Last week two crimes, product of hatred and fanaticism, were perpetrated in Israel: arson at a house in Kafr Duma, a village of Palestinians, where a baby was burned to death, and the stabbing attack during the “gay pride parade” in Jerusalem, which resulted in the death of a 16-year-old girl.
The perpetrator of the crime in the gay parade is an ultra-Orthodox, fanatic Jew, who had already served 10 years in prison for a similar offense.
Those who set fire to that family home in Duma are apparently Jewish religious extremists identified with the tag mehir phenomenon (“price tag,” in reference to the “price to be charged” after Palestinian terrorist activities or IDF home demolitions), a terrorist ideology policy responsible for several attacks since 2008. This last one is the first to claim a life, pointing to an exacerbation of violence in this group.
The motives were different, the murderers are not related to each other, but both crimes are connected by an ideology of extremism that advocates violence justified on Jewish religious principles.
There are those who might argue (in fact, they already do) that this is what Jewish religious sources lead to: narrow- mindedness, exclusion of those who are different, fanaticism, violence.
There are those who might argue (in fact, they already do) that all this makes them embarrassed about Jewish religion and about being Jews.
Now, let’s take a look at the other side: the response of the people.
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After having witnessed the unrestrained violence of these individuals, blinded by their religious fury, there are millions (literally millions!) of Jews who condemn the attacks, who are outraged at the violation of the sacredness of life, who actively denounce and teach, so that these phenomena will never happen again. These are millions who write, demonstrate and preach, moved and alarmed by deeds they clearly define as “not Jewish.”
This response appeared all over the world – Jews of all the religious and secular trends, most of Israeli society and the Israeli political leadership, together with the majority of committed Jews all over the world. There was almost no synagogue in the world where this had not been the topic of discussion and outrage, be it by the rabbi’s address, be it by the attitude and talks of the congregants.
But these are not more than two murders.
It sounds bad, I know. But from an objective point of view, these are only two murders motivated by extremism and fanaticism, like hundreds or thousands of the same kind perpetrated every week all over the world.
But for us, Jews, there is not such a thing as “it is only two.” The violation of a single human life, be it a friend’s or an enemy’s, whether we agree or disagree with the victim’s way or view, the violation of a single human life is experienced by the Jew as a deep human failure.
This is what we have learned from our Jewish sources: the Torah, the Prophets, the Talmud, the medieval exegetes, the rabbis (philosophers and legislators) of all generations. This is what we have learned from all that is Jewish religion and tradition. Yes, the very same Torah that establishes a death penalty has made us understand that we mustn’t use it. The very same Talmud that specifies the types of executions, calls “killer” a tribunal that condemns to death. The sanctity of life – that is the Jewish religious principle.
The Jewish religious sources lead to broad-mindedness, the acceptance of those who are different, respect, the perpetual quest for peace.
There is a minority of Jewish extremists who does not understand this and does not understand the Jewish sources.
They diminish the glory of God in the Universe.
There is a constant Jewish majority, in every century, in every place, who understands it and puts it into practice. We are those who augment the glory of God in the Universe.
I am never embarrassed about being Jewish. In situations like this one, may God help us not let them recur, in situations like this one my People reacts by sanctifying life and I am not embarrassed at all. Moreover, I thank God for He made me being born into this People.
The writer is rabbi of Kehilat Moreshet Avraham in East Talpiot, Jerusalem. He blogs at http://dialorapia.com/language/ en/
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