Editorial: Sacking synagogues

Even the dead weren't considered immune from postmortem violation.

It's almost a foregone conclusion that the synagogues of demolished Gush Katif will be destroyed. Remaining to be determined is only how and who will lay them to ruin. The underlying assumption is that whatever Israel leaves behind will be instantly vandalized and devastated. Even the dead weren't considered immune from postmortem violation. That is why Israel removed the graves of Israelis from Gush Katif's Neveh Dekalim Cemetery. This is no manifestation of baseless paranoia. In 1948, after the Jordanian Legion occupied east Jerusalem, forcibly expelling the Old City's ancient Jewish community, it showed the world what could be perpetrated even by moderate Arabs, as the Hashemites were reputed to be. They destroyed no less than 58 synagogues, including the magnificent Rabbi Yehuda Hahasid Synagogue (the Hurva). Synagogue remains were used by the Jordanians as cowsheds, donkey stables and public lavatories. This wasn't neglect, a charge that can be leveled at Israel regarding some mosque structures in abandoned and emptied Arab hamlets. This was deliberate abuse with intent to desecrate and humiliate. While Israel's record in 1948 and 1967 may not be perfect, jubilant desecration was never the motivation. Even the ancient and hallowed Jewish Mount of Olives Cemetery wasn't left alone. No less than 75% of its tombstones were ripped out. The international community was outraged a few years ago when Afghanistan's Talibans blew up giant Buddhist statuaries. But outrage was conspicuously absent against the destruction of Jewish antiquities on the Temple Mount. Nor was there any particular international notice, let alone concern, when Nablus mobs ransacked Joseph's Tomb in 2001. The wish to spare the Israeli public scenes of jubilant terrorists and their admiring disciples wreaking vengeance on synagogues is what prompted the government's original decision against abandoning any synagogues to the marauding rioters' predations. But why must it be assumed that such barbarism is uncontrollable, or even understandable? To find a counterexample, one need look no further than Tel Aviv. The Hassan Bek Mosque was built about a century ago by Ottoman Turks on the border of Tel Aviv and Jaffa. During the British Mandate, Jaffa's Arabs had no qualms about using this house of worship to sow death and destruction. Arab snipers regularly fired into Tel Aviv streets from the minaret, killing and wounding passersby. After the War of Independence, Israelis had every reason to pull down the infamous mosque. But they didn't. Israel even allowed Saudi money to finance the mosque's renovation and expansion. It's an operating mosque today. The police reportedly suspected that the suicide bomber who killed 22 youngsters at the Dolphinarium had been harbored there. When a known underworld character recently deposited a pig's head in its courtyard, he was summarily arrested. Yet the rights and courtesies Muslims request aren't readily reciprocated. The PA is reported to have snubbed Israel's inquiries about whether it would protect Gush Katif's synagogues from harm. Who will actually wreck them is much less relevant than why this has become almost inevitable. Why cannot Palestinians show the entire watching world that they are capable of rising above base instincts and conducting themselves according the civilized standards they so aggressively demand from others? Why does the world not expect and rigorously require these same standards of them? Assumed Palestinian savagery, not to mention presumed international indifference to it, do not inspire Israeli confidence and do not augur well for the future of a negotiated peace. Israel is committed to treating its Arab citizens with full equality and Muslim and Christian religious sites with utmost respect. Palestinians want Israelis to believe that all they want is to live peacefully in a state beside us. They will have trouble convincing most Israelis of their peaceful intentions when they not only cannot tolerate living Jews in their midst, but also cannot even tolerate buildings or graves, without tearing them to bits.
Click here to send us your comments >> Fredy Ross, Tel Aviv, Israel: Hopefully the Palestinians will do what they did in Kyrenia, Cyprus. Every Anglican church still stands but has a Minaret on top. At least we are not asking Jews to desecrate Synagogues which would be more insulting. I just hope the Palestinians realize the whole world is watching their behavior and they will think about the media before they do what they did in 1948. Lawrence Ryz, London, England: We know already from the history of the state of Israel that leaving the synagogues intact in Gaza will mean that they will be desecrated by the Palestinians. Their lack of respect for anything Jewish can be seen by reviewing the PA controlled media. Shall we await the deafening silence from the UN security council? Kenneth S. Besig, Kiryat Arba Israel: If by now any Israeli still harbors the idea that we can make peace with the Palestinians, I doubt the Palestinian sacking of the Gush Katif synagogues will disabuse them of their fantasies. After the past five years of unrelenting Palestinian terror and cold blooded murder of innocent Israeli men, women, children, and babies, what will it take for us to finally recognize the Palestinians as our blood enemy and inflict the military reprisals which will destroy his will to make war against us? Rabbi Eisemann: If the Palestinians desecrate the synagogues -- G-d forbid -- it will be the duty of the media in both Israel and the rest of the world to focus on the issue. If the Palestinians are severely chastised in the court of public opinion they may realize that it is to their own advantage to adhere to the norms of civilized society. Stephen Gidon Esrati, Shaker Heights, Ohio USA: It is another concession to the Orthodox to leave the Gaza synagogues to the Arab mob, to allow celebration over desecration and ruination. Why not leave a few members of the IDF, too, so they can be greeted as were the two lynching victims in Ramallah? Nothing should be left to the mob to enjoy, not even the sweat of Ariel Sharon. Chaim, Miami Beach, FL USA: I am amazed at the short sightedness and thinking of some self hating Jews of the culture, customs and symbols of their heritage. I can understand their refusal to adhere to any religious observances, since they claim in their reasoning that these religious requirements are not mandated by a divine entity but are merely instructions issued by an ancient society, but not to denigrate the people that do believe and find solace in Judaic symbolism and conforming to religious conduct. The reasoning proffered to destroy any vestige of Judaism in Gaza is to be considerate of the Moslem sensitiveness is just wrong. We even disturbed the sanctity of the final peaceful resting place of those that were unlucky to be buried in Gaza. There has to be a defined line as just how much the government of Israel must do to placate the unbridled hatred of the Moslem philosophy which historically was directed against any and all other religious beliefs. If this refusal to demolish any vestige of all the pain and suffering imposed upon the Jews is or becomes a deal breaker then so be it.