South Florida’s Jewish community has received a jolting dose of reality. Until recently, the threat of terrorism had been a largely theoretical concern. Security precautions were often carried out by rote, a fire drill without any real expectation of the smell of smoke. Everything has changed.
James Medina, a.k.a. James Muhammad, was arrested during Passover, on Friday evening, April 29. He was charged in federal court on the following Monday with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. Medina was allegedly planning to blow up the Turnberry Jewish Center in Aventura.
Luckily, the man Medina had conspired with was an FBI undercover agent. The “bomb” he was given was a dud. Medina, reported to be a recent convert to Islam, told the agent he believed that the act would “inspire other Muslims to attack as well.”
The agent stated that Medina wanted to “strike back at the Jews, by going to the synagogue and just spraying everybody.” Medina said, “When I’m doing this, I feel that I’m doing it for a good cause, for Allah.”
Medina seems to fit the profile of the classic and dysfunctional lone wolf. He has an arrest record on various charges including aggravated stalking. FBI documents reveal an acquaintance reported he wanted to become a martyr. He is divorced and out of work. He seems to have acted on his own.
It is quite compelling that a man with no notable assets or resources was able to pull himself together to hatch a plot that could have resulted in bloody mayhem. It is quite telling that his target was a group of innocent Jews at prayer in their synagogue.
Participants at the Passover Seder are mandated to taste marror, the bitter herb. It is a reminder of the bitterness of our ancestors’ lives as they dealt with slavery and Jew hatred. The new pharaoh, who did not know of Joseph or his people, really had no valid grievances against the Hebrews. He resented their success. He feared, with no proof or basis, that they might rise up against the Egyptians. His groundless loathing knew no bounds.
The existence of such sinat chinam, baseless hatred, in our own times is a bitter pill to swallow. Perhaps, in some ways, nothing has changed.Shelley Benveniste