Friday, July 31, 2015

אוֹי-נָא לָנוּ כִּי חָטָאנוּ -- Woe unto us, for we have sinned (Lamentations 5:16)

I went to sleep last night distressed because an Israeli man who wears the garb of a pious Jew stabbed six participants in the Jerusalem Gay Pride parade yesterday. I woke up this morning to learn that overnight, Jewish terrorists who also wear the garb of pious Jews set fire to a Palestinian home in the West Bank, burning alive an 18 month old baby and severely injuring several other members of the same family.  On the walls of the house the attackers spray painted Hebrew graffiti, one saying “Revenge” and the other saying “Long Live King Mashiach.”

The attack on the Gay Pride parade is almost unfathomable in that the exact same assailant had done the exact same thing ten years earlier. He was convicted, sentenced to 12 years in prison, and was released three months ago, early, for good behavior (as is the norm in Israeli prisons.) I do not understand how the Israeli Police, knowing of his past behavior, that he was unrepentant, and knowing of the Gay Pride parade and its route, let this person within 100 yards of the parade. It’s simply shocking.

The arson attack unfortunately came as no surprise. It is part of a series of “Price Tag” attacks which an extremist fringe of radical settlers conduct every time a government or court decision goes against them when they seek to build on privately-owned Arab land and so on. While the fact that Israel remains a country of laws and that therefore court decisions often do go against the settlers is cause for pride, nevertheless the quiet toleration and looking the other way when these kinds of attacks occur is simply not acceptable.

Prime Minister Netanyahu has forcefully condemned both of these attacks, and I absolutely believe his condemnations are sincere. Nevertheless, there are parties and Knesset members within his coalition that tolerate if not actively encourage this type of violence. For example, earlier this week Motti Yogev, a Knesset Member from the “Jewish Home” party which is part of the governing coalition, called for the Supreme Court building to be bulldozed after it ruled against the expansion of the Bet El settlement. Although his words were condemned, no further action has been taken nor is any contemplated.

Today is Tu b’Av, the (very minor) Jewish holiday which celebrates love. Tomorrow morning we will read Parshat VaEtchanan which contains the following words:
וְאָהַבְתָּ, אֵת יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ

While we normally read this as “v’ahavta,” “you shall love the Lord your God,” the Hebrew text as we find it in the Torah scroll has no vowels. Therefore it can also be read as “v’eyhavta,” “you shall cause the Lord your God to be loved.” How do we cause God to be loved? By loving others, gay or straight, Arab or Jew, black or white, native or immigrant, Latino or Anglo, able-bodied or disabled. Unless we love our neighbor we do not love God, no matter what garb we wear.

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