No, I’m not talking about the 1903 Kishniev pogrom, the mother of all Jewish pogroms. Nor am I talking about Kristallnacht. Instead, I’m talking about a pogrom instigated BY Jews. The terror attack on Yeshivat HaRav in Jerusalem seems to have unhinged the extreme nationalist community in Israel. Yesterday, there was a pogrom in the East Jerusalem neighborhood where the terrorist attacker lived. Extremist Orthodox-nationalist elements affiliated with the yeshiva rampaged through the streets breaking windows, destroying property, and seeking out residents to assault (they wisely stayed indoors). The police allowed themselves to be outmanuvered and outmanned and did little to restrain things.
The State will attempt to destroy the home of the terrorist’s family ‘legally.’ But the pogromists were trying to avoid that legal nicety and do it themselves much like a good old-fashioned American lynch mob used to do in the early part of the last century. So this is what it’s come down to–vigilante justice by those who don’t have much respect for the State or Israeli democracy to begin with. Keep in mind these are the type of people whose rabbis call for the murder of prime minister Olmert and sending other ministers to the gallows. So of course they would take the law into their own hands.
Thank God, there are other Orthodox Jews who stand for something different. In Ynetnews, Gadi Gvaryahu of 12th of Heshvan [the date of Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination], reminds us that while Arabs may have sins of hate we too have our own:
One cannot but recall that Jewish murderers who massacred others with a machine-gun at the Cave of the Patriarchs and in the Islamic College in Hebron.One cannot but recall…the rabbis who asked that Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s murderer be allowed to get married and celebrate his son’s bar mitzvah. Had the murderer from Jabel Mukaber who carried out the yeshiva attack stayed alive, would we also allow him to get married and have children?
One cannot but recall the funeral held for “Baruch (Goldstein) the man” [Baruch Ha-Gever] at his magnificent gravesite and the park around it. And this is what one of the important rabbis of Religious Zionism said in his eulogy for the killer from Hebron: “He is a martyr killed by gentiles for being a Jew, and therefore he joins the victims of the Nazi Holocaust.” One cannot but recall the honor bestowed upon his relatives. So take off the masks.
One cannot but recall the Jew who entered the Islamic college in Hebron armed with a machine-gun and murdered three students. He was sentenced to life in prison and later pardoned by the president. Today he is known as a rabbi and publishes articles. And we have not forgotten the Jewish murderer who killed seven Arab laborers at the Gan Havradim junction in 1990. So take off the masks.
Gvaryahu also unmasks the genocidal hate that masquerades for halachic wisdom in the extremist community:
The words written by Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu [Safad chief rabbi] regarding [Arab] murderers who deserve death are entrenched in our holy Torah and the time has come to take off the masks for this important discussion.
This is what Rabbi Eliyahu wrote in Ynet over the weekend: Showing mercy on the murderer’s family is like showing mercy to a drug addict and giving money for the next dose. Having pity on murderers? This would ruin the world.
Later, the rabbi wrote: A murderer should be exterminated; anyone who says that “a person is still a person” in fact sentences the murderer’s next victims to death.
Yet this is what Tana Devei Eliyahu (parasha 26) has to say about this:
“A man must distance himself from theft, whether from Jew or Gentile, or anyone in the marketplace. One who steals from a Gentile will ultimately steal from a Jew. One who defrauds a Gentile will ultimately defraud a Jew. One who swears falsely to a Gentile will ultimately swear falsely to a Jew. One who lies to a Gentile will ultimately lie to a Jew. One who sheds the blood of a Gentile will ultimately shed the blood of a Jew. But the Torah was not given to desecrate, but rather to sanctify His great Name.”
There is no doubt that Yeshivat HaRav suffered a devastating blow and that they deserve the great sympathy and nihumim of all Israel. But we must draw a line in the sand and say what is permissible and what is impermissible. It is not permissible to take the law in one’s own hands. It is not permissible to execute justice against an entire Arab community merely because of one evil man within it. It is not permissible to see all Arabs as Amalek and thereby guilty of some kind of original sin by Biblical extension. Gvaryahu is truly doing the Lord’s work in drawing such red lines. The extremists seem to have lost all sense of proportion, all sense of right and wrong when it comes to alleged enemies of the Jewish people. Let someone step forward and remind them that Jews have moral obligations and constraints even when it comes to those who may hate us.
Someone must tell the Jerusalem police that their response was shameful. There will of course be a next time since the haters were not mollified in their thirst for vengeance. I hope the police and State in general do not make such a feeble showing next time. For this would only signal how little stock Israel puts in its vaunted democracy and its inclusion of non-Jewish minorities within the commonweal.