Over the past few days, we’ve been witness to incidents in which Christian
clergy have suffered terrible harassment. Although it is clear that the parties
responsible for this horrible behavior belong to a tiny group of fanatics who
have no fear of God, we should all be revolted by this behavior and condemn it
loudly and clearly.
Israeli law enforcement authorities must act
decisively and in a timely manner to uproot and completely neutralize this
There is no room to offer even a tiny amount of leniency to
the rioters who believe that spitting on their fellow man is the correct way to
Not only because this deviant behavior could lead to an increase
of anti-Israel sentiment, which can already be strongly felt in many countries
around the world, but because it could also ignite latent
Since its founding, the State of Israel has championed the
democratic rights of freedom of religion and worship for all its
Freedom of religion and worship are not just empty slogans, but
a way of life. We Jews know what it feels like to be persecuted and to
undergo torture. In the not-so-distant past, one-third of our people were
murdered just because they had a different faith. As a result, we are
extra-sensitive, tolerant and respectful of others.
It’s not by chance
that our Jewish sages warn us that we must be careful when we speak of
strangers. This commandment is mentioned 36 times – more than any other
commandment or prohibition. Our sages wrote, “No other commandment in the Torah
– not to love God, and not to keep the Shabbat.
Not to circumcise our
sons and not to refrain from eating non-kosher foods.
Not the prohibition
against lying or stealing. None of these is mentioned as many times as the
commandment to treat strangers with respect.”
The sages recognized that
people must fight hard to overcome their tendency to act in a domineering
fashion towards people who are weaker than we are. We must remind ourselves to
take extra precaution and to actively protect people who are defenseless and who
have no shelter.
A line from the Torah (Leviticus 19:34) commands this
clearly: “The stranger who sojourns with you shall be as a native from among
you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of
Egypt. I am the Lord, your God.”
The commandment is clear: Love the
stranger in your land. It’s not enough just to respect him. It’s not enough not
to refrain from humiliating or spitting on him, from cursing or harming
Judaism is a way of life and not a theatrical show in which a small
number of disgusting people wrap themselves in prayer shawls, pretend to be
immersed in learning from holy books but close their hearts to these important
We shouldn’t let some of the commandments pass us over without
leaving any kind of mark.
The Israeli educational system has begun
teaching its students to respect people who are different, but it still needs to
invest more in this area.
This will make our community a better place,
and the sooner the better.
The writer is the former spokesman of the
Jewish Agency and of the World Restitution Organization
Translated by Hannah Hochner.