How could we not feel sickened to learn of the horrific attack this week in a Jerusalem synagogue? Four devout rabbis and a guard were murdered as two Palestinian men, armed with a meat cleaver, an axe and a gun, entered the synagogue and fulfilled their “holy’ mission.
A friend reminded me: Every Yom Kippur afternoon we remember the rabbinic martyrs who died violent deaths at the hands of their Roman persecutors in the first century.
And now we learn that in commemoration of an attack last month when a Palestinian slammed his car into a crowded train station in Jerusalem, killing a baby and a young woman, a song has become popular: “Zionist, run away, run away Zionist. You are about to be killed by a car.”
Yes, these violent episodes have become all-too-common in Israel, in Europe, and in the streets of the New York area. And we ask ourselves: “What can we do in response?” Yes, many more guards have appeared outside synagogues and Jewish institutions. But we know that this is not the answer if there is one.
But there must be an effective Jewish response beyond Israel’s rightful retaliation for such heinous acts. We too must respond in the only way that makes a difference. We must be educated about Israel and better informed about the true causes behind the violence. We must understand why they have nothing to do with Israeli settlements and building new dwellings. And they surely have nothing to do with Israel’s repeated efforts to reach peace agreements. And for sure, where anti-Semitic episodes are on the rise, we must know that it has nothing to with what we Jews are doing or not doing. No, nothing we do will put an end to “Jew-hatred.” It is part of the story of humanity, and perhaps it will always be such. A people that so much seeks love and peace is resented for being “different.”
Yes, we need additional guards and Israeli retaliation for violence. But especially now, we need to understand and appreciate our Jewish heritage, and we need to be proud and supportive of that heritage. We need to teach it to our children, and model for them, an identity of honor, righteous values and worthy ideals. Yes, the rabbis who were slaughtered were good and decent men. They sought to bring us all closer to a world rooted in righteousness and loving-kindness. I believe that their sacred vision remains our shared purpose.