Hany Baransi has been in business for 27 years, serving up authentic Middle Eastern cuisine to customers in Columbus, Ohio.
After a machete attack on his Nazareth Mediterranean Restaurant and Deli last week in which four diners were injured, one critically, Baransi reopened days later to hugs and kisses from his loyal customers.
But now he’s having second thoughts. He’s considering returning to his native Israel and “taking a break” from the restaurant business.
He told a local TV station Thursday, one week after the attack, that the targeting of his establishment by a violent jihadist is only now starting to sink in. He feels guilty that he could be putting his staff in danger.
Baransi cites fears another Muslim terrorist might decide to come and finish the job that was started by Mohamed Barry, an immigrant from Guinea who was here on a green card and reportedly known to the FBI. Barry, 30, was shot and killed by police after he lunged at them with the machete in one hand, a knife in the other, following the Feb. 11 attack on the restaurant.
Baransi’s best friend, Bill Foley, remains hospitalized from severe injuries sustained in the machete attack.
“It’s not easy to live with the guilt of seeing my best friend lying in bed because of me, a hospital bed fighting for his life because of me,” he told NBC-4 in Columbus. “I’m scared to be here for my employees, for my staff. I’m scared. At least I feel like if I’m not here and people know that I’m not here, maybe they’ll leave my staff alone.”
Part of the reason Baransi is having doubts about the future safety of his staff is the silence coming from city hall and the state Capitol, including presidential hopeful John Kasich, who serves as Ohio’s governor.
Despite the outpouring of love from those in the community who frequented his restaurant, he says he’s received no such outpouring, not even a trickle of encouragement, from state and local leaders.
None have even acknowledged the nature of the attack. It took the FBI a week to figure out that a Muslim attacking diners in a restaurant owned by an Israeli was an act of terrorism. Columbus Police Chief Kimberley Jacobs initially called the attack a “random” act of violence with nothing to indicate it was terrorism.
“OK, you don’t want to call it terrorism,” Baransi told NBC-4. “How about hate crime, discrimination, anything you know.”
“Maybe just a word from somebody high up just to say, ‘Hey we’re thinking of you. We support you. We’re sorry you had to deal with this.'”
Baransi, a 50-year-old Arab Christian, emigrated to the U.S. in 1983 from Haifa, Israel.
He flies a small Israeli flag side-by-side with an American flag next to the cash register.
Now he may take his flags and go home.
Watch full interview Baransi had with NBC-4:
“Imagine, a Christian moving back to Israel because he fears jihad attack in America,” wrote anti-Shariah activist, author and blogger Pamela Geller.
But this is “Obama’s post-America,” Geller said, where “there is much to fear.”
She also noted the lack of national media coverage of the jihadist attack. There was a similar media blackout last November when a student at the University of California-Merced, Faisal Mohammed, injured two students and a teacher in a knife attack before a construction worker confronted him and took him down. Police found an ISIS flag in his bookbag along with flammable C4 jelly, zip-tie handcuffs, a rambling manifesto praising “Allah” and a hammer, but it was never classified as a terrorist attack and given almost no coverage by the national media.
“A devout Muslim hacking up patrons while screaming ‘Allahu Akbar’ at a popular Middle Eastern restaurant in Ohio barely garners media attention,” she writes. “Instead, the N.Y. Times desperately scours the land for Islamophobia, and finds it in tossed beer cans.”