When an Arab Israeli is proud to be Israeliproud to be Israeli.
Hany Baransi has been serving authentic hummus and falafel in his central Ohio eatery for 27 years, proudly giving diners a taste of his Israeli Christian Arab heritage between bites of rich Mediterranean fare.
A sign bearing an Arabic greeting—“Ahlan Wa Sahalan”— hangs prominently near the glass doors of his Nazareth Restaurant & Deli in Columbus, through which passersby can also spot an Israeli flag. Baransi says he has always been outspoken about his Israeli identity, and so when his restaurant was attacked on Thursday evening by a machete-wielding man, he believed it was no coincidence.No, it was no coincidence. Nor was the attacker's name: Mohamed.
The assailant, identified by police as 30-year-old Mohamed Barry, “came in and asked where I was from,” Baransi told The Tower. While Baransi was at home nursing a headache at the time, one of his employees– a young waitress– told Barry that the owner is from Israel. The man left after he determined that Baransi wasn’t at the restaurant, only to return around 30 minutes later with a machete and start hacking people.
“He came to each table and just started hitting them,” Karen Bass, who was in the restaurant at the time, told WBNS. “There were tables and chairs overturned, there was a man on the floor bleeding, there was blood on the floor.”Fortunately, no one was killed and Barry was caught by police after he tried to hack them too.
So is the Middle East coming to Columbus? The local police chief doesn't think so but Baransi has a different opinion.
“Is it a random attack? Yes, but it wasn’t a random attack like you’re walking in the street and there are 10 shops and you pick one,” he said. “It was a random attack [insofar] that I was one of the Israelis [picked] between all of the Israelis that are around here. It was a terrorist attack.”
“I am a very outspoken Israeli, and I have an Israeli flag in my restaurant,” added Baransi, who moved to the United States from Haifa in 1983 and said he tries to visit Israel as often as he can. “When people [from the Arab community] ask me where I am from, I tell them I am Israeli, I am an Israeli Christian Arab, it’s not like I am Palestinian, and then they start arguing and fighting with me.”
“You know, we are Israelis, used to this in our lives, people attacking us and wanting to kill us,” he observed. “But Americans — I have young ladies, 19, 20-years-old, they probably never heard people yelling and screaming. It was a huge experience for them. And some of them are very devastated. All of us communicate on a daily basis, and some of us, a couple of people, are still having a really hard time.”
He said that he is only willing to reopen his restaurant once his staff assures him that they are ready. “Even though I am hurting financially badly, if this time is needed for the well-being of my employees, I am okay with that,” he stressed. “God will provide for us.”First they come for the Saturday people and then they come for the Sunday people? Bet on it.