What is the primary difference between Jewish life in the Diaspora, and Jewish life in Israel? Both have numerous, active Jewish communities, with all the services and amenities one could ask for, from synagogues of every denomination to kosher restaurants to institutions of Jewish learning. Jews generally enjoy a high standard of living whether they reside in Haifa or Highland Park, São Paulo or Savyon. Both have rich histories, some dating back many centuries, be it Budapest or Bnei Brak, Rome or Rehovot.
But there remains one crucial difference between life here and there.
In the Diaspora, there is always the fear that a Jew will be singled out for harm or harassment simply because he or she is Jewish. No matter if he is rich or poor, rural or urban, liberal or conservative, his religion makes him a potential target, with a virtual flashing Magen David on his forehead. Unlike Israel, where – despite the admitted divisions in our society, which at times can be severe – one is never at risk simply because he descends from Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses.
And that is why the murderous attack on the synagogue in Har Nof is such a watershed – or should we say, bloodshed – event; it is a frightening wake-up call, a game-changer that carries serious consequences.
Make no mistake about it, this was no random or spontaneous event. The saintly, righteous Jews praying in that synagogue were targeted not because they were card-carrying members of the “Zionist entity,” or because they were “settlers,” perish the thought. They were slaughtered, wrapped in the Jewish “uniform” of tallit and tefillin, for the simple reason that they were Jews.
The Palestinian savages wanted to make two things brutally, unmistakably clear to all: First, that there are no “red lines” for them in their relentless crusade to eradicate the Jewish presence in the Middle East; synagogues, hospitals, kindergartens, school buses, nursing homes and sports stadiums are all fair game for their genocidal agenda.
And second, that every Jew – no matter his age, sex, political leaning or place of residence – is on the Palestinian hit-list.
And that is why they chose to up the ante by attacking a place of Jewish worship, heretofore taboo even for them.
The Palestinian terror network understands that this is first and foremost a religious struggle. They realize – often better than we Jews ourselves – that the only truly viable justification for our being here is a religious one. Along with their penchant for violence and pathological dishonesty, the Arabs value land, and the provenance of its ownership; and they revere God, and His ultimate direction of world history. And so they struggle mightily to erase, eradicate and deny any and all evidence of the eternal Jewish connection to Israel, while at the same time casting us as “infidels,” hated and rejected by the Supreme Being.
And this is precisely why they adamantly refuse to refer to Israel as a “Jewish state,” for that would explicitly acknowledge our legitimacy in the land.
It is the aftermath of the Har Nof massacre – perhaps even more than the incident itself – which reveals the truly evil, insidious nature of the Palestinians.
Their spokespeople simply could not bring themselves to condemn the attack, despite intense pressure from the Americans. Their media unabashedly glorified the killers and added them to the bloody list of the great Palestinian “heroes” who form the role models of this cancerous enemy in our midst.
From Hanan Ashrawi to Mahmoud Abbas to the Jordanian parliament, they hailed the murder of these pious Jews as just one more “victory” in their campaign to recover their “stolen” land.
The irony of all this, of course, is that while the Jewish people have a clear, unbroken claim to this land, the Palestinians are Johnny-come-lately interlopers who are relatively new to the area.
Despite their attempt to fabricate history and claim they are an “ancient, indigenous” people with a distinct culture, language, dress, etc., the facts prove clearly otherwise: In 1857, British consul James Finn observed that “the country is, in a considerable degree, empty of its inhabitants.”
A decade later, in 1867, the president of Harvard University, Charles W. Eliot, visited here and noted: “A beautiful sea lies unbosomed among the Galilean hills, in the midst of that land once possessed by Zebulun, Naftali, Asher and Dan. Life here was once idyllic; now it is a scene of desolation and misery.” And in the same year, the famous American author Mark Twain also visited the Holy Land and testified: “This is a desolate country, a silent mournful expanse.
There are two or three small clusters of Beduin tents, but not a single permanent habitation. One may ride 10 miles and not see 10 human beings.”
But then, when the Jews began to return to Zion in the beginning of the 20th century and bring the long-dormant land back to life, the surrounding Arabs decided to jump on the bandwagon and get in on a good thing. There was massive Arab immigration during the British Mandate, and while England turned a blind eye to this influx – illegal, by their own admission – it severely limited Jewish immigration. Both Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill commented on the huge numbers of Arabs flooding into the country, all within the space of less than three decades.
The Palestinians themselves, in rare moments of candor, acknowledge the charade of a Palestinian “people.”
Walid Shoebat, an Arab terrorist, makes it clear: “Today’s Palestinians are immigrants from throughout the region – Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, the Jordanians next door. My grandfather in Bethlehem told me his village of Beit Sahur was empty before his father settled there with six families.”
And PLO official Zahir Muhsein, in a 1977 interview with Dutch newspaper Trouw, admitted: “A Palestinian ‘people’ does not exist.
“The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means of continuing our struggle against the State of Israel. There is just one people – the Arab nation – and only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a ‘Palestinian people.’” In addition to ramping up our security throughout Israel, we need to make crystal-clear – as the prime minister, Naftali Bennett and others have correctly done – that Israel is the Jewish state resting on ancestral Jewish land.
And we need to proclaim proudly from the rooftops and, perhaps even more importantly, from every synagogue pulpit – throughout the Diaspora as well as here at home – that living in Israel is not just a statement of national affirmation, but is a supremely Jewish act, a mitzva of the highest degree. It is, along with our culture and our closeness to the Torah, that which most defines us as Jews.
That is the least we can do to honor the memories of the holy men of Har Nof. The writer is director of the Jewish Outreach Center of Ra’anana; email@example.com.