Sadness and Rage

We cannot ignore the real responsibility for the murders, nor should we leave things as they are.

Rabbi Prof. Dov Fischer,

Rabbi Prof. Dov Fisch
Rabbi Prof. Dov Fisch
צילום: PR

There are times to feel deep sadness.  One quietly breaks down in tears at a funeral.  But this week is not a time to be consumed as much by sadness as to be filled with anger, even quiet controlled rage.  And the rage well may be targeted not so much at the Other but at our own, those who should have known better.

The Koran compares Jews to monkeys and apes.The Arab population of Gaza, in a free and democratic election certified as fair by Jimmy Carter, selected Hamas to be their representatives and voice.  The Arab population of Judea and Samaria are comfortable being led by two terrorist movements, Hamas and the Palestine Authority of Mahmoud Abbas.

They were not “hitchhiking” in the American sense of standing along a country road and thumbing a lift, they were at a community-established ride-sharing location.
Mahmoud Abbas is a terrorist in a suit.  He is known by an underground war name, Abu Mazen.  A Cat in a Hat still is a cat.  A Terrorist in a Suit still is a terrorist.  All because he has white hair and spectacles, now in his seventies,  does not mean that he is less of a terrorist.  It just means that he is a terrorist who probably wakes up in the morning with a sore back, some septuagenarian thoracic spondylosis. 

Ever since its creation, the Palestinian Authority continues educating its population to hate Jews and to want us dead.  They run summer camps for children where, instead of baseball and arts & crafts, they teach children to shoot rifles and to kill Jews.  Their television and radio advocates destroying Israel.  Their newspapers run crossword puzzles that negate Zionism.  Their children’s television “Sesame Street”-type characters advocate killing Jews.  They name streets and avenues and town squares for people who kill Jews,  This is who they are, what they are.

We need only look around the Mideast to understand what they would do to us if they could.  See what Sunnis now are doing to Shiites in western Iraq.  See what Shiites do to Sunnis in Iran.  See what Sunnis do to infidels in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. See what Alawites do to Sunnis and Shiites in Syria.  See what Sunnis and Shiites do to Kurds in northern Iraq, Berbers in Algeria, Blacks in the Sudan.  See what Shiites do to themselves in Iran. It takes little imagination to understand what they would do to us — if they could.

Sometimes someone must say "No."  The Government of Israel repeatedly has failed to say “No” when conscience demanded saying “No.”  Too many times, Israel has acceded to demands, pressed by American Presidents and Secretaries of State, to release hundreds upon hundreds of convicted murderers and other convicted violent felons — in their hundreds — in exchange for the release of an Israeli hostage or two or three.

Even though John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, and Joe Biden — and the President —have been among those pressing Israel under the Obama Administration,  it is important to note that irrational pressure against Israel has been bi-partisan in the sense that Israel also faced pressure under Republican administrations.  Perhaps the worst was when James Baker was Secretary of State under the elder George Bush who invited us to read his lips. 

Interestingly, though, a sane America never has been as eager to engage in prisoner exchanges back home.  Nothing and no one seems capable of persuading America to release Jonathan Pollard, and the recent uproar over the unprecedented release of five Al Qaeda murderers in exchange for Bergdahl has reflected how foreign such thinking is to Americans or to any normal people.  Only a President like Obama could have done such a thing — and only after failing to advise Congress — presumably as part of a separate strategy aimed at closing down Gitmo.  No sane country — least of all, America — exchanges murderers whom it has arrested for hostages.

When a country repeatedly, for more than thirty years, sends the message that Israel sends — that no murderer will be executed, that no life sentence will be a life sentence, that even murderers sentenced to multiple life sentences will be released in a few years in a hostage exchange — then this alters the mindset of already-deranged murderers, practically inviting them to take hostages.  And that is why, more than feeling sadness, it is a time to feel great anger.  Because this did not have to be.

The three teen boys all were good boys.  They were not horsing around or “hitchhiking” in the American sense of standing along a country road and thumbing a lift.  Rather, as those of us who have been to such communities in Israel know, they were at a community-established ride-sharing location.  They were the best of good boys studying at a yeshiva, a Biblical seminary, and they were traveling home from school to be with their families for the Sabbath. 

The ride-share idea is that, if someone is in a car and driving, he first stops at the ride-share location to find out whether he can give anyone a lift.  In this case, the two Hamas terrorists drove a car to that ride-share location late at night, induced the boys to help them with a car problem, and then grabbed them and pushed them into the car at gunpoint. We all know what happened afterwards.

What now to do, in the aftermath?  A good question.  First, a word about what Jews do not do:  It is despicable and beyond the pale to respond by grabbing an Arab teen, killing him, and burning his body.  The Israeli police are investigating with furious intensity to determine whether it really was the Jews they arrested who did that, or perhaps someone else.  But it is striking that Jews and Israelis of all stripes — everyone from the humble laborer at work to the Prime Minister and the rabbinic religious leaders instantly and uniformly have condemned that deed as despicable and as alien to Judaism. 

If only Arab and Moslem leaders, political and theological, had come forward to condemn the kidnappings of the three boys. . . .

So, what next for Israel to do?  First, a wish list:

1.  It would be satisfying if the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) right now — actually, several days ago — would be assigned to re-arrest every single living person whom Israel ever has released in any hostage exchange in the past thirty years.  Re-arrest them all (except, of course, for those who are deceased and for those who are outside Israel’s reach).  Announce that all past hostage releases were premised on the understanding that there will be no more kidnapings.  The Other has gone back to Square One, and so must Israel.

2.  It would be satisfying if the Israeli Government would make clear that, from now on, any time an Israeli is taken hostage, the IDF will grab as many as that number of members of the political leadership of the Palestinian Authority. If the Other takes two Israeli teens, then Israel takes two members of the Palestine Authority cabinet.

3. It would be satisfying if the Israeli Government now would form a Prime Ministerial Special Committee to study steps for reunifying the area, Gush Etzion, into Israel (just like East Jerusalem).  The world would call it “annexation.” However, it fairly can be called “reunification.”  The world will scream, but they will scream anyway.  They scream — they really do — when Israelis make soda pop. 

The Presbyterian radicals, who passed that anti-Israel resolution at their last convention, will scream against Israel — but they will anyway, and their hospitals still will employ Jewish doctors and non-Jewish pro-Israel doctors because even anti-Semites cannot rely on Obamacare.  Right now, John Kerry is dealing with ISIS in Syria and Iraq, Iran building a nuclear weapon, Putin annexing the Crimea and probably moving on Eastern Ukraine, a Marine in Mexican prison, a hundred thousand kids without parents coming across our southern border from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras; and the rest of the Government is dealing with Lois Lerner’s emails, Hobby Lobby and birth control, the National Labor Relations Board and Presidential recess appointments, NSA surveillance, Veterans Administration hospitals, and other things.  It is a good and propitious time for Israel to begin studying reunification of Gush Etzion.

4.  It would be satisfying if the Israeli Government would announce construction permits for the building of 3,000 or 300 (whatever the logistics maximally can handle) housing units in the Gush Etzion region, where the boys studied Torah and were kidnapped, in their memory.  The new Village or Town would be named for the boys.

And, of course, Israel should engage in whatever military response her defense experts advise.

A final word — about prayer:  Many throughout the world prayed for these boys.  Those prayers surely were heard in Heaven.  Paradoxically, many of those prayers — probably all — were recited after the boys were murdered.  Prayers are heard in Heaven.  Prayers accumulate.  Sometimes they are answered immediately.  Sometimes the answer is “No, not now, not this time, not this day.” 

Sometimes, the prayers accumulate for weeks, months, years, decades, centuries, even millennia.  Jews prayed two thousand years for a return to Jerusalem.  Some probably thought the prayers were not being answered.  They simply were impatient.  The answer they did not hear was: “No, not now, not this time, not this day.”  But in 1948 Israel became a country with West Jerusalem as its capital.  Many thereupon thought that, finally, the prayers for the return to Jerusalem had been answered completely.  But they were too hasty.  In 1967 East Jerusalem, too, became restored.  The prayers continue, and more restoration lies ahead.

We Jews believe the soul is immortal and that life, for those who merit it, will be everlasting.  The prayers for the three boys redound to their souls.  They died as good boys, going home to their parents for the Sabbath.  They died as martyrs for Israel.  Their souls will be blessed.  They yet will see the greater restoration for which they innocently and unexpectedly gave their lives.  They will live. 

If history teaches anything, it teaches us that: the enduring eternity of the People and Nation of Israel will not abate.

Dov Fischer, a practicing attorney and an adjunct professor of law,  is a columnist for several online magazines and is rav of Young Israel of Orange County.  He blogs at