If one wishes to know what stands at the heart of the ideological battle in the land of Israel, look no further. Two peoples, two sides, worlds apart. One is convinced that the land is his entirely. The other is unsure of his right to the land, unsure of his positions and unsure of how to relate to the other side. The confusion results in a people that knows not how to act nor what to feel.
And so a 39-year-old Jewish mother of six is barbarically stabbed to death before her children. The fact that the murderer was a local Arab worker employed in the Jewish town was sad enough in it of itself. (How many more lives will be lost in order to save some money?) The father of the murderer, as in so many previous cases, told Palestinian news outlets that he was proud of his son’s actions. There was no condemnation from Arab leaders within the Knesset or without, while a recent poll showed that more than 80% of Palestinians openly support violent knife attacks against Jews. Yet, despite this, in an interview with the Hebrew-language Yediot Ahronoth daily, the victim’s husband said he harbored no ill will feelings towards Palestinians for his wife’s death. “We don’t have anger,” he said. “I am not angry at anyone… we’re not people who hate.”
A mere day later, another Jewish mother was stabbed. This time it was a 30-year-old pregnant woman from the town of Tekoa, who was attacked by an Arab teenager while shopping for sneakers with her daughter. Shortly afterwards, the victim expressed empathy for the attacker, stating that the Arab did not seem determined to kill her. “To be stabbed with a knife from up close is something very personal and I wondered what he went through, why he’s doing it, what he wanted to get out of it,” she said. But her most significant words were those that followed: “I didn’t want to really believe he was a terrorist… I could see he had a knife in his hand, but still, I didn’t want to believe it.”
These statements in response to terror have made clear that we are suffering from a national Stockholm syndrome in which we identify and empathize with our attackers, lest they be perceived as the threat that they truly are. We do not really wish to believe that a people that seeks peace to such great extents could be so hated. But reality is what it is, whether we wish it to be or not. The recent statements of love and tolerance in the face of a terror war, despite being hailed as courageous and touching, indicate more of a sense of confusion and delusion on the part of a people that has forgotten that love has its place as does hate.
“There is a time for love and a time for hate.” (Kohelet 3)
Of course there is a time where hatred is appropriate. While the Torah is full of statements of love of good, it also contains many entailing hatred for evil and evildoers. All the passages that speak of pitying the enemy and aiding him, including the famous incident of Bruriah chastising her husband for seeking the demise of a local who harassed him, are referring to personal enemies within the Jewish people, not national enemies who seek our destruction.
“A time to hate – at a time of war.” (Kohelet Rabbah 3)
And it must be so. For by refusing to hate the evil of one’s opponent, one is likely to begin to take pity on him and unlikely to win the war. As our sages said: “If you take pity on the enemy, they will battle against you,” (Yalkut Shimoni, Dvarim) and: “When you shall go to war against your enemies, go against them as enemies. Just as they will not have mercy upon you, thus you shall not have mercy upon them.” (Tanhuma, Shoftim)
How easy it is to fall into the ranks of extremism by exaggerating either love or hatred. Thus we have certain extremists who love all, with other extremists hating all. It takes a mature and rational individual to understand that each has its time and place. Those who don’t hate evil enough, don’t love good enough either, for the two go hand in hand. We are not better than evil when we embrace it, and we are not worse for detesting it.
There was once an individual in Jewish history who knew all this and sought to change it. “Until now you have heard that it was said, ‘Love your fellow and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies…” (Matthew 5). Thus spake the central figure of Christianity. Admirable? Spirited? Impassioned? Maybe so, but not very Jewish.
Let the Jewish way pierce the mountain and echo in the streets. Until now we have heard to love our enemy. But I tell you, they are hardly worthy of our love.