One Sunday, two brothers, Hillel and Yagel Yaniv, young men with a bright future ahead of them were murdered while stuck in traffic in the Muslim village of Hawara in Israel. The locals celebrated their crime by singing, handing out candy and shooting off fireworks in the air.
“Every day, yes! – every single day – at least 20 Jewish cars get stoned while driving through Hawara,” Shmuel Sackett, the head of a tree-planting foundation, wrote.
1,600 Israeli Jewish families have to travel the road that goes through the village. Stoning cars, he clarified, means “throwing bricks and dropping cinder blocks from rooftops.”
“Imagine a young mother with 3 children in her car, driving home from the supermarket. As she is driving, a brick comes crashing through her windshield. The shock of what happened is enough to give her a heart attack! The children start screaming, there is broken glass everywhere, but she cannot stop for help… because she’s in the middle of Hawara with a mob just waiting to finish the job.”
That evening, some Jewish residents showed up to protest in Hawara. And some did more than protest. They set the junk cars in a nearby lot on fire. A few threw stones and smashed things. The terrorists claim that one of their own was killed in the rioting, but that is suspect.
The outrage that ensued was everything that had been entirely absent from the terrorist killings of 14 Israelis this year, including an American, Elan Ganeles, who was killed the next day.
Biden’s State Department spokesman Ned Price blasted what he falsely called, “the wide scale and indiscriminate violence by settlers against Palestinians civilians” and demanded that Israel “ensure full accountability and prosecute those responsible for the attacks in addition to compensation for the property.”
This comes as the Biden administration has not only failed to demand accountability from the Palestinian Authority, but continues to fund the terrorists killing Jews.
Nobody expected anything else from the Biden administration or the media. An optimist might have expected more from American Jews.
The Sabbath of that week was the one known as ‘Zachor’ or ‘Remember’ during which the biblical verses from (Deuteronomy 25:17-19) commemorating an attack on the freed Jewish slaves leaving Egypt are read. “Remember what Amalek did to you on the way, when you went out of Egypt, how he happened upon you on the way and cut off all the stragglers at your rear.”
In Judaism, those verses are so important that everyone must come to the synagogue to hear them. Long before the Holocaust, ‘Never Again’ was engraved with burning letters in the Bible. That reading was followed by the story of King Shaul who was removed from ruling over Israel because he had taken pity on the Amalekite king. The Prophet Samuel, an old man, takes up the sword and does what the king failed to do and executes him, stating bluntly, “As your sword bereaved women, so will your mother be bereaved among women.” (Samuel 1 15:33)
In one of the larger and wealthier Modern Orthodox synagogues in the Los Angeles area, the rabbi’s sermon was not on the subject of these politically incorrect readings even though they represent a unique religious obligation for which many of the congregants had come to the synagogue. Nor did the murder of Elan Ganeles, who had been part of the same Modern Orthodox movement, among the fourteen Jews murdered by terrorists just that year, come up.
Instead, like the rabbis of a number of other Modern Orthodox congregations, he denounced “vigilantes” and the way they had disgraced the Jewish people by taking the law into their own hands, and spoke at length of how terrible it was for Jews to fight back in such a manner.
Over the Purim week, I’ve heard stories of similar condemnations of ‘vigilantism’ delivered in mellifluous tones from the pulpits of prosperous synagogues resting in suburban enclaves.
That Sabbath was the gateway to the Jewish holiday of Purim which relates how the Jews gathered en masse and wreaked havoc on those who had plotted to exterminate them.
“And the Jews smote all their enemies with the stroke of the sword and with slaying and destruction,” Megilat Esther, the Scroll of Esther, relates. That’s more than a junk car lot fire.
The Los Angeles Jewish community recently panicked over shootings which wounded two men. Its synagogues are protected by extensive armed security. How would American Jews react if such shootings were an everyday occurrence, not an aberration? What might they be willing to do if they watched those around them be battered, shot and killed week after week?
“After the brutal murder, candies and sweets were handed out, cake was distributed, and people were singing. When did all this stop?” Sackett wrote of what happened in the Muslim village after the riot. “Since that day, not one rock has been thrown at Jewish cars.”
The ethical question of when people may take the law into their hands is a difficult one. Violence should never be an easy answer, but when things get bad enough, it can be inescapable. And those who live privileged lives of comfort and security could at least try to envision what life is like for those under the gun.
American Jews, even those in the Modern Orthodox community, remain crippled by liberal niceties, by the conviction that violence is something only the ‘bad guys’ commit.
“How can such a thing happen? How could it come to this, that Jewish young men should ransack and burn homes and cars?” Rabbi Moshe Hauer, the Executive Vice President of the Orthodox Union, deplored.
After constant terrorism, it’s more of a wonder that so few go out and do such things.
But on a Purim long ago, Jewish young men did far worse in Shushan. And King Shaul was deposed by the word of G-d not because he went too far, but didn’t go far enough.
Mindlessly deploring violence, regardless of the circumstances, is not a Jewish value.
The Torah warns against needless violence, but it also commands it if the situation calls for it. Some Modern Orthodox Jews have so absorbed liberal pieties that they are shocked and horrified by violence and have lost touch with Jewish values. They agonized over the video of some of the rioters praying ‘Maariv’ as if there were an innate contradiction with reciting ‘Aleinu’: derived from the prayer recited by Joshua when entering to conquer the land of Israel.
It’s understandable for people who live comfortable lives to deplore violence and ugliness, but there’s something deeply troubling when there’s more moral outrage directed at Jews burning junk cars in the village of their killers than at the killers. That isn’t morality speaking, it’s shame.
Modern Orthodox Jews who fall into the trap of holding Israeli Jews to one standard and their Arab Muslim attackers to a much lower one are duplicating the infamous Israel double standard. Under such double standards, survival becomes all but impossible. If the targets of terrorism are chained down by liberal pieties with everything expected of them and nothing of their enemies, that’s not morality, it’s a suicide pact. And there’s nothing Jewish about a suicide pact. either.
The ugly reality is that violence works. Building a society that transcends violence requires the cooperation of both sides. Without such cooperation, civilization doesn’t exist, neither does law and order. Israeli law, or that of any country, is completely inadequate to such a problem. The Israeli military or security service going in to occasionally arrest a few terrorists is a band-aid.
In a tribal society, tribal violence is a natural resort. Last fall, the Druze, a Muslim minority group in Israel, threatened to storm an Arab Muslim city after terrorists kidnapped one of their own from the hospital and tried to hold him hostage. Druze men brandished rifles and warned that if the body wasn’t returned to the family, they would take it. The Hawara rioters played by those rules. Unless a new Israeli government can cut a better deal than tribal violence, that may be the reality. Governments exist, among other things, to protect people from violence. If they show that they are unwilling and unable to systemically do so, they leave their people no other choice.
And American Jews would do better to understand than to sanctimoniously condescend.
Jews, even pro-Israel Jews, all too often embody Robert Frost’s line, “a liberal is a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel.” Those who condemned the protesters, while offering hardly a thought for their killers, boasted that they “been accused of being blindly pro-Israel” in the past, but now they had disproven it. There is nothing shameful about being “blindly pro-America”, “pro-Israel” or “pro-civilization” when faced with a struggle to the death. It’s a liberal fallacy to think that objectivity is the way to confront the moral issues that arise when trying to survive.
American liberal Jews have all too easily forgotten what life and death struggles look like. They panic when they see Jews fighting back and condemn even the mildest reactions with far more outrage than they do the terrorists who are murdering them. That perhaps is why ‘Zachor’ or ‘Remember’ had to be a divine mandate. Most peoples would not need to be ordered to remember to strike back, but Jews are uncomfortable with such things and easily forget.
A voice from heaven had thundered, “Remember!” while a thousand smaller voices still command, “Forget”.