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March 8, 2008: Hold Fast

March 8, 2008

At Kabbalat Shabbat (welcoming-in of Shabbat) services last night at Shir Hadash, my shul in Jerusalem, my rabbi, Ian Pear, addressed the anguish of the massacre at Yeshivat Mercaz Harav, as undoubtedly did rabbis all over Israel. I cannot speak for what the other rabbis said, but the good Rabbi Pear spoke words that went straight to my heart. They merit repeating here, in brief summary.

What happened is incomprehensible , he said, and he is not going to try to explain it theologically, for he cannot. These boys were doing what they should have been doing: studying Torah. And it was the very beginning of Adar, when joy is said to be increased. And yet they were blown away.

Maybe, he said, some day we’ll look back on this and see that the terrorist was reported to have shot off more than 500 bullets — round after round — before he was stopped, and we’ll marvel that "only" eight were killed. But that thinking does nothing to comfort the families of those who died, and is no comfort to the rest of us now either.

And yet, said Rabbi Pear, this much he knows : Those who planned this terror thought that by hitting at our heart, they would destroy us — we would crumble from within. BUT THEY HAVE NO IDEA WHO THEY’RE DEALING WITH. This tragedy will not destroy us, it will make us stronger. Each in his or her own way will act in response to what happened to build Israel and the Jewish people. In the memory of those who were killed, and for their sakes. There will be building done in Israel, that would not otherwise have been done. Torah will be studied. Tzedakah (charity) given. Schools established. Words written. And we will grow and be stronger.


And so this I ask of each of you. Mourn what happened here. Feel the rage that is so appropriate. But don’t feel defeated by it. Let this obscene act move you to greater support and defense of Israel. Let it fuel you to find purpose in your acts, knowing that we must win and cannot — not ever — surrender to the forces of evil.


I ask this of you, too: Please pray for those who were most seriously wounded in the attack.

Naftali ben Gila

Yonatan ben Avital

Shimon ben Tirza

Nadav ben Hadas

Reuven ben Naomi

Elchanan ben Zehava

(Ben = son of, and what follows in each instance is the boy’s mother’s name, as this is how prayers for healing are done in the Jewish tradition.)


Updated news: According to the Post, eight people have been arrested in conjunction with the terror attack. Police say that the terrorist Alaah Abu Dhein was not known to them and did not meet the typical profile of Palestinian attackers.

Jerusalem District Police Chief Aharon Franco says the attack had nothing to do with recent events in Gaza, as it was in the planning before they took place. Perhaps this is so, but I’ve become terribly cynical. This is potentially a politically loaded statement that might help absolve Olmert of the need to launch that attack into Gaza. We’ll see.


I had reported that the family of the terrorist had constructed a mourning tent (where condolences are offered to the family) in east Jerusalem, and hung out the Hamas flag. Apparently they also hung the Hezbollah flag. Police have made them take both down.

Extended family in Amman attempted to put up a mourning tent and the Jordanian police made them take it down. So what are we afraid of? Cultural insensitivity?

MK Gilad Erdan (Likud) is demanding that the mourning tent indeed be taken down: "There cannot be a situation whereby the government of Israel, in its territory, is allowing people to honor such a vile and despicable murderer."

MK Binyamin Netanyahu (Likud — opposition leader) has made a strong statement reflecting the same sentiment. "…This has to be stopped. That tent should be taken down today, yesterday."

And MK Zevulun Orlev (NU-NRP) is making a further demand — that the family’s citizenship (residency papers?) be revoked and they be deported to Gaza. His statement is a clear response to those who say there should not be collective punishment: "The Hamas flags …prove that this is a family of terrorists."

I doubt that anyone in the government is listening. An aide to Public Security Minister Avi Dichter has said, "They have a right to mourn him."


There had been an announcement at one point that Hamas was taking credit, but Hamas has withdrawn this, saying it was based on "confused information."


There is serious talk on-going regarding ways to handle the Israeli-Arab community at this juncture. Right now Judea and Samaria are sealed, so that no Arabs from outside the Green Line can enter. And yesterday, Friday Muslim prayers at the Temple Mount were limited only to men over 45 with ID cards.

Other than this, I have no information on how the government plans to respond to the attack.

Olmert has made an inane statement about how we’ll defeat these terrorists just as we defeated Hezbollah. Hezbollah, he says, "hasn’t dared to fire a single rocket in a year and a half." No, they’ve just been too busy rearming. He’s got to do better than that.


I knew it… I really didn’t want to hear it, but it’s so predictable, I knew it was coming:

An unnamed Israeli official, speaking off the record , has said the peace process will not be halted by this terror attack, "so as not to punish moderate Palestinians for actions by people who are not just our enemies but theirs as well."

This business of exactly who a "moderate" is within the Palestinian community really needs to be better defined.


Here’s what JINSA says about this (Report # 753):

"…it would make much more sense to stop all presumed ‘peace talks’ until the radicals have been defeated and defanged.

"…These are not moderate people. These are people sucked into a vortex of ever increasing anarchy, death-worship for themselves and others, poverty, misery and radicalism. ‘Negotiating’ with their ‘representatives’ won’t help them or Israel. If the Palestinian territories have become a disaster for their own people and the source of naked aggression against Israel, the better course of action would be to cancel the ‘peace process’ until the ‘war process’ has been addressed…"


Egypt is reportedly trying to work out a cease fire with Hamas — that is, to get Hamas to stop launching rockets at us, which would presumably move us to stop plans for any major action into Gaza. This seems to be what Rice convinced Mubarak to try to achieve, to mollify Abbas, rather than participation in supervising the crossing at Rafah. Hamas is said to be holding out for a commitment by Israel to stop pursuing their people in Judea and Samaria as well. That is not going to happen.

And while Abbas has said he will return to the negotiating table, I’ve read one report that says he’s going to bide his time until Egypt succeeds. (He hopes.) Should Egypt succeed it would be a disaster.




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