Thirteen-year-old Noam Melamed got out of school early Wednesday and hitched a ride home with a neighbor instead of taking the usual bus ride home. Little did he know how fateful a decision that would be.
Shortly before pulling into the Jewish settlement named Tekoa, where he lives, the driver of the car turned the bend of the Arab village with the same name and met a dramatic, rock-throwing ambush by Palestinian youths.
As the car passed through the barrage, a large rock flew into the car, breaking the windshield and hitting the eighth grader - who was sitting in the front passenger seat - straight in the face. His mother tells TheBlaze that Noam passed out, sustained a broken nose, and his upper lip was sliced straight through.
TheBlaze contacted Ariel Wreschner, the driver, who tells us about the frightening experience:
Palestinian youths were waiting on the side of the road. I already saw large rocks on the road that were probably thrown at other cars earlier in day. They looked around 14 years old and they were just waiting for us. A rock flew into the car and broke the windshield. Somehow I kept driving and called an ambulance to wait for us at the gate.
We bent down and kept driving. We knew we couldn’t stop. He said, “I got hurt, I’m bleeding”…I tried somehow to get out of there.
Israeli residents of Tekoa tell TheBlaze that Palestinian students launch numerous rocks at Israeli vehicles passing their school on the main road every day. Wreschner says: “It was totally planned. They waited for us. And they did it a few times before. It feels like you are a duck in a shooting gallery.”
Wreschner tells TheBlaze he bought his car only two weeks ago and did not yet have an opportunity to install reinforced, protective windows. Those windows are installed by many Jews who live in communities in Judea and Samaria, also known as the West Bank, due to the high incidence of Palestinian rock-throwing attacks, some of which have been fatal.
Sarit Melamed, the injured boy’s mother, says the rock-throwing takes place at precisely the same time every day – before school begins and when school lets out. In between those times, the Palestinian youths are in their classes.
She was not in the car, but tells us what her son told her about his experience:
Two Arabs waited for them. There were already rocks on the road; therefore, they knew other cars had been targeted. Noam was next to (the) driver, and the rock hit the windshield and his face directly.
The driver got to (Israeli) Tekoa, and security forces and ambulances arrived and brought him to the hospital. I got a message (at work) that he was wounded and a friend took me to the hospital. Noam was very frightened and in pain, but very present and alert about what had happened.
The driver’s wife, Oranit Wreschner, tells TheBlaze:
When I heard this happened, I began to think that it could have happened to me or my baby girl. A big rock was thrown at our car. It could kill a baby easily. We drive on this road all the time. If the army isn’t in the village they always throw stones. Always.
Kill a baby is exactly what one Palestinian rock attack did two years ago, after the car of 25-year-old Asher Palmer and his infant son Yonatan was targeted. That barrage was so intense, it caused their car to overturn on a highway near the Israeli settlement Kiryat Arba, killing them both.
Noam’s mother says that despite the frightening experience, she believes Arabs and Jews can find a way to live as neighbors in peace. She says:
I don’t want to continue the energy of conflict and hatred. I was once of the belief you need a strong hand to respond, get back at them, and I saw that the only thing hatred brings is more hatred…fear brings fear and love brings love. I don’t believe these things will change in only one day. The Arabs are fed hatred from when they are young (but) I truly believe a mother wants to raise her son for good no matter if she’s Jewish or Arab.
There’s been a sharp rise in rock-throwing incidents. Authorities estimate that about 1,000 occur every month, according to Israel’s Channel 10 News (Hebrew link).
Noam’s mother told Channel 10: “After school, kids need to go and play, not try to kill each other. Rocks kill. I believe we can live as neighbors without hatred.”
Her son echoes her optimism, adding: “I believe we can join together and live together.”
This Hebrew report from Channel 10 includes more aftermath photos from Tekoa and file footage of similar rock attacks: