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December 1, 2015 / 19 Kislev, 5776
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Itamar: A Painful And Powerful Wake-Up Call

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Early this past Shabbat morning we heard from military sources that a family had been brutally slaughtered in Itamar, a settlement near Shechem. Since my niece lives there with six children, we were extremely worried even though we realized there were many families that fit the description.

It was a Shabbat filled with anxiety as people quietly asked each other about the victims and whether there were any more details. At the end of Shabbat we learned it wasn’t our niece and felt a surge of relief – but we were immediately overcome with deep pain on hearing the sickening details of how a Jewish family was gruesomely butchered in their sleep.

This was Shabbat Parshat Vayikra – the section of the Torah dealing with sacrifices which opens with the words “adam ki yakriv mikem korban“- “if a man brings a sacrifice of himself.” The message here is that if necessary, Am Yisrael is willing to sacrifice its own life for its ideals. On this Shabbat, the Fogel family – parents Udi and Ruth and three of their six children, 11-year-old Yoav, 4-year-old Elad, and newborn Hadas – became the most recent sacrifices.

This was not the first family to be slaughtered. We remember the horrifying murders of the Shabo, Dickstein, Gavish, Aymos, Unger and countless other families destroyed by Arab terror. In case we had forgotten, this Shabbat offered a brutal reminder of the nature of our enemies. They have no problem slitting the throat of an infant or thrusting a knife into the heart of a toddler. They are not fit to be called human, certainly not fit to live in Eretz Yisrael and obviously not fit to be peace partners.

This cruel event finally awakened the Israeli government into realizing that indoctrination against Jews in the Palestinian schools, streets and mosques has received the blessing of Mahmoud Abbas, who splendidly fills Yasir Arafat’s shoes as a depraved leader. Under Abbas, terrorists have been elevated to role models with streets and squares in Palestinian villages named after them.

Prime Minister Netanyahu went so far as to say he could not take seriously Abbas’s initial vague and ambiguous condemnation of the senseless slaughter. He said it was not enough to mumble an apology; Abbas must take immediate steps to stop the murder of innocent citizens.

I only hope this barbaric act of terror serves as a wake-up call to our leaders. They must recognize that our conflict is not merely territorial; we are fighting for our very lives and national existence in our homeland.

Our leaders must understand their basic responsibility is to secure Jewish lives by destroying the hotbeds of terror and developing Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. Our leaders must end the embarrassing displays of national weakness inherent in destroying Israeli outposts, announcing a readiness to engage in painful compromises like awarding military and administrative powers to the Palestinian Authority, and begging Abbas to negotiate with promises of maintaining the building freeze in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria.

The Fogel family’s grief has become the nation’s grief. We are reminded of Queen Esther’s appeal as she feared for her people: “Go and gather all the Jews.” Relief and support would come only if the Jews acted as a community. The unity of the Jewish people was expressed this past weekend, not only by the tens of thousands who participated in the funeral but by live broadcast of the funeral and eulogies on all national television and radio channels.

As at the funerals of slain Golani officer Eliraz Peretz and the eight murdered Mercaz HaRav students, Israelis had the elevating experience of hearing from the parents and siblings of the victims. Their painful yet confident words of faith and determination served to strengthen our devotion to the development of Jewish life and ideals in all of Eretz Yisrael and especially in Judea and Samaria.

The moving words revealed again the intrinsic essence of the Jewish soul and the divine inspiration that is the dynamic spirit embodied in this generation of bold pioneers, educators and defenders of the Jewish people in Eretz Yisrael. They called on the Israeli government to continue unlimited building in the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria. Only this expression of strength will deter terrorists from daring to strike again. Only multitudes of Jews in villages, towns and cities – men and women of faith, determined and ready to sacrifice – will insure the continuation of the Zionist process.

We must teach the leaders of the world that the divine phenomenon of Jewish independence in the Land of Israel is not a temporary episode in the Middle East. The State of Israel and its miraculous advancements in all fields – medicine, economics, technology and especially the great revival of Torah scholarship and a life highlighted by Jewish values – prove that Israel is the most stable, secure and permanent entity in the Middle East.

All these truths have come to the forefront in light of the slaughter in Itamar. Our people stand upright and will not yield under even the most vicious circumstances. The modern Zionist pioneers, imbued with the strength of faith, will continue to carry the Zionist torch, recognizing this as a divine process that will determine the destiny of the Jewish people. Only a government inspired by the spirit of such people will receive the confidence, loyalty and trust of its Jewish citizens.

From Megillat Esther we learn that one lone Jew who does not bow to the wicked enemy holds the power to eradicate the evil decree. Like Mordechai, a Jew filled with divine spirit and Torah values can encourage and inspire an entire nation to nobly fight for its right to exist. How much more so if you have a land of thousands of Mordechais.

Rabbi Eliezer Waldman is rosh yeshivaof Yeshivat Nir Kiryat Arba.

About the Author: Rabbi Eliezer Waldman is rosh yeshivaof Yeshivat Nir Kiryat Arba.

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