Just over a year ago two Arab men broke into a settlement called Itamar and slaughtered the Fogel family. Among those slaughtered there was an eleven month old girl. As is the custom in Israel, a group of volunteers from “ZAKA” was called to the place of the incident. An explanation for those unfamiliar with ZAKA: It is an organization that has committed itself “to rescue when it is possible to rescue and to pay the last homage when it is impossible to rescue,” as its motto proudly declares. Almost all ZAKA members are observant Jews, which makes sense: the need to rescue is quite rational, while the need to collect all body parts of those killed is not. When I was a boy I used to spend hours at a huge wasteland plot in Kharkov with my friends, and we often stumbled upon the unburied remains of World War II combatants and victims. I would venture a guess that they have not been identified and buried up till now, for the Soviet power abolished both God and respect for the dead. But I digress. Among the ZAKA volunteers at the scene in Itamar was a friend of mine, Professor Firer, Head of Department of Chemical Technology. Michael Firer is a battle-hardened soldier and no novice in ZAKA, a man with a lot of nerve. But what he saw in Itamar plunged him into a deep depression – the bestiality of what happened in Itamar was more than a human mind can take. The assassins were arrested and today their lawyer claims in Israeli court that they are victims of Israeli occupation.
My employer, which somewhat bombastically calls itself the Ariel University Center, is situated mere kilometers off the site of the tragedy. Quite a few people knew the Fogel family – they were charming people who devoted all their spare time to their children, as becomes a true Jewish family. I also knew the Fogels – my daughter went to school with one of the girls who survived by miracle. The next day, children in Gaza got candy “in honor of the great victory of the Palestine Liberation Movement.” For my part, I was scrutinizing the reactions of the Jewish students – there was not even one incident of an outburst of hatred towards their Arab classmates, who made up quite a noticeable part of my students’ body. Had such an incident happened, the college management would have suppressed it without mercy.
The Tolstovian title of the article may seem a mockery in the context of the story I have told, though I am not intending “to pummel Leo Tolstoy’s dead body,” as Merab Mamardashvilly used to say, but nevertheless, this title was not a random choice. Had Tolstoy heard about this insanity, he would have advised to forgive the murderers, as a good Christian should, and let them go. Being neither a Tolstovian nor even a Christian, I do not find it possible to agree with this solution. As I see it, absence of hate is the highest virtue that can be demanded of a human being in these circumstances. It seems incredible, but it is true: there is little hate towards Arabs in Israel, and if xenophobia bursts out into the surface, it is harshly condemned. Arabs walk about in Ariel and on the campus feeling perfectly safe, while my visit to a neighboring Arab village would be without any doubt my end, and in the best case, I would be neatly wrapped in plastic bags and thrown over Ariel’s fence. Lack of symmetry is clearly evident.
OK, I am an occupier living “over the green line,” but even Israeli police (!) are afraid to enter the Arab villages within the 1967 borders, so what can be said about ordinary Israelis? Everyone, including those who deny it, knows it. Not long ago a naïve Israeli bought a house in an Arab village, assuming, not without grounds, that the law in a democratic country would protect him from his neighbors’ possible assaults. Well, it did not. He could not safely and peaceably live in the Arab village and he did not get his money back.
An even more surprising fact is the absence of hate towards Russia. Russia has stuffed the most abhorrent Arab regimes with modern weapons that have killed thousands of Israelis. There has not been an anti-Israeli UN resolution that Russia has not signed with enthusiasm. Russia remains Arab countries’ best friend under both socialism and capitalism, or whatever the brand of “-ism” that has grown there should be called. This is a political world, constant, as in physics. It would be logical to expect anti-Russian moods in Israel, but there are none. And I believe that the reasons for this are very deep. Judaism has always been a tribal, even a family religion. Israel is actually Jacob’s enlarged family. Judaism has never recruited proselytes nor has it claimed to be a universal religion. Jews always looked with some compassion and disbelief at their neighbors who did not know the true God and were able to be consumed by something outside true faith. Hatred, on the other hand, when put at the corner stone, forms a stable and pernicious symbiosis with the world rule idea. This idea is like cancer: the tumors of National Socialism and world revolution can be resected, but then the metastasis of Islamic globalism spreads. Even though we have never sought either Christian infants’ blood or world dominion, this is what we have always been suspected of.