A new article -- actually an old article refocused on a new situation, how sad that we need to keep saying this same thing -- by Rabbi David Golinkin at the Schechter Institute in Jerusalem will be of interest. It is entitled: WHAT DOES JEWISH LAW SAY ABOUT THE MURDER OF MUHAMMED ABU KHDEIR AND OTHER ATTACKS AGAINST INNOCENT ARABS? You can find it at http://www.schechter.edu/responsa.aspx
I'd like to add a few comments about his article, if I may, by way of glosses, not sustained commentary. Read his article first, then these notes will, I hope, be of some value.
1] In section II number 1 he cites a saying of Rabbi Akiva from Pirkei Avot about man being made in the image of God. In the translation in which he cites it (a standard translation) the text seems to be redundant. "Beloved is adam [=man] who was created in the image of God. Still greater was the love shown to him since he was created in the image of God, as it is written (Genesis 9:6) ‘in the image of God he made man’” How was the love greater in the second clause, which seems to just repeat the first? To solve that problem we offered what I think is a better translation in Siddur Sim Shalom (p. 266, Avot 3:18). "Humans are beloved for they were created in the image of God. They are exceedingly beloved, for it was made known to them that they were created in the Divine image, as it is written..." In the first part is the fact that we were created in the Image. What is greater in the second part is that the Torah makes us aware of that fact so that that awareness should play a part in our thinking and morality. That that awareness is not doing what it should, is, of course, the burden of Rabbi Golinkin's comments.
2] In section IV about the ways of peace, Rabbi Golinkin focuses on the ways our violent extremists disregard this principle. Due credit should be given here to the preponderant majority of Israelis who precisely do follow this principle, therefore the stories that always surprise the world about the medical treatment that Israel continues to offer the injured of Gaza and Syria and, indeed, the world. Less dramatic, it should be noted (as an IDF spokesman recently did in an article in the Times of Israel) that at the very time that Israel is bombing Northern Gaza, it continues to supply electricity there, because it understands it as a moral requirement that they treat civilians properly even as they deal with Hamas. An odd justaposition and dilemma: How do you follow the ways of war and the ways of peace in the same place at the same time with the population fully intermingled?
3] I know David well enough to know that this was not a chance thing. You might have noticed that when Rabbi Golinkin refers to the three murdered Israeli teens he affixes to their names not the common z"l (zichrono livrakha = may his memory be a blessing), nor a"h (alav hashalom = may he rest in peace) but rather hy"d. These letters stand for the Hebrew acronym -- hashem yikom damam = may God avenge their blood. David does not want anyone to think that this moral ruling is a peace-nik rant. The key word in the title is "Innocent". Here turn to section VIII where he makes the express point that vengeance is not for us, but for God. Indeed the words hashem yikom damam is a direct reference to that verse in Deut 32 that he cites there.
4] But I do not believe Rabbi Golinkin to be one of those who would say that we must wait for God to act. In section VII he speaks of the proper authority of the State of Israel (and therefore of the IDF) versus the improper actions of individuals. And in his conclusion referring to this internal problem he says plainly: The police, the IDF and the government must deal swiftly and severely with these phenomena." The same is true for him of the external problems. While it is dangerous even for a government to see itself acting as God's agent, and Rabbi Golinkin would surely explain the current campaign in Gaza as defensive, I hear a hint in hy"d that he is not unaware of the component of Divine vengeance against Israel's enemies in the unfolding of events.
What are we to think? What are we to do?
Rabbi Reisner, July 4, 2014
With the vicious kidnapping and murder of Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Fraenkel one is left to ask, is there no end? What are we to do?
One answer was perhaps provided in the kidnapping and murder of another Jerusalem teen, Muhammad Hussein Abu Khdeir. We do not, in fact, have evidence of that. We do not know if he was in fact kidnapped as a reprisal. But there have been increasing reprisal attacks by individual Israeli persons under the rubric of “price tag” attacks, and though this is more severe than those, the suspicion is great and I cannot gainsay it.
Certainly that was the sort of answer proposed by Rabbi Noam Perel, the secretary General of the World Bnei Akiva. “This travesty will be atoned for with the enemy’s blood,” he wrote, “not with our tears,” demanding revenge and proposing that we should follow the model of David against the Philistines (1 Samuel 18), striking at 300 to avenge our 3 -- posted on his Faebook account two days before the abduction and murder of Khdeir.
This sort of response is monstrous, unthinkable, absolutely unacceptable, yet altogether human. It is a primal cry of pain, escaped despite the filters of culture, morality and Torah. I would not ask that some people not feel this level of rage, but wish that Rabbi Perel had thought better of it before he posted rather than after. (He has since “apologized” saying that he was misunderstood.)
What, then, are we to do? Turning the other cheek is not the Jewish way either.
The Jewish way remains to initiate violence against no-one, but respond vigorously in defense of our own. That means, for now, still, being ever on our guard against perpetrators of terror and coming down on them hard. Those have been the orders of the Israel Defense (!) Forces at their best throughout this prolonged conflict. Surely we have an obligation to the welfare even of those who are not our own. Given a moment’s respite that altruism should rise quickly to the fore. At times I have wanted that to happen more quickly than it has. But we have not truly been given that respite and are not still. Security fences and aggressive defense with as much sensitivity as we can muster remains the only way.
Would that the Arab world would discover what could be were they to join us rather than warring against us. I recently attended a lecture by a representative of an Azerbaijani oil company drilling for Israel in its newly discovered oil field and supplying Israel most of its oil from its own oil fields in the Caspian Sea. I learned that Azerbaijan is a majority Shiite Islamic State (borders on Iran and Armenia) which somehow has managed to escape the infection of Islamic militants and choose to work with Israel for its people’s benefit. It can be done.
The Arab world may not yet know it, but that is the way of the future, not a return to a 7th century caliphate. And not, on our part, return to the bloodiest of Biblical tribalism.