Riots close highway 458.
(photo credit: SETH J. FRANTZMAN)
About two months ago, the State of Israel and the entire Jewish nation were dumbstruck, upset and furious because of a rare and incredibly serious event – the home of a Palestinian family was set on fire and its inhabitants were burned alive. Jewish rabbis and spiritual leaders from every sector of the nation stood by the family, came to offer condolences and used clear-cut language to unequivocally denounce this terrible act, stating unambiguously that this is not the way of the Torah.
In synagogues and Jewish centers of learning around the world, the words of our sages were repeated over and over again – “Beloved is man who is created in the image.”
The entire Jewish nation was deeply shocked, and the reaction of the rabbis and religious leaders was swift and immediate.
And during the recent Succot holiday, Muslim terrorists murdered Jewish parents in front of their children. Parents on their way back from a reunion with friends were shot dead. Days later, a father on his way to pray at the Western Wall, together with a Jewish father of seven, who ran to help him – were stabbed to death. And not a sound was heard. When we should be hearing denouncements from Muslim leaders, sheikhs and imams, all we hear is a humiliating silence.
Muslim religious leaders: Where are you? Is this the path of Islam? Is this what we were taught by our shared father, Abraham? For centuries, Jews and Muslims lived side by side, learned from each other and taught one another. Where is your voice – the voice of peace conveyed in the word “Islam?” Are you paralyzed by fear of zealots, or G-d forbid, do you quietly agree with these cruel and despicable acts? The holiday of Succot, which we celebrated this year with tears in our eyes, is a holiday in which the Jewish nation prays for peace for the entire world. In ancient times, the festival’s sacrifices at the Temple were dedicated to the nations of the world. Today it is a holiday when thousands of visitors come to the Western Wall every day, Jews and non-Jews, joining together in a tremendous humane prayer for a better world for us and for our children.
Those who wish to instigate war in Jerusalem – know that since this horrific deed, the number of visitors has risen. The Western Wall Plaza was full to capacity during all the days of the festival with adults and children. Jerusalem faces this hatred and cruelty holding a torch of faith and prayer, and there is not a force in the world that can extinguish it. “Instead of my love, they persecute me, but I am at prayer.” (Psalms 109)
The heart breaks in the face of the tragedy of a nine-year-old saying the Mourner’s Prayer for his father and mother. That same heart becomes infuriated and refuses to accept the thunderous silence of those who claim to lead their congregations by the light of the Lord.
Religious leaders and teachers of Islam, when G-d asked Abraham, our shared father, “Where are you?” Abraham immediately answered “Here I am,” and by doing so, he revealed the secret of faith for future generations – the immediate and brave stance on the side of G-d, on the side of goodness and justice, on the side of peace and truth.
During these bitter days, when the blood of innocents is shed on the streets of Jerusalem, I call to you in the name of our faith – Where are you?!The writer is rabbi of the Western Wall and holy sites.