How an Islamic Jihad Mastermind Ambushed His Israeli Nemesis, and How His Death Was Avenged

The first report was that Colonel Dror Weinberg was wounded. It was a Friday night, November 15, 2002. Arik “Harris” Brabbing was at home with his family in Modi’in. On the phone was R., the Hebron district coordinator for the Shin Bet security service. “R. said, ‘There was gunfire in Kiryat Arba. Dror isn’t picking up. I think he was hurt.”

At the time, Brabbing was the deputy leader of the Shin Bet operational unit, with about 50 case officers under his command. “Case officer” – racaz in Hebrew – is the euphemism used for Shin Bet intelligence gathering officers whose job is to locate, recruit, run and arrest members of terrorist organizations. Brabbing’s authority extended over about half of the West Bank, from Ramallah southward.

“I told R. to alert everybody, all the case officers and security guards, and prepare the armored vehicles,” Brabbing describes. He himself got into his car, turned on the flashing light and headed for the Shin Bet’s district headquarters for Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. There he switched to an armored jeep containing armored vests and helmets. Armed with their personal pistols, he and several colleagues sped toward Hebron. En route they received updates over pagers tuned to the IDF frequency. There was an infiltration. Terrorists infiltrated a home in Hebron and people were killed. “And the whole time I’m hearing over the radio: Dror doesn’t answer. Dror doesn’t answer. Then somebody reports that Dror is wounded. And a few minutes later: Dror is seriously wounded.”

At about quarter to eight, while they were still driving, “we got the bad news.” Dror Weinberg had died of his injuries at a clinic in Kiryat Arba, in the incident that came to be known as the “terror attack on the worshipers’ route” – a dirt path several hundred meters long leading from a narrow gate in the Kiryat Arba fence to the Cave of the Patriarchs. All told 12 soldiers and civilians were shot dead by three terrorists, who died in the ensuing fierce fight.

During his service in the IDF Engineering Corps, which he left with the rank of captain, and after 27 years in the Shin Bet, Brabbing has smelled death many times. He has seen dozens of bodies: comrades who fell in battle, civilians murdered in terror attacks, and terrorists who killed and were killed. Over the years, some of the memories have faded. Many names and faces have been forgotten. But the image of Colonel Dror Weinberg remains sharp.

Dror Weinberg visiting his brother Shai.Family album

“He was just bursting with energy and charisma,” Brabbing says, recalling their first meeting. It was at the start of the second intifada, in late 2000. “Dror was a battalion commander in the Judea Brigade and was sitting in a huge military tent with maps of the city of Hebron and the surrounding villages. He was wearing a big round yarmulke and drank tea with six sugars. Dror always drank tea with a ton of sugar. He had a baby face and when he felt embarrassed he couldn’t hide the blush in his cheeks.”

Brabbing joined the Shin Bet at the bottom of the ladder, as a junior case officer. He had to choose a monicker to use in meetings with Palestinian sources (agents and informers) whom he recruited. He chose “Harris.”