Amos Oz in his book A Tale of Love and Darkness describes a rare moment of tenderness with his father in the wake of the 1947 United Nations vote to establish Israel. His father whispered to his eight-year-old son about “what some hooligans did to him and his brother David in Odessa and what some Gentile boys did to him at his Polish School in Vilna, and the girls joined in too.” The next day when his Grandfather came to school to complain, the children set upon him and humiliated him too “and the girls laughed and made dirty jokes…while the teachers watched and said nothing, or maybe they were laughing too.” From that day on, Oz’s father promised, his son would never be bullied just because he was a Jew. “From tonight that’s finished here. Forever.”
Ever since then, we have continued to learn the painful truth that Israel’s security cannot guarantee personal safety. Alas, educating toward hostility remains far too normative.
For example our ADL Counter-Terrorism delegation became aware of the painful implications of this just south of Jerusalem, within a neighborhood around the historic burial site of our biblical Matriarch Rachel. We learned of a particularly alarming practice in the El Ida cemetery which is adjacent to Rachel’s resting place. Teens break apart headstones in order to throw chunks of stone over the security barrier to harm Jews coming to pray at Rachel’s headstone. Of course our tradition encourages us to place a stone upon a grave to convey honor and love. Sadly, infernal contempt leads some teens to desecrate their own family markers in order to attack psalm-praying pilgrims.
As our JNF funds flow into Israel to plant trees, too often external enemies channel funds in order to implant terror. Rather than life-giving saplings that sing in the breeze,Wahabi ideology forests young hearts and minds with stormy designs. Hope lies in the prospect of channeling resources toward revolutionary approaches that seed goodness-generating aspirations and habits. Championing such approaches in the home, the school, and the prayer-space, may yet bring transfusions of promise.
Land is defended with an army. Freedom is defended with education. Dignity is defended with responsibility.
Rabbi William Hamilton
Image: Rabbi Hamilton outside the police academy