On Thursday evening (March 31st) I was on Yafo street (Jerusalem). There, I had the pleasure of witnessing first hand a Lehava organized protest. The experience was both horrific and thought provoking.

IMG_0058Photo By: Yehuda Leibler. Taken on Thursday 31/3/2016

The banners and slogans the protestors were holding and spouting varied from “The soldier from Hebron is a Hero” all the way to “Death to all Arabs” and “Kill the Muslim Pigs” with many others in-between. The participants of the protest were putting stickers on all pedestrians and cars and those who refused to walk around with a “My sister is not Hefker (Ownerless)” badge were titled Left wing traitors who should be murdered. One thing was clear, the protest was not about the Soldier from Hebron, rather that was just another excuse for them to hold a protest of incitement and hatred. Shockingly, the participants comprised mainly of teens around the same age as me (16), who were led by Bentzi Gopstein (Lehava Chairman).

We cannot continue standing idly by while this lunacy goes on within us! Lehava is a dangerous organization causing terrorism that should be outlawed (like the Kach Party). In addition to that we must understand that simply outlawing or banning the organization will not solve the problem which lies in the extremist ideologies held by these individuals. There is a reason the majority of the participants of the protest on Thursday were children.  Bentzi Gopstein, along with other Lehava members and leaders (like Baruch Marzel and other Meir Kahanah disciples) are taking advantage of young vulnerable teens looking for something to be passionate about, and causing them to commit acts of terror, hatred and incitement like the arson and spray-painting anti-Arab graffiti at the Center for Jewish Arab Education in Israel and the arson attack that resulted in killing Ali Dawabsha, an Arab infant (that they “helped” lead to). I am adamant that the government must explore options to expand and better the education on the matter and work to open up a diverse conversation about the conflict in Israel. While some schools take it upon themselves to do so, others leave their students naked and defenseless to this perilous incitement. Israel, the democratic Jewish state cannot attempt to hold a moral high ground as long as these factors are allowed to act within us.

The current situation around the globe and especially in our neighboring countries in the Middle East is forcing us to face a scary reality that makes clear how serious the threat of Muslim extremism is. Having said that, we must act to eradicate inciting groups like Lehava, not because of the threat they pose to others, but because of the threat they pose to to us, and our stance as a Jewish and democratic state. Jews are being stabbed and slaughtered on the streets every single day! We cannot fight a war on terrorism while factions within us are encouraging it. The damage these groups are doing is incomprehensible. They are a threat to Israel and allowing them to continue acting within our mists is a stain on our Jewish Soul. An organization that incites teens (or anyone) to call for for the death of a race, religion, group, or of those who hold a certain view must be stopped.

The situation in Israel seems grim and there is a long road ahead to a better and safer future. Now more than ever is a time for Israel to be a united front against terrorism and hatred coming both from internal and external sources. Israel needs to be more then unsupportive of extremist hate spreading groups. We must take action and be pro-active to ensure our safety and legitimacy. The road to those better days undoubtedly hangs on Israel being an “Or Lagoyim” (a “Light Unto the Nations”) and acting as a beacon of morality and justice to all who surround us.