Worshippers at Kehillat Bnei Torah Synagogue in Har Nof.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
‘Fear of deadly “religious war” between Jews and Muslims raised after synagogue attack,’ was the title of a news item that appeared in The Washington Post last week. The implication was clear: Both Muslim and Jewish leaders are deploying fundamentalist religious claims to escalate the conflict.
But in the article itself, the only mention made of religiously motivated “provocations” on the Jewish side was the demand that Jews be allowed to pray on the Temple Mount, which Muslims refer to as Haram al-Sharif.
All the other examples of Israeli reactions – the demolition of terrorists’ homes, a crackdown on potential terrorists, and even criticism of Islamic extremism – had nothing to do with the Jewish faith, but were simply understandable responses to the sort of murderous terrorism being perpetrated in the name of Islam. Some of these responses are more controversial than others, such as the home demolitions. These measures, both punitive and deterrent, are, however, based on security considerations and are not rooted in Judaism.
Similarly, a New York Times article, titled “Mistrust Threatens Delicate Balance at a Sacred Site in Jerusalem,” tried to explain why Jews and Muslims are equally to blame for escalating tensions surrounding the Temple Mount.
But once again, the only evidence cited for specifically Jewish provocations is the “clamoring” by “radical right-wingers” that Jews should be permitted to pray at the holiest site in the world according to the Jewish faith.
The Muslim side has a near-complete monopoly on religiously motivated violence in Jerusalem. Based on paranoid claims that the State of Israel plans to remove the Muslim presence from the Temple Mount, Palestinian “lone-wolf” attackers have murdered or wounded Israeli civilians, military personnel and police by running them over with cars and vans, by shooting them and by stabbing them.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has squarely rejected these claims, and repeatedly promised that Israel has no intention of changing the status quo on the Mount.
Nearly all deaths on the Palestinian side have taken place during attacks in soldiers or police. Only the tragic murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir four months ago could be claimed to have been carried out in the name of a highly distorted understanding of Judaism. Condemnation of that despicable act from all sectors of Israeli society – including far-right elements – was total.
But Palestinians who murdered or wounded Jews in the name of Islam have been praised both in Palestinian society and in the larger Muslim world. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas declared that Mu’taz Ibrahim Khalil Hijazi, the man who nearly succeeded in assassinating Temple Mount activist Yehuda Glick, was a martyr who would go to heaven. Glick, it should be noted, advocates strict protection of the religious rights of both Jews and Muslims on the Temple Mount.
One day after they murdered rabbis Moshe Twersky, Kalman Ze’ev Levine, Aryeh Kupinsky and Avraham Shmuel Goldberg and Druse police officer Zidan Saif at a synagogue in Jerusalem, cousins Uday and Ghassan Abu Jamal from the Jebl Mukaber neighborhood were honored in the Jordanian parliament. Legislators observed a moment of silence and read Koranic verses aloud in memory of the two terrorists.
In the Palestinian territories, candies were handed out in celebration of the murders, and the terrorists were glorified as “martyrs” of the Palestinian struggle.
The Jewish response to the violence has been decidedly peaceful.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat noted that even in the Bnei Torah Kehilat Ya’akov synagogue in Har Nof, where the gruesome attack took place last Tuesday, they decided to continue to employ all their Arab workers.
“The management of the Har Nof synagogue acted with dignity and wisdom, and their actions set an example for all of us,” Barkat said. “We have the complex challenge of identifying individuals who wish to disturb the peace, but we must not generalize and discriminate against all Arabs.”
The widows and orphans of the four slain rabbis issued a poignant letter on Friday calling for solidarity and unity.
They made a joint appeal, on Shabbat eve, calling “with broken hearts, drenched in tears shed over the spilt blood of holy men – the heads of our families,” to “increase love and camaraderie between each individual and each community.”
They beseeched “every person” to “refrain from words of disagreement and division, from words of gossip and slander.
“May this serve to elevate the souls of our husbands and fathers who were slaughtered while sanctifying God’s name,” they wrote.
Let us honor the wishes of the bereaved families by responding to the hate, barbarism and terrorism with acts of love, peace and humanity.