Last September, Jeffrey Goldberg kicked off his interview with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat at the CityLab Conference with this ominous descriptor: "You're the only mayor I can think of who governs a city where the end of the world could take place. In other words, the act of a single religious fanatic of any faith could trigger a regional conflagration, something even worse."
After Goldberg finished his table-setter, Barkat, a former venture capitalist who fancies his city to be more of a brand than a powder keg, pushed back. "That's an interesting introduction, I have to admit," he said to laughter.
But on Sunday, the elements of both the brand and powder keg convened on a Jerusalem street when Barkat's motorcade encountered an attack in progress involving a Palestinian man who had just stabbed an ultra-Orthodox Israeli in broad daylight near Jerusalem's city hall. Barkat and his entourage confronted the attacker* and city cameras captured Barkat (in the white shirt) subduing the man:
Following the incident, Barkat told reporters what happened.
My bodyguard took out his weapon and when he aimed at the terrorist, the terrorist dropped his knife and we immediately tackled him on the ground to make sure that he cannot continue with the terror attack and then went out to see the wounded person that, thank God, was relatively slightly wounded we gave him first aid.
According to reports, the man is an 18-year-old Palestinian who had been living in Israel illegally. While quieter as of late, Jerusalem had been gripped by rioting and violence as recently as November when the closure of the Temple Mount brought demonstrators out into the streets and a series of deadly attacks put the city on high alert.
By Monday, Barkat had become a magnet for praise among politicians ahead of Israel's national elections, which take place in less than a month. Former Israeli ambassador to the United States (and current candidate for Israeli Knesset) Michael Oren sought to remind his Twitter followers that he and Barkat had fought together in the 1982 Lebanon War.
Not surprised to see @NirBarkat take down the terrorist. We served together in the paratroopers; he courageously demonstrates our values.— Michael Oren (@DrMichaelOren) February 23, 2015
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made the most of the moment, scoring Barkat's endorsement in the upcoming elections on Monday.
Meanwhile, the Jerusalem Municipality appears to be having a bit too much fun with the fallout from Sunday's episode; the city published a collection of Barkat memes on its Facebook page on Monday.
* This post originally referred to an assault against an ultra-Orthodox Jew in Jerusalem as a terrorist attack. It is unclear at this time that the attack was related to terrorism.