Justice, justice, you shall pursue

Two events at different points on the globe have me thinking about justice

Ultra-orthodox Jews gather for a mass prayer in protest to the government’s army conscription laws in Jerusalem in 2014 (photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
Ultra-orthodox Jews gather for a mass prayer in protest to the government’s army conscription laws in Jerusalem in 2014
(photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
London Bridge is falling down, falling down...
Belgium, France, now England.
With the third ramming-shooting-stabbing- bombing incident in less than three months, it seems the UK has become the terrorists' "flavor of the month." These attacks – unfortunately all too familiar to Israelis – perfectly fit the terrorist model: They are unpredictable, random and brutal, designed to cause maximum casualties on innocent civilians, with no discrimination between men and women, adults and children.
They are, to a great extent, virtually unstoppable, because they are perpetrated from within, by local, home-grown assailants, and are generally carried out with everyday objects like knives or automobiles, by criminals prepared to sacrifice their own lives in the process.
Most depressing and frustrating about these outrages – apart from the loss of life – is the rote, monotonous "strong cop/weak cop" response from the wounded authorities. While British Prime Minister Theresa May stiffened her upper lip – no doubt a must in the days leading up to the national election – and said things like, “Enough is enough,” and “We cannot pretend that things can continue as they are," her tough talk was almost immediately deflated by London’s mayor.
Sadiq Khan blamed the attack not on Muslims acting in the name of Islam – despite their screaming out, “This is for Allah!” before the killings – but rather on “Islamists,” a term conveniently invented to separate anyone who carries out an atrocity from the general Muslim public. He also warned that “taking extreme measures against these Islamists would undermine our basic freedoms and play directly into their hands.” In other words, let’s not monitor mosques and Imams for incitement, let’s not profile, let’s not cut off all funding for institutions that preach hatred for the West.
I can draw a straight line between today’s crisis and the cavalier, culpable attitude of the free world toward the Nazis in pre-Holocaust times. Then, too, ambivalence and appeasement was the order of the day, talking big about German racism and violence, but doing virtually nothing to stop it – until it was too late, and 60 million people died.
I once wrote that the punishment for world indifference to the plight of the Jews in the Shoah is cancer; I believe wholeheartedly that a cure for this dreaded disease would have already been found – by a Jewish scientist – had they not all been murdered. And the acts of terrorism now occurring around the globe? This, I hold, is punishment for the unwillingness of the world to lift a finger to stop the countless acts of terrorism against Jews and Israelis over the last century.
Oh, Jerusalem! No city in history stirs the passions quite like Jerusalem. From the dawn of time until today, the world has had a unique fascination with the Holy City. Kings and conquerors scheme about it, poets dream about it, its citizens scream about it. The recent iconic photos of US President Donald Trump praying at the Wall – the first and only sitting president to do so – and daughter Ivanka shedding tears; these are just the latest installment in the thrall Jerusalem holds upon the public at large.
We celebrate with pride our control over a united Jerusalem for 50 years, and how we have turned our eternal capital into one of the most magnificent and attractive cities anywhere on Earth, complete with free access to all religions. But there is still a long way to go to unite the nation over Jerusalem.
A friend tells me he attended a wedding in America recently and noticed that the verse from Psalm 137, “If I forget you, Oh Jerusalem, may I forget my right arm. May my tongue cleave to my cheek if I do not remember you and elevate Jerusalem to my highest joy,” was not recited, as is the custom, before the breaking of the glass. When he asked if the groom had simply forgotten to say it, the liberal rabbi replied, “Jerusalem is a very sensitive issue today, and we didn’t want to prejudice the debate by taking sides.”
Seriously? So why break a glass? Just so that the groom has one final chance to put his foot down? Fast-forward now across the globe to Jerusalem itself, specifically to the enclave of Mea She’arim, located – some would say – just a short bus ride from Israel.
There, too, we have some so-called rabbis with inane, no, better, insane ideas. Rabbis who so viciously hate the state and all its institutions that they incite their gullible followers to attack soldiers in uniform, especially haredi soldiers who have courageously joined the army despite the negative pressure from their community.
They block intersections, riot against police and, incredibly – if the posters are accurate – encourage shooting dead any soldier who enforces the draft regulations in their neighborhood.
Why would a self-respecting country tolerate such evil seditionists, who undermine the very foundations of our society? They not only constitute walking, talking desecrations of God, they also tarnish the image of haredim in general, most of whom are good, kind, sensible people who mind their own business and pursue Torah study.
“Zion shall be redeemed with justice,” says the prophet Isaiah. We are waiting for it everywhere, including right here at home.
■ The writer is director of the Jewish Outreach Center of Ra'anana; [email protected] netvision.net.il.