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Tragedy Within A Tragedy


Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

So many images keep crowding my mind. Images that do not allow me to rest or feel at peace. The news from Eretz Yisroel grows more menacing with every day. I’ve heard some people say that they’ve stopped reading the papers -the news is just too awful. And others do read, but they shrug their shoulders saying, ‘That’s how things are in Israel. What can one do?’ And I see the danger in accepting the banality of evil. But the stories in the news cry out and pierce your heart. Who can forget five- year-old little Sascha, a victim of the Netanya bombing, writhing in agony, screaming ‘Mommy, Mommy!?’ as he lay alone in Room 8 of Hillel Yaffa Hospital in Hadera. His little face had been chewed by shrapnel, his jawbone and collarbone were broken, his cries muffled by the oxygen mask covering his mouth. Mommy cannot come to Sascha. She too is a victim and is downstairs in the O.R., undergoing major surgery. Strangely enough, Sascha does not call for his father. Perhaps he instinctively knows that Daddy is gone – when the bomb exploded, he was blown to smithereens.

I hear the cries of two young boys who were savagely bludgeoned to death, their skulls crushed beyond recognition. I keep thinking of their parents who hear their cries day and night, who go to sleep with a nightmare from which they cannot awaken.

I see the sweet cherubic face of ten-month-old Shalhevet Pass, being pushed in her stroller by Mommy and Daddy. They are on their way to visit Grandma and Grandpa in the Avraham Avinu neighborhood of Hebron. Suddenly, a bullet pierces her skull, and Shahlevet Pass is no more. And you wonder what sort of beast can deliberately aim his sniper scope at a baby sitting in a stroller? I think of her parents, Yitzchok and Oriya, seeing their baby killed before their very eyes. They will re-live that moment as long as they live. And it’s not over – the list goes on and on.

I see the two young Israeli reservists who mistakenly took a wrong turn into Ramallah. They were brutally lynched, then flung out of a window like so much refuse. But the frenzied mob could not let go and stomped their bodies until their skulls became like bowls of red jelly.

I see Binyamin and Talia Kahane’s six little orphans who will never again hear their mother’s caressing voice or feel their father’s protective arms around them. I see the Cohen children without limbs. I see the orphans, the widows, the widowers, and the mothers and the fathers whose babies and children have been maimed and killed in this carnage. ‘Al aleh ani bochea – For these do I weep…’ Alas, another chapter has been added to Aicha – our Book of Lamentations..

No one wants to see or understand our pain. As expected, the whole world has turned against us. As a survivor of Bergen Belsen, I am not surprised at that, but still, one would have hoped that there would be some outcry, some condemnation of the savagery. The media has an uncanny way of equating bestial Arab atrocities with Israel’s actions of self-defense. Make no mistake about it – what the Arabs are perpetrating is beyond war, beyond terrorism. It is unmitigated cruelty for the sake of cruelty; barbarism for the sake of barbarism.

I remember in the 50′s, when some Israelis were captured by Arabs. Not only were they killed, but the savages cut off their genitals and drank their blood – and that was typical Arab behavior. Somehow, somewhere, our Israeli leadership chose to forget this and persuaded themselves that Arafat and company are really decent fellows who sought peace and only needed an opportunity to prove themselves…. Thus, the Oslo accords were born. We handed over our land and now we are reaping the bloody harvest. Yes, this is beyond war, beyond terrorism. This is satanic evil for the sake of evil. But the world refuses to see it. It is not only the media that is part of this Israel bashing. The Pope, who is supposed to be a man of G-d, is a silent accomplice as well. He didn’t utter a word of protest while, in his presence, Bashar Assad of Syria vilified Israel with a most vicious, anti-Semitic diatribe, reminiscent of Hitler. And so, the Arabs continue to kill our men, women, and children, and the world, led by the media, continues to assail us for defending ourselves.

But there is another tragedy that most are unaware of. Inadvertently, The New York Times reported it. The shopping mall in Netanya, where the suicide bomber unleashed his carnage, houses a multi-screen cinema which is open on the Holy Sabbath. The Times reported that ‘despite the damage the mall was defiantly reopened on Friday night to allow brave local residents to go to the movies.’ Who can comprehend the enormity of this tragedy? Jews believing that they are demonstrating their courage when they go to the movies on Shabbat. Jews believing that we can show defiance by keeping shopping malls open on the holy Shabbat…. A tragedy within a tragedy. When will our people wake up and return to G-d’ -For these do I weep…’

What will it take to make our people realize that there is no one to help us except HaShem? When will they understand that the Torah is our tree of life, and Shabbat is our holy sanctuary?

What are we to do? How are we to respond to this terrible hour in our history?

Our sages teach that whatever happened to our forefathers will be repeated in our own lives. The manner in which our first redemption from Egypt occurred, so will the final redemption unfold. Chazal teache us that our forefathers were steeped in idolatry and did not merit the exodus. So what was it that impelled HaShem to bring us forth from that house of bondage?

Simply stated, the answer is chesed – the loving kindness that one Jew demonstrated for another. At the end of the Parsha of Shemos, we find that the people were afflicted with terrible suffering. Pharaoh intensified their burden by demanding that they produce their own bricks while maintaining the same production quota – an impossible task. Jewish overseers were charged with the responsibility of seeing to it that the people delivered the bricks, and if they failed to do so, the Jews were flogged. The Jewish leaders however, could not bear to hear the painful cry of their brethren, so they took the beatings upon themselves, and when HaShem saw this, He proclaimed. ‘Gam ani shamati – I also heard.’

When G-d sees that we have compassion for one another, that we are sensitive to another’s needs, and are even prepared to accept pain in order to spare our brethren, then G-d will act accordingly and bring about our redemption.

This then must become our task. At the very least, let?s try to feel with our brothers and sisters. Let us cry out to the heavens on behalf of Acheinu Kol Beit Yisroel – our brothers, our Jewish people. Let us undertake to say Tehillim every day. Let us intensify our devotion to Shabbos and mitzvos so that the energy of our commitment will spill over to those who do not know or understand. That is the ‘defiance’ that the Arabs and the world should see – Jews sticking together like glue, upholding Eretz Yisroel with chesed, Torah, and mitzvos.

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