Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Shirley Sotloff, a Miami resident, pleaded for mercy for her son Steven. The 31-year-old journalist was kidnapped last August near the Syrian-Turkish border and was being held captive by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). He was a freelance writer working on articles for two magazines.

Mrs. Sotloff released a video begging ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to spare Steven’s life. Baghdadi’s terrorist group had already executed another American journalist, James Foley. They had warned that Sotloff would be next.


Shirley Sotloff reasoned, cajoled, and complimented. She presented what she felt was a universal appeal. She said, “I want what every mother wants, to live to see her children’s children.”

ISIS released its own video several days later. Mrs. Sotloff’s heart-rending pleas had fallen on deaf ears. Her beloved son had been beheaded. The images of the gruesome event were released to the world.

It is comforting to believe we are all inherently the same and to think there are commonalities that reach around the globe. The assumption of a shared kinship is based on being part of the human race. Life is so much easier to figure out when everyone thinks the same way.

The Western mind cannot wrap itself around the reality of this false premise. We want to sit at a table and discuss, negotiate, and reason together. We want to talk over coffee and cake. We want to find areas of common concern. We want to compromise, arbitrate, and mediate. We want to broker out a settlement. We don’t see the sword that is swinging down our necks.

In reality, not everyone wants the same thing for his or her children. Shirley Sotloff offered her idea of what every mother would want. There are mothers and fathers, however, who would use their little ones as human shields, who would murder their daughters in “honor killings,” who would be proud to have their children act as suicide bombers, blowing up and murdering innocents.

The Sotloff family is grieving, secluded in their South Florida home. The community mourns in grief and horror.

The lesson of this horrific event is quite clear. The Torah warned us three thousand years ago. ”When you go to battle with your enemies” is not an empty or a redundant phrase. We need to understand that we are in an adversarial situation. We are at war.


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Shelley Benveniste is South Florida editor of The Jewish Press.