By Shmuel Katz
I feel anger and rage. I feel bitter and sick. I feel disgusted and, in some ways, lost. I feel no small amount of fear for my family and my nation. And overwhelmingly, I feel sad. I feel, I feel, I feel, I feel.
Since the minute we heard that Eyal, Naftali, and Gilad were dead, we have been wrapped in our emotions and caught up in horrifying details and new developments that have come at us at such a frenetic pace that Shabbat was much more of a day of rest than I thought it would be. We cannot seem to catch our breath before the next escalation or news comes to take it away again.
On Tuesday night last week, Goldie and I joined the many thousands who came to the joint levayah in Modiin. Although most of the people there were dati leumi, there were plenty of secular and chareidi Jews there as well. We were inspired by the continued achdut (which seems to have since splintered) that this tragedy engendered.
Of course, 100,000 people converging on a single location without much advance planning makes for a logistical nightmare. When the hespedim were over and they announced that the families wanted a private burial, we all headed for the exits. There were hundreds of buses there and we, along with many others, could not find ours.
After a three-mile walk we finally were able to hitch a ride back to our car in order to get home, a trip that took more than two hours in total. Yet we needed to go and show our respect not only to the boys, but to their families as well.
We got home and heard about the recorded call to the police. To my great regret, we listened to it. All we could think about was how terrible it had to be for the families to have heard this recording, hearing shots fired and knowing it was almost certainly their son’s last moments of life.
Another few hours and then came news that the army was pretty sure from the evidence in the car what had happened and all the various theories of how, why, and when. More news came in about a protest in Yerushalayim that turned violent when Arab teens taunted the protesters. (I am not justifying or excusing the violence, just saying what happened.)
And the next day, as details of the near-riot in Yerushalayim came out, so did a new story. A story that none of us would have believed.
An Arab teen had been found in the Jerusalem forests, his body burned. Police were investigating it as both a potential clan war crime/honor killing and as a revenge killing for the deaths of Eyal, Naftali, and Gilad. I could not believe what I was reading.
Almost immediately, my social-network pages were filled with denunciations. Denunciations of those who “jumped to conclusions that it was Jews who did this” and denunciations of those who “refused to be honest and denounce this violence as vehemently as they had denounced the kidnapping and murders of the Jewish teens.” Recriminations and finger-pointing filled the air. And we were stunned.
The violence escalated and continues. Rockets, riots, targeted attacks on militants, arrests, stoned vehicles—it is coming from all sides. A cease-fire was (prematurely) announced, yet the attacks continued. After Shabbat, just when things seemed to be calming down, came Sunday’s news of the arrest of six Jewish teens in the murder of the Arab teen last week.
We are stunned. Not only did they reportedly kill this kid, but some report that they may have even tried to grab a different 10-year-old the day before. It boggles the mind. Innocent until proven guilty, but if Jews were responsible, we need to condemn such actions without reservation. Most of us have.
A friend of mine posted his thoughts. Essentially, he wrote that he did not care about the death of this Arab teen. After so much pushing and prodding, after all the attacks, rockets, and killings, some Jews lashed out and allegedly killed an Arab teen. He doesn’t care, because enough is enough. Until proven guilty, we don’t know who did what, and he is not going to condemn people for taking action after bearing so much.
He got strong responses on both sides—those who agreed and those who did not. He was not the only person to justify the violence. Other friends decried the killing but justified rioting and other violence.
It made me very concerned about us.
A couple of weeks ago, an Arab MK made the news when she refused to call the Arabs who took the three Jewish teens “terrorists.” She said that they simply reacted to the repeated pressures of life they faced and were forced to take action.
When I saw my friend’s statement about not caring, I thought of this Arab MK and what she had said. I remembered how angered I was at her statement and how much I despised her for not being honest enough to denounce terrorism. Now I am faced with the fact that a good friend has taken her path of justification, of refusing to stand up for sanity and reason despite the pain and anger that is in his heart. Four wrongs don’t make a right.
I continue to rage against those who began the latest cycle of violence by snatching and killing Eyal, Naftali, and Gilad. I am outraged that the world (especially the U.S.) continues to value our blood so cheaply and consistently refuses to hold our enemies to any standards whatsoever. We, as a nation, must destroy all terrorists and their infrastructure with extreme prejudice and no mercy, despite what the rest of the world thinks. They (well, with the exception of Canada) have shown how little they care about us.
I am also outraged by the reported actions of those who killed Mohammed Abu Khder. They stooped to the level of our enemies. They will be punished, and I am sure that in the zeal to show how evenhanded our country is, the book will be thrown at them. They might even have possibly weakened the “legitimacy” of any attempts we make to eliminate terror groups.
Tempers and emotions are amped up. The night the arrests were announced, Bet Shemesh was in such a heightened state of alert for revenge attacks that authorities were searching every bus entering the city.
I completed the first part of this article on Monday afternoon. That evening, we went to the bar mitzvah of our neighbor Avi Eichler, son of Motti and Penina Eichler (former Five Townsers). In the middle of Avi’s speech, air-raid sirens went off for 30 seconds (most of the people did not hear them until later). A salvo of rockets had been fired at Bet Shemesh. They were or were not intercepted by Iron Dome and some landed in open fields near Bet Shemesh. I wrote the following Monday night:
By the time you read this, all this will be old news. We called Batya from the bar mitzvah (along with a whole bunch of other parents calling their babysitters) to tell her to get into the shelter for 10 minutes. Then we spent a few minutes getting word to all our family that everyone is fine.
All indications are that Hamas is trying to force us to make a cease-fire, with a release of prisoners. They are trying to make us wilt under the barrage of rockets—over 100 today, maybe even 200. I hope we do not give in.
My kids are continuing in their summer activities. We are taking precautions. Yet we are still as safe as we were yesterday. With a military action, we will probably end up even safer. If we change our lives radically (because of the terrorists), then they win.
I continue to advise people to feel safe here and comfortable coming here. Take precautions as any reasonable person would. But, overall, we still feel secure in the knowledge that our country is doing everything for us.
While I pray that we continue to be protected by Iron Dome and everyone is safe, I also pray that our government strike back at those responsible for the rocket fire and eliminate them. I am tired of the seemingly endless cycle of the last decade where we fight and almost win a war against the terrorists, but have to pull back because of international pressure and thus allow the terrorists to rearm.
As my friend said the other day, enough is enough. Innocents should be protected. But that applies to our innocents as well as theirs. v
Shmuel Katz is the executive director of Yeshivat Migdal HaTorah (www.migdalhatorah.org), a new gap-year yeshiva. Shmuel, his wife Goldie, and their six children made aliyah in July of 2006. Before making aliyah, he was the executive director of the Yeshiva of South Shore in Hewlett. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.