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.