In the past ten weeks, by Nadav Shragai’s reckoning, there have been eight shooting and stabbing attacks in Jerusalem alone, and several others elsewhere in the country. Although these terrorists are not actually blowing themselves up as their predecessors in the 1990s and 2000s did, many if not most seem to expect to be killed in the process—thus becoming “martyrs” (in Arabic, shahids). Roughly half of those carrying out such attacks leave behind testimonies to be read after their deaths, which often make their way around social media. Shragai examines these documents:
The wills often tell a story that is not religious or nationalist, but of personal distress. Mohammad Younis, who last week ran his car into a security guard at the Te’enim checkpoint near Tulkarm in Judea and Samaria, is believed to have argued with his father before taking his car without permission and deciding to become a “martyr.”
Other times, the motive is revenge, or identification with other shahids; what the Shin Bet calls “copycat attacks” or “infection.” . . . The most common motive documented in the wills is the desire to defend the al-Aqsa mosque from “Jewish invasion,” a reference to Jewish visits to the Mount. In Palestinian society, the al-Aqsa shahids are considered the elite, celebrities in every sense, guaranteed a place of honor in the Palestinian pantheon of martyrs. Their wills are accordingly popular.
Fuad Abu Rajab al-Tamimi from Issawiya in eastern Jerusalem, who opened fire on two police officers, also said in his writings that he sought to become a martyr. “My death was to sanctify and glorify Allah. . . . Don’t spread hatred in the hearts of my brothers after my death. Let them discover the religion and their own path, so they can die for the purpose of being a shahid and not as revenge,” he wrote.