The Arab-Israeli owner of a Columbus restaurant that was attacked by a machete-wielding terrorist in February said he now feels compelled to fight anti-Semitism and educate others about the Jewish state.
“I’m an American Israeli Christian Arab. My being Israeli comes first,” Hany Baransi recently told The Times of Israel. Baransi believes his Israeli identity is why the Nazareth Restaurant and Deli, which displays both Israeli and American flags, was subject to a “targeted assassination” by 30-year-old Mohamed Bary earlier this year.
On the day of the attack, Bary had briefly entered the establishment and asked employees about the nationality of its owner. When told that Baransi is Israeli, Bary departed and returned half an hour later with a machete. His subsequent rampage left four people injured, one critically.
Following the assault, Bary fled Nazareth and led cops on a five-mile car chase. He was shot dead after exiting his vehicle with the machete and lunging at officers with a cry of “Allahu Akbar.”
While the Guinea native had previously come to the FBI’s attention for making radical Islamist statements, the attack has still not been classified as terrorism. Baransi is frustrated with the lack of official recognition of what happened, saying that few local politicians have reached out to him and that the FBI has not shared any information about its ongoing investigation.
He was touched, however, by the outpouring of support he received from his local community, and from Jews and Israelis living across the United States. He was invited to the AIPAC policy conference in March, where he got to meet the current Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer, as well as former ambassador and current Knesset member Michael Oren. Dermer also sent Baransi a large Israeli flag to display in his restaurant.
Baransi mentioned that after the attack, he was angry and bothered by the idea “that somebody could have died because of me.” But now, after traveling to Israel for the first time in nearly a decade, he’s feeling better. “It’s good to be around Israelis who understand what being the victim of terrorism is like,” he explained. “We are Israelis. We are resilient.”
Since the attack, Baransi stopped going into his restaurant on a daily basis. He now spends much of his time acting as an “unofficial Israeli ambassador.”
“I am going to fight hatred against Jews and Israelis. My daily job will be to give speeches and meet with church and charity groups to educate them about Israel, so people get the facts straight,” he said.
Baransi left Israel and returned to Columbus in time to host his first Yom Ha’atzmaut (Independence Day) celebration at the Nazareth restaurant on Thursday. The event will be hosted along with pro-Israel and Jewish student groups.
In an exclusive interview days after the attack, Baransi told The Tower that he will not be deterred from openly sharing his Israeli identity. “They don’t scare me. We are Israelis. We are resilient, we fight back.”
[Photo: Ambassador Ron Dermer / Facebook ]