Though the world’s attention has shifted elsewhere, the horrific murder of Lucy, Maia and Rina Dee, hy”d, is never far from our minds in Efrat. Gifts from other communities throughout Israel, sending love to the Dee family and the broader community, continue to pour in: chocolate from Neve Daniel, challah from Modiin, potted plants from Be’er Sheva, and even gifts of flags and banners from Har Bracha, a community grappling with the brutal murder of two of its own children. People representing communities as far away as Zichron Yaakov and the Golan Heights came to express solidarity and love.
Movingly, women in a secular community in the Jordan Valley, where the Dees were murdered, collectively decided that they would begin lighting Shabbat candles every Friday in memory of the Dees.
Countering devastation with comfort and hatred with love – we’ve seen this pattern repeat itself all too often. This is Israel’s true “cycle of violence”; evil Arab terrorists murder our children, and kindhearted Jews respond by showering the victims with love.
But then shiva ends, and the government officials and Jewish celebrities who visited the bereaved family turn their attention elsewhere. The cycle complete, the rest of us go back to our carpools and commutes, praying to never experience this cycle again – but knowing in our hearts that it almost certainly will.
At a Yom HaZikaron event, we wonder: how many more faces will be added to next year’s Yom HaZikaron slideshow of victims? How many more daughters and sons, mothers and fathers, will be heartlessly murdered for the glory of Allah? Despairing of breaking this sickening cycle, we take comfort in the crowd of people around us, knowing that we are all crying together, in unity. We must soldier on; what else can we do until the Messiah arrives?
Actually, there is much we can do, if only we have the will. For what I’ve written until now is not the whole truth. Yes, we are broken, and yes, our hearts are filled with love and pain for the Dees and all the other bereaved families. But we are also angry. No, it’s beyond anger; we are furious.
We want the vile jihadists who murdered Lucy, Maia and Rina Dee to die – and quickly. The people who aided and abetted the terrorists, who gave them support and shelter? We want them to feel the iron fist of the people of Israel. And the hundreds of thousands of Arabs who applauded this sick, evil murder? We yearn for the day when their joy turns to tears, when they will tremble before us and beg for mercy. And we pray that this day will come soon, that our generation will partner with God to “avenge the blood of His servants, wreak vengeance upon His foes, and make clean His people’s land” (Deuteronomy 32:43). “Our Father, our King, avenge before our eyes the spilt blood of Your servants.”
I can already hear the alarmed protests from those who find this talk of revenge uncomfortable. As one rabbi wrote to me, “Are we no better than our enemies? Either we are a bunch of animals who are no better than our tormentors or we are not.” It seems to be an article of faith among many Jewish leaders that forceful action against our enemies – the kind of action that will make terrorists think twice before attacking us again – is somehow immoral or unJewish. “Yes,” they’ll say, “the Israeli government must catch the terrorists and bring them to justice. But we must be measured in our response. We must be better than them!”
In his classic Kol Dodi Dofek, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik directly addressed these concerns. “Pay no attention to the saccharine suggestions of known assimilationists who… think they are still living in Bialystok, Brest-Litovsk, and Minsk of the year 1905, and openly declare that revenge is forbidden to the Jewish people in any place, at any time, and under all circumstances. “Vanity of vanities!” (Ecclesiastes 1:2) Revenge is forbidden when it is pointless, but if one is aroused thereby to self-defense, it is the most elementary right of man to take his revenge.”
Yes, we must be better than our Arab enemies. We must be better at ferociously defending our children than they are, for the murder of one Jew is one murder too many. We must value the lives of our people more than they value their own. And we must be better than our enemies at uprooting and destroying the evil that infests our homeland.
Tragically, our government has forgotten fundamental teachings of Judaism, and innocent families are paying the price. By responding weakly to terror, we send our enemies an unacceptable message: that we are willing to tolerate a certain level of terror and that we will juggle the value of Jewish lives with other political and military considerations.
There was a time when Israel’s leaders understood the danger of an overly moderate response to terror. In 1959, Moshe Dayan said “it was not in our power to secure every water pipe from explosion and every tree from being uprooted. It was not in our power to prevent the murder of workers in the orchards and families in their sleep. But it was in our power to set a high price for our blood, a price higher than what the Arab population, the Arab army, and the Arab governments were willing to pay” (Micah Bar, Red Lines in the Israeli Deterrence Strategy, Ma’arachot, 1990, p. 92).
In other words, merely catching the terrorists and bringing them to “justice” does not prevent future attacks. Over and over again, the IDF eliminates the individual terrorists who commit these atrocities, but future terrorists are not deterred. Arab terrorists consciously choose to sacrifice their own lives to murder Jews for the rewards that await them in heaven and the financial benefit their families will receive because of their sacrifice. Through the Palestinian Authority’s infamous Pay for Slay program, the PA makes monthly payments to the family members of terrorists who die while murdering Jews.
The Israel Defense and Security Forum reports that it is five times more profitable to be a convicted Arab terrorist than a teacher – and the incentive to murder Jews is only growing. This past February, the European Union increased its funding to the PA by €296m, blood money that will go directly to terrorists and their families.
How can Israel stop Arab terror and protect its people? By learning from the example of King David, who avenged the murder of his family and brought peace to Israel.
When David became a fugitive from the jealous King Saul, he brought his parents and brothers to the king of Moab, to protect them from the wrath of Saul (I Samuel 22). Tragically, the sages explain that David should not have trusted the Moabites, his distant relations. “The king of Moab killed [David’s family], and nobody escaped except for one brother of David…” (Numbers Rabba 14:1).
David’s mother, father and brothers, mercilessly murdered in cold blood. How did David respond? Was he measured in his response? Did he carefully distinguish between the great majority of “innocent” Moabites and the few bad actors who had murdered his family?
Not exactly. “And he smote Moab, and measured them with a line, making them lie down on the ground; he measured out two lengths of cord for those who were to be put to death, and one length for those to be spared. And the Moabites became servants to David, bringing tribute” (II Samuel 8:2). In one short verse, we matter of factly learn that David humiliated and slaughtered two thirds of the Moabite army, ensuring the Moabites would never again perpetrate terror against the people of Israel. David made the price of terror untenable – and so the terror ceased.
Did God approve of David’s harsh retribution against the Moabites? Not only did God approve of David’s actions, He ensured David’s victory: “And God saved David wherever he went. And David reigned over all Israel; and David administered justice and charity for all his people” (II Samuel 8:14-15).
Every morning, traditional Jews remember that God desires the destruction of evil. In David’s words: “Let the faithful exult… with high praises of God in their throats and two-edged swords in their hands, to execute vengeance upon the nations and punishments upon the peoples… to execute the doom decreed against them. This is the glory of all His faithful. Hallelujah!” (Psalms 149:6-7,9).
For 3,000 years, our people have prayed like David, whispering the beautiful words of Psalms through the darkest days of our exile. It is high time we learn to fight like him as well.
David was not passive. David did not sit back and wait for God to act, for an earthquake to swallow up his enemies. David did not wait for a future messianic era, when God would miraculously destroy Israel’s enemies. David understood that the people of Israel must partner with God in carrying out His will, that we must be the sharp edge of God’s sword.
David did not fight the terrorists that plagued his people with half measures, nor was he afraid to punish the “innocent civilians” who supported the terrorists who murdered his family. “I have pursued my enemies, and overtaken them; neither did I turn back till they were utterly consumed” (Psalms 18:38).
David was unconcerned with world opinion or with self righteous condemnations of other countries. He was not ashamed to seek revenge. “Oh God, smash their teeth in their mouth; shatter the fangs of lions, God… The righteous man will rejoice when he sees revenge; he will bathe his feet in the blood of the wicked. Men will say, ‘There is, then, a reward for the righteous; there is, indeed, divine justice on earth.’” (Psalms 58:7,11-12).
David’s actions were harsh – but they were both moral and effective. By responding forcefully to those who murdered his family, David ushered in an unprecedented era of peace, enabling his son, Solomon, to build God’s Temple in Jerusalem. Most important of all, David gave us the playbook for redemption – if only we are willing to use it.
If the State of Israel fought like David, it would send a clear and unequivocal message to all terrorists: when you commit an act of terror, your family will be deported from this land and will suffer for your acts of evil. If the State of Israel fought like David, it would tell our enemies: after every act of terror, we will declare sovereignty over another town in Judea and Samaria, our biblical homeland. And if the State of Israel fought like David, it would use overwhelming force to punish terrorists and all those who protect them and give them shelter.
War is not pleasant; in this imperfect world, innocent people inevitably suffer. But a government’s responsibility, first and foremost, is to defend its own people. Between October 2001 and June 2003, the United States unintentionally killed about 3,500 Afghan civilians through Aerial bombings during Operation Enduring Freedom. Civilian deaths are tragic, but the free world understood that after the murder of American citizens on 9/11, the United States had to do everything in its power to defend its people. Yes, we must hold ourselves to a higher standard than terrorists – but not to impossibly high standards that restrict our ability to defend our people.
“But wait,” I can already hear my fellow Jews saying, “the sages say that Jews are ‘merciful, capable of shame and people who bestow kindness upon others’ (Talmud Yevamot 79a).” That we are. But as my friend Rabbi Pesach Wolicki says, these are national traits of the Jewish people, traits that are neither inherently good nor evil. If we are merciful to the wicked, if we are ashamed before the New York Times, and if we bestow acts of kindness upon those who seek to harm us, these traits will enable evil and lead to untold harm. Kindness to our enemies is a form of cruelty to our own people.
I didn’t want to write this article; I don’t enjoy writing about terror, suffering and revenge. I want to write about the challenges and joys of Aliyah, about the fascinating people I’ve met in Israel and how living in the holy land has opened my eyes to God’s miracles and blessings. But Lucy, Maia and Rina were murdered – and nothing has changed.
“May it be good in Your eyes to bless Your people Israel at every time, in every hour, with Your peace.” For thousands of years, our people have yearned for peace, and we will not stop praying for peace until the Messiah comes. But love alone will not stop the terrorists. The path to peace will not be strewn with roses, but through faith in God and the fortitude to make our enemies pay for their sins. Like David, we must not forget – and we dare not forgive.