I have purposefully waited some time before writing about the video which has widely been circulated of the recent wedding in Jerusalem. I wanted some time to think about this horribly upsetting situation.
The video shows Orthodox Jews at a wedding party celebrating attacks against Palestinians, particularly 18 month old Ali Dawabsheh, who was killed along with members of his family when their house was burned down, allegedly by members of an extremist settler group. The video shows participants in the wedding of all ages, including young children, passing rifles and other weapons around during a dance and seems to show at least one of the participants stabbing Ali’s picture repeatedly with a knife. The dancing is accompanied by songs and chants of revenge and violence.
The video is sickening. There are no other words.
Before I say anything else, let me quickly point out that government officials and Rabbis throughout Israel have publicly condemned this action in the strongest terms. This is what we might refer to hetzi nechama, some form of comfort. It is absolutely and undeniably true that condemnation of such atrocious behavior is not heard in similar situations in other nations. It is significant that the reaction has come quickly and clearly.
It is also true that, from what we see, actions of this kind are still relatively speaking, rare and that needs to be kept in mind as well.
But, neither the fact that this group represents an extreme position nor the negative public reaction is sufficient reason for us to ignore what we see.
Living with the threat of terror does affect the psyche of a nation or a community and that must be kept in mind. But attitudes of the kind that are reflected in this video and in so many other words and actions that we read about (and those we don’t hear about) are despicable and Israel must not only condemn them but must ask the difficult soul-searching questions about how these attitudes have developed over the years. Racist, violent statements of rabbis and governmental figures that demonize all Palestinians and all Arabs feed into this fire of hatred and talk of vengeance. Every word that is said which exacerbates the already tense situation adds fuel to the extremist attitudes which are on display in this video and Israel’s leaders can not merely discount these attitudes as being “foreign”. They must be acknowledged and stopped both by proper legal action against those who act in this way and by policies which prevent such attitudes from taking root and expanding.
And, those who give financial and emotional support to groups which espouse this type of thinking, whether that support comes from Israel or the Diaspora must accept their share of responsibility for such horrible actions. It becomes even more essential when faced with scenes such as these that donors investigate any organization that they support to know what their money is supporting.
And, one more point must be said. When attitudes of this kind are expressed in purely political terms, it is horrible enough. But, when Jews express hatred, vengeance and violence in the name of our Jewish faith, it is particularly offensive. Our faith and our tradition can be used in many ways and not everyone will agree on how it should be interpreted. But, I believe without question that people who twist Judaism to justify this horrendous type of behavior are committing a hillul hashem- a desecration of God’s name.
May this video and the ideas which are behind it not only be rejected but may we commit ourselves to turning away from hatred and to seeking and pursuing peace.