of the police, Beit Horon has two institutions with 60 students each, instead of one with 120.
Gilad, who has been working with the Education Ministry and police on this issue, say it’s just a matter of designating the two buildings as part of the same compound.
“It’s just bureaucracy,” he said.
The police declined to comment on the residents of requests.
“We don’t have a problem protecting ourselves,” Gilad said. “We have an emergency response team, but sometimes I have to go to work and make a living. That’s when the government should be stepping in.”