2 Av 5777 B’SD

Thoughts for the Nine Days

I express my heartfelt condolences to the Salomon family for the murder of the father and grandfather Yosef and two of his children, Elad and Chaya, in a heinous terrorist attack last Friday night in Halamish. May their memories be a blessing, and may they be rooted in our hearts forever. At this hour, all of us are praying for the recovery of Tova, Yosef’s wife and the mother of Elad and Chaya, who was wounded in the terrorist attack and is currently hospitalized

Sometimes words we articulated in the past come back to haunt us. Sometimes the ideals that we cherish and promote prove to be not only false but dangerous. Sometimes we have to admit to ourselves that we may have been wrong, regardless of our deep desire to believe that we were right.

My optimistic side truly believes that peace in Israel, albeit remote, is a possibility. It postures that behind the outlandish bravado of the Middle East players, saner mindsets lurk in shadows. It hopes that both sides of the political divide will finally say enough is enough. Enough of families being torn apart. Enough of parents, children, and grandchildren dying. Enough of living in daily fear of what tomorrow may bring.

I just returned from an amazing two week visit to Israel. I saw the country from the northernmost tip to areas in the south. I felt secure and safe and rarely did I allow my mind to ponder that which I unconsciously decided would be best to ignore. I didn’t even worry about my grandchild attending school adjacent to a hostile Arab village in West Jerusalem. Even though I knew the village had recently harbored terrorists, the Israeli government chose not to put up fences, security walls or hire private guards. I allowed my mind to foolishly believe that everything is ok and the situation is under control. I heard from my wife and others a concern that our tour bus had no security, but I once again wanted to imagine that they were exaggerating the threat. During our trip, I naively felt secure regardless of being close enough to the Syrian border to see the smoke with my own eyes. I, like most other naive tourists, climbed up to get a better angle for a photo, oblivious of the threat that loomed a few hundred yards away.

Unfortunately, reality sometimes rears its ugly head. The optimism I had experienced was replaced by anxiety, trepidation, and concern. The streets that I so calmly walked upon and the roads that I travelled on a few weeks ago are no longer safe. The Muslim and Arab world decided that promoting terror against innocent civilians and creating upheaval in the Temple Mount and other Jewish areas served their political needs. They merely used the placement of metal detectors on The Temple Mount as their justification.

As a Jew, when I go to the Kotel I have to go through metal detectors. When I enter a shopping mall in Jerusalem, there too, I have to walk through metal detectors. Indeed, many school, airports, and public buildings in the United States require walking through metal detectors. This is an uncomfortable but necessary discomfort to protect our safety. When Israel acted after videotaping three terrorists who used the sanctity of The Al Aqsa Mosque to exchange weapons in the murder of two policemen, the Arab and Western world is up in arms. The metal detectors were an excuse the imams in the Arab world needed to foment hatred and rile up their constituents. It is reminiscent of the blood libel in past eras, often used to foment hatred and violence against European Jews. It is solely aimed at provoking the masses to rise up in generous anger to terrorize Israel and its citizens.

I really wanted to believe there was a chance to live in peace. I wanted to imagine that two peoples could coexist and learn to trust one another. I wanted more than anything else to show my grandchildren that the hatred, animosity and mistrust that my parents and grandparents lived through is from a bygone era. I wanted to imagine the Anti-Semitic fervor of my youth has been replaced by mutual respect and admiration of all Semitic people.

Indeed, articles I have written in the past about the potential for peace have been criticized by some as being too liberal and shortsighted. It’s not that I’ll ever stop dreaming, nor will I ever cease to believe that miracles can happen. It’s only that at the present, I feel I would be less than genuine to posit those positions. I really wanted to believe in the potential of peace, but the desire to believe can’t be overridden by the facts on the ground.

Rabbi Jack Engel

PS: Tisha B’av – the ninth day of the month of Av commemorates the destruction the Beit Hamikdash, the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. There are those who claim that now that Israel is in control of Jerusalem this fast is no longer necessary. The events of the past few weeks has shown that our control is limited at best. The Waqf, the Jordanians, the UN, and the remainder of the world, all believe that our control is negligible. The facts on the ground lead me to believe that sadly they have more control than we do.

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