The Tragedy in Itamar

Anyone with a modicum of emotion could not help but be moved to tears by the devastating news of the massacre of the Fogel family in Itamar, Israel. The perpetrators of this atrocity are the lowest form of humanity – cowards in the extreme. To brutally murder a toddler and a newborn baby makes one wonder what sort of twisted mindset can resort to such barbarism.
Then again it should come as no wonder when considering the daily consumption of hate against Israel that is preached in mosques and taught in classrooms. Anyone of countless brainwashed Palestinians could have carried out this shocking attack. What pushes one madman over the edge over another is most likely attributable to pressure or encouragement those who look to take advantage of the most damaged minds. The point being, even when apprehended, its not just the cold-blooded murderers that must be held to account but their handlers, their mentors, indeed the whole system which contributes in one form or another to this monstrosity shares in the responsibility.

This then raises a bigger question: the doves will insist that this is a consequence of protracted peace negotiations and that the sooner there is peace the stronger the assurance of stability these attacks will cease. The hawks will argue that for all the conversations about peace treaties, how can Israel even fathom striking agreements with people who at their core remain committed to Israels annihilation? How can you give back land and invite bloodthirsty neighbors further into your own territory you will invariably be exposing yourself to even further risk to human life? Thus the question is: is it a peace agreement first then anticipated stability or a lengthy period of proven stability followed by a considered peace agreement? To my mind, in the words of Moshe Dayan, “you make peace with your enemy, not your friend.” But for that to happen, you need to know that your enemy hasn’t been indoctrinated through the classroom and all forms of media to perceive you as inherently evil. Otherwise, whatever the compromise, whatever delicate balances you are going to strike, however fragile the tightrope, you’re not going to achieve a lasting peace. For that to happen, it has to all begin at grassroots level the next generation is raised with the ideal of tolerance instead of hate, peace in place of war and above all else the sanctity of human life, regardless of it being a three month old child or a soldier on patrol.

Meanwhile, what are we as Jews to think of this atrocity? What words can we seek, what comfort can we summon? I know someone whose son was killed by a car while crossing the road to synagogue on Shabbat. You never quite recover something like that. But when during the week of mourning a woman asked her: “How could you continue believing in G-d after something like this happened to you?” She countered: “It is only because I believe in G-d that I don’t go completely out of my mind.” In other words, we can never comprehend the incomprehensible and that for as long as I know G-d is holding my hand, I can persevere.

By the same token, Abraham did not sit idly by when G-d was going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. Moses cried out to G-d and asked, “Why do you allow evil to befall these people?” as the Jews languished in Egypt. While there is a reason for everything to happen as it does – and while we don’t always know what that reason might be – to my mind, as a three dimensional mortal being confined to the limitations of time and space, I reserve the right to cry out to G-d and challenge Him: “Why are you allowing this to happen? How dare You allow for this to happen?” It’s the balance the Jew has to struggle with in life – the fine line he has to walk between reserving the right to express his upset and maintaining his faith nonetheless.

A grandfather was once talking to his grandson, sometime after the Holocaust. He said: I feel as though I have two wolves fighting inside my heart. One wolf is full of anger, despair and hopelessness. The other is full of compassion, strength and hope. The grandson asked: Which wolf will win the fight in your heart? The grandfather answered: “The one that I feed.”
We Jews have a unique capacity for rising the ashes. More than anything else, we need to strive toward greater unity and harmony amongst ourselves. Haman recognised one fault in the Jewish people of his time: “There is one nation spread out and fragmented.” That’s precisely what made us vulnerable and enabled all things negative to befall us. Esther’s first and immediate instruction was, “Go and gather ‘all’ the Jews.” As we navigate through the haze of this ineffable event, we need to appreciate that what unites us is greater than that which divides us. This in turn will fortify us as we seek comfort in one another and work together to build toward a harmonious future.

I’ve asked the question leading peace activists in Israel, “in lies the greater threat? With our Arab neighbours or amongst our own?” The answer always comes back the same: “Amongst our own.” It’s wonderfully idealistic to talk about peace with our enemy but the starting point has got to be, not the real enemy without, rather the perceived enemy within.
When we understand that our true salvation lies with our Father in heaven, and we appreciate the very real need to band together, then the Hamans who have total disregard for human life will be eradicated and we will merit true and everlasting peace forever more.