Michal Froman: Pregnant West Bank stabbing victim says she needs to speak to her attacker

When she first saw her attacker he 'looked confused and lacking in confidence'

Ben Lynfield
Friday 22 January 2016 23:39 GMT
Michal Froman was discharged from hospital on Thursday
Michal Froman was discharged from hospital on Thursday (Shivi Froman)

As the wave of attacks by Palestinians against Israeli soldiers and citizens grew over the past four months, Michal Froman’s reaction was the same every time. “I wanted to hear that the attacker died and I wished he’d go to hell,” she said.

But after the pregnant mother of four became the latest Israeli victim of the violence on Monday, stabbed in the shoulder by a Palestinian teen at the Tekoa settlement in the occupied West Bank, her emotions pulled her in a different direction.

“I feel a need to speak to the person who attacked me, to talk to him so that he will change the way that he thinks,” she told The Independent in her room at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Hospital, from which she was discharged on Thursday.

Smiling, mobile and in good health except for pain in her shoulder, Ms Froman, who is in her fifth month of pregnancy, said her unborn child is “doing great. I don’t think he felt anything. He is kicking and he is satisfied.” The attack, which happened in a clothes shop on the settlement where she lives, injured her shoulder bone and punctured a lung.

It came in a wave of violence that took the lives of 25 Israelis. At least 148 Palestinians have died, 94 of them described by Israeli officials as assailants, according to Reuters.

The attacker couldn’t know it, but Michal is the daughter-in-law of the late Menachem Froman, a maverick settler rabbi who believed in dialogue between Jewish and Muslim leaders. Over the years he met with senior Hamas figures and Palestinian presidents Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas. Unusual for a settler leader, Rabbi Froman said he would be willing to live under Palestinian sovereignty in the future. Michal says the rabbi and his wife Hadassah helped shape her views about Arabs.

“I learned from them to look for the human in every person and to seek common language,” she said.

Ms Froman, 31, a religiously observant yoga teacher and architecture student who partially covers her hair for modesty reasons, says her close encounter with death has made her more aware of how precious life is. “I’ve received my life back, my life from the start, a different life.”

She thinks her suspected assailant, Othman Shaalan, 15, who was shot and wounded by an armed civilian, may have been motivated by the belief that he would attain heaven in the hereafter for stabbing her. “I want to tell him it is better to focus on this world, it’s more worthwhile than the hereafter that extremist Muslim clerics promise. I want to talk to his inner self, to tell him we have had enough hate since the time of Cain killing Abel and I don’t see that hatred has advanced the world.”

Jewish and Arab Israelis kiss

When she first saw her attacker he “looked confused and lacking in confidence. He didn’t have a scary face.” Even after she saw an object in his hand, it didn’t sink in that he would attack. “I didn’t want to believe it was a knife. I didn’t believe I was in this situation. I asked him what do you need, what are you looking for?”

“The moment he saw me as a target, his face changed. I saw it in his eyes. I had the impression that he was doing this for the acclaim and that deep down he didn’t really understand what he was doing.”

Still, she said, he should have the law applied to him, be sent to prison, and suffer there so that he understands what he did. “Hopefully he will become more aware.”

The attack, she said, hasn’t shaken her belief that Arabs and Jews can live together. “It’s disappointing and it could take more time than I thought but in the end it will happen.”

“We are very similar and we are fighting for the same piece of land. My father is a Moroccan [Jew] and I feel close to the Arabs in terms of their warmth and hospitality,” she adds.

But the attack has made her wary. She felt fearful that Arabs she saw in the hospital could pull out knives. “It’s a trauma – I hope it will pass. I want to live in faith, not fear.”

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