Friday, August 05, 2005


I don't really know what to say about the murders in Shefar'am, but I think I should say something. This week's parsha, Mas'ei, makes it very clear that the spilling of innocent blood is a sure way of defiling the land of Israel. That defilement is not caused solely by the murderer, but by the society which allows his act to go unremarked.

It is too long that idle comments about the worthlessness of non-Jewish lives have gone unchallenged. That religious Zionist teenagers can flirt with xenophobia and feel it makes them more sincere Jews. That, whenever a violent act is perpetrated against Arabs (or Armenians or whoever else these fellow-religionists of mine can get their hands on), the religious establishment dismisses them as weeds.

Unfortunately, I know what will happen. I watched it transpire twice before - after the massacre in Hebron and after Rabin's asassination. The left-wing will lash out against all vestiges of religion, and make sure that the lines are clearly drawn. Sane voices within Orthodoxy will be drowned out by the attacks from the left, and the defensive apologetics on the right.

So I will try to make my point, on my own turf. It is absolutely true that the vast majority of right-wing, religious Israeli Jews are not violent. The same goes for the vast majority of those people who live in the West Bank and Gaza. But that majority has been too forgiving of violence. It has encouraged it with idle, after-davening conversations about how best to deal with the Arabs. It has sowed the seeds by sending their children to learn in schools staffed by teachers heavy on ideology and light on secular education. It has stifled other voices by pillorying would-be leaders like Rav Amital and Rav Yoel bin Nun, marginalizing them so that their message is only heard by the converted who no longer care that they are not considered authentically religious by much of Israeli Orthodoxy.

There, I've said my piece. I have no expectation that it will make any difference, that anything I say will reduce the chances of another Jewish kid taking up arms to kill people for no reason. But I tried.

By the way, I notice that the family doesn't understand why the army did not confiscate the murderer's gun long ago. This is not the first time such a thing has happened. I remember a fellow from my high school, who already then was imbalanced. The IDF decided to draft him, and to provide him with a machine gun. With which he then travelled down to Hebron and tried to shoot up the marketplace (failing to hurt anyone).

I also remember someone who served with me in the army. He was a very nice guy, whom I remember fondly. He was very into religion. Of all kinds. I once talked to him about the Hekhalot literature, so he provided me with an illustration, from a Hare Krishna book. I told him about Shabtai Zevi, and he said it reminded him of Jesus. Who, by the way, spoke to him on occasion.

I liked him. But a lot of the brutes in our unit delighted in tormenting him. Once, on an educational trip to Sde Boker, he disappeared. They searched for him all night. In the morning he turned up. He had spent the night in a cave in the desert, but came back because he had no water. They sent him home for a day. Then he returned to base. I watched him walk past - with his gun. That's funny, I thought. Surely they realize he is a little unbalanced. Wouldn't it be a good idea to take his gun away for a bit?

Five minutes later, a shot ran out in the base.

No, he hadn't killed himself. He had made sure to just knick his finger. But finally he got what he wanted, a way out of the unit.

Clearly, the Israeli army is not paying enough attention to the people it is giving its guns to.


Blogger Jeffrey said...

I think you're over extending yourself here. Religious Jews are not all xenophobic. furthermore, as painful as it is for me to say it, the humanities do not necessarily humanize.

10:57 PM  
Blogger manuscriptboy said...

I didn't say religious Jews are all xenophobic. Just that too many of them are. And I certainly didn't mean to imply that the humanities humanize. Not by a long shot.

3:13 PM  

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