Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett had good reason to be optimistic on the eve of the Jewish new year, Rosh Hashanah, on Sept. 6. His gamble on the coronavirus vaccine booster proved successful, stemming a fourth wave of the disease and allowing Israelis to celebrate the holiday season free of lockdowns or significant limitations, following three lengthy, draconian closures imposed by the Netanyahu government during previous holidays. The state budget had made it through a preliminary Knesset vote with relative ease. Bennett seemed to have been dealt a pretty good hand. But in the pre-dawn hours of Sept. 6, six Palestinian inmates tunneled their way out of the high-security Gilboa Prison in the Jezre’el Valley, turning the traditional Rosh Hashanah dish of apple dipped in sweet honey into a bitter joke.
Zakaria Zubeidi, the former chief of Palestinian security in the West Bank town of Jenin, along with five members of the Islamic Jihad organization had made a mockery of the Israel Prison Service, the police, the vaunted Shin Bet security agency and the military. Despite a massive manhunt and intense intelligence efforts, the six have not been found. What is worse, the Palestinian public has turned them into folk heroes, setting off clashes and protests from Jenin in the north to the Gaza Strip in the south.