The owner of a Middle East restaurant in Columbus, Ohio continues to struggle more than a month after a brutal machete attack on his customers. The owner, Hany J. Baransi, lives in a world of limbo. He is Palestinian Arab and Israeli from Nazareth, the name of his deli, and he is Christian. The Muslim man who attacked his restaurant and was killed by police is an immigrant from Guinea.
By Ray Hanania
Hany J. Baransi is an anomaly. He is a Palestinian Christian and Israeli citizen from the Biblical city of Nazareth in what is now Israel. He opened a restaurant in Gahanna, a suburb of Columbus, Ohio, 25 years ago after he immigrated to America from Israel in the 1980s. For the most part everything was going well.
Customers loved his Middle Eastern foods. And who couldn’t love a place called “Nazareth Mediterranean Cuisine”?
But Hany lives in a world plagued by hatred and stereotypes and politics imposed on him and everyone like him, especially because he is a Christian in a conflict that more and more is defined as about religion. Not his religion but the religion of Jews and Muslims which continues to exacerbate because of the failure of the American Governments to help impose a final peace in Israel and Palestine.
The battle for Israel and Palestine is being fought right here in the political backrooms of America. But on February 11, 2016, the ugliness of the Middle East conflict exploded in brutal headlines when another immigrant identified by Columbus Police as a Muslim from Guinea, entered the restaurant which featured an Israeli flag on its window, wielding a machete and injuring four people.
The attacker was killed by police. He was identified as 30-year-old Mohammed Barry. Gahanna Police said four of the customers at the restaurant were treated at the local hospital, Grant Medical Center. William Foley, 54, was described at the time in critical but stable condition. Two other victims, Gerald Russell and Debbie Russell, both 43, were in stable condition. A fourth victim, Neil McMeekin, 43, was treated and released. All reportedly are doing well today.
The restaurant has been closed for more than a month, but just recently re-opened, although Baransi says he is struggling in the aftermath of the attack.
Still, more than a month after the attack, the restaurant’s insurance company refuses to cover the damage or injuries to the victims, who have received some donations from friends and the public. According to the insurance company, the violent incident is “a terrorist attack” and as we all know, insurance companies refuse to cover anything related to terrorism.
Baransi has turned to Facebook to raise awareness of his plight urging the public to help him raise $25,000. And friends have been posting pleas to raise awareness, like this one from one of Baransi’s Facebook friends:
“I have a local restaurant that is in dire need of help. Back in February, Nazareth Restaurant in Gahanna, Ohio was attacked by a narrow-minded person who took exception that the business was owned by an Arabic, Christian Israeli who relocated to the USA in the 1980’s. Now, a month later, the insurance companies are refusing to pay out for the damage done to the business from the attack. They justify this by stating that the insurance policy does not cover the actions of a terrorist.”
Although the Palestine-Israel conflict rages all around him, Hany Baransi seems to just be trying to live a normal life that is not plagued by politics.
In interviews, Hany has been quoted as saying, he is from Israel and may go back there. His name has not been bantered about in Arab group circles. ADC and CAIR haven’t issued statements supporting him or denouncing his attacker. Signs on his restaurant window have been critical of President Barack Obama, who like most American politicians, doesn’t seem to care about the plight of Christian Palestinians inside or outside of Israel.
“We continue to be wonderfully overwhelmed with everyone’s support and we wanted to let everyone know that our plan is to take a couple of weeks and regroup and in doing so use the opportunity to remodel Nazareth and come back fresh March 14, 2016, God willing! Thank You! See you soon!” Baransi wrote on his Facebook Page.
Israelis, on the other hand, have been all over the story. They love it when a Palestinian Arab identifies as an Israeli and not with Palestinian nationalism in big news coverage.
Maybe that’s why Baransi hasn’t received much support from American Arab or Muslim organizations, maybe because whenever Hany is pictured, he is waving an American Flag and an Israeli flag.
News reports quoted Baransi as saying the customers in the restaurant at the time just before the attack told him the attacker, Barry, entered the restaurant and continually asked where the owner was from, what kind of food was being served and where the owner was. He left and then returned with the machette.
Not everything has to be defined by the Palestine-Israel conflict. Hany J. Baransi is still a human being whose livelihood suffered a horrific tragedy. Fortunately all of the four victims survived the attack.
But it is hard not to see that when it comes to the tragedy and torment of Christians from the Arab, Muslim and Israeli Worlds, people are motivated to act or not act based on how it fits into their own personal political agendas.
Baransi has a GoFundMe page to raise $25,000. You can rise about the brutality and the politics of the Arab-Israeli conflict and treat Baransi as a human being.
The GoFundMe Page explains:
“Hany Baransi is the owner of Nazareth deli. His mediterranean deli experienced a terror attack here in Columbus Ohio a few weeks back. The outpouring of love from the community has been life affirming. There were some crowdfunding pages however all of the monies went to the employees not the business. That is a great thing however Nazareth is struggling even though business has been brisk. He may have to close and that would be an additional crime committed against our community. Hany has reached out to say that his insurance wouldn’t cover the terror attack , the city ( government) has abandoned him, and that he is running his business day to day and may have to close. This gofundme is being set up so that ALL the proceeds go to Nazareth deli. This will keep him in and his 20 associates employees in his adopted home of the United States. Hany has owned Nazareth for over 27 years and deserves our support. Please donate to this worthy cause and lets show the world that terrorism will not succeed.”
Click here to go to his GoFundMe page to make a donation to help him re-open what his customers overwhelming say is one of the best restaurants and restaurant owners they know.
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Ray Hanania is an award winning political and humor columnist who analyzes American and Middle East politics, and life in general. He is an author of several books.
"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."
Hanania covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).
Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.
The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website www.SuburbanChicagoland.com, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.
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