Baz Ratner / Reuters Israeli ultranationalists scuffle with police during a protest against interrogation methods used by Israel's domestic security service, in Petah Tikva, Israel, December 2015.

Playing With Fire

The Rise of Jewish Terrorism

On the night of July 30 last year, Amiram Ben-Oliel, the 21-year-old son of a rabbi, waited for a friend in a cave in the heart of the West Bank. They had planned to rendezvous there, between Ramallah and Nablus, before heading to the Palestinian villages of Duma and Majdal Beni Fadal, where they would commit murder. When Ben-Oliel’s friend didn’t show up, he continued alone, setting out on foot for Duma. At the outskirts of the village, according to a summary of the indictment released by Israeli state prosecutors, he wrapped a shirt around his face and put on gloves. Wearing dark clothing, alone in a Palestinian village, he looked for an inhabited home.

The first house he came across belonged to Mamoun Dawabsheh, a father of five and a construction worker who happened to have been in Nablus that night with his wife and children. Ben-Oliel spray-painted the words “Revenge” and “Long live Messiah the King” on the wall, and then threw the first of his two Molotov cocktails inside. The house quickly went up in flames, but it was empty. He then turned to a neighboring home. It belonged to Sa’ad and Riham Dawabsheh, a young couple. The first two windows he tried were firmly shuttered. The third was open. He allegedly lit a Molotov cocktail, threw it in, and took off at a run. The fire killed the two along with Ali, their 18-month-old baby, and badly wounded the lone remaining family member, four-year-old Ahmad Dawabsheh.

The murders were a gruesome moment in the history of Jewish terrorism. But they were not without precedent. In March 1949, before Israel had celebrated its first anniversary, a Jewish gunman, mentally impaired and eager to rebuild the Temple, the holiest site in Judaism, which the Romans destroyed in 70 AD and which lies on the spot where the Dome of the Rock now stands, smuggled a machine gun into the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament, and tried to open fire. The

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