Re­li­gion has an­other mes­sage

The Jewish Chronicle - - COMMENT - Nathan Jef­fay

FOR DAYS, people had been telling them­selves that it couldn’t be true, that a Jew would never do some­thing like this. But, in­deed, sus­pects had been ar­rested for the ab­duc­tion and mur­der of a Pales­tinian teenager, Jews thought to have been mo­ti­vated by anti-Arab ha­tred. They acted, the au­thor­i­ties be­lieve, in re­venge for the kid­nap­ping and mur­der of the three Jewish teenagers found dead last Mon­day.

Ac­cord­ing to the Ho­nenu or­gan­i­sa­tion, which is giv­ing them le­gal as­sis­tance, the six sus­pected Jewish ter­ror­ists con­sider them­selves re­li­gious. Only hours be­fore their at­tack, they would have re­cited evening prayers, ex­tolling a God who “will make peace” — be­fore they acted to­wards one of God’s chil­dren in a man­ner that would give any nor­mal per­son night­mares.

The tragedy of be­ing the vic­tim is un­ques­tion­able. At the triple fu­neral for the Jewish boys, I wept while reporting on the event, and left with a tear-soaked note­book.

Un­for­tu­nately, for us Jews, this painful vic­tim feel­ing is not new. But, over the past few days, we have felt some­thing that we are less fa­mil­iar with, some­thing that many do not know how to process or to vo­calise. We know all too well how the ac­tions of oth­ers can hurt us. But we are sud­denly be­ing forced to con­front how much we can hurt our­selves.

The past few weeks should have high­lighted to ev­ery­one in this re­gion how a cul­ture of vi­o­lent ha­tred claims lives on the other side — and how, on our own side, it can eat away at our in­tegrity. They should have ham­mered home the power that an at­mos­phere of ha­tred has to blind us to our own val­ues.

Ihave­been­re­port­ingfromIs­raelsince mov­ingfromEng­land­sev­enyearsago,and the­hard­est­mo­ment­formyJewishi­den­tity came­whenIleas­t­ex­pecte­dit.Fo­ra­nar­ti­cle, Iwaswatch­ing­foota­geof afoot­ball­brawlin aJerusalem­mall,dur­ing­which­someArab work­er­swere­as­saulted.In­the­footagethe ri­ot­er­sweredanc­ing­tothev­erysamesongto thatwhich­my­wife­andIen­tere­dour­wed­ding 12yearsago— WeAre Be­liev­ers, Chil­dren of Be­liev­ers. These racist ri­ot­ers had pur­loined oneof the­most beau­ti­ful de­vo­tional songsinJewish tra­di­tion. I used to love it, and fondly re­mem­ber my­wed­ding­when­ev­erI­heardit—now­it­makes myskin­crawl.

We­can­re­peata­gainanda­gain,an­di­tistrue, thatJewishex­trem­ist­srep­re­sen­tamin­utes­lice of Jewry.ButJu­daism­recog­nis­es­thatthe­way thatit­sad­her­ents­act­in­flu­ences­the­waythatthe re­li­gion is viewed by our­selves and oth­ers.

Bri­tish Jewry should be full of pride at

A cul­ture of vi­o­lence erodes our in­tegrity

the fact that its young people are leading a mean­ing­ful re­ac­tion. Af­ter the Jewish teens were de­clared dead, an Is­raeli rabbi wrote on his Face­book page that “an en­tire na­tion and thou­sands of years of his­tory de­mand re­venge.” This rabbi, Noam Perel, is sec­re­tary­gen­eral of World Bnei Akiva.

Mem­bers and past mem­bers of the Bri­tish branch of Bnei Akiva launched and pro­pelled an in­ter­na­tional cam­paign to have Perel fired, in or­der to make a strong state­ment that such calls for vengeance have no part in Jewry, es­pe­cially in re­li­gious Jewry.

On­theArab­side,too,ha­tre­dis­un­der­min­ing in­tegrityand­blind­ing­peo­ple­totheirown­val­ues.

A few weeks ago, I in­ter­viewed a Pales­tinian aca­demic who took a group of his stu­dents to Auschwitz. Such was the ab­hor­rence of Pro­fes­sor Mo­hammed Da­jani’s col­leagues and man­age­ment at Al Quds Univer­sity that he had dared to let his stu­dents learn about Jewish suf­fer­ing, that he sub­se­quently re­signed from his post, feel­ing that the anger against him left him with no other choice.

Next Tues­day, re­li­gious Mus­lims and re­li­gious Jews will both be fast­ing, the for­mer for Ra­madanandthe­lat­ter­forthes­tartof thethree­week mourn­ing pe­riod for the de­struc­tion of the Tem­ple. Hope­fully, as ad­her­ents of the two reli­gions fast in the ser­vice of the same God, we will find time to look in­wards, even in the hard­est mo­ments of vic­tim­hood. For our own sakes as well as each other’s. Nathan Jef­fay, an Is­rael-based jour­nal­ist, will be speak­ing at syn­a­gogues in the UK around the Fast of Av, on themes raised in this ar­ti­cle

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