At the end of April, I wrote a post on this blog, which was entitled “Stop the Hate Crimes Epidemic in Israel Now.” It was translated into Hebrew and also published on the Walla website.
At that time, I felt, along with many other people that the acts of extreme “religious” Jewish youth –which have been sanctioned for years by their rabbis and by many political “leaders” in Israeli society— had already reached epidemic proportions and were endangering the moral fabric of Israel society.
At that time I wrote:
“The hate crime epidemic in Israel must be brought under. This has got to stop. It is urgent and can no longer be swept under the carpet!”
And, what has been done since then to combat this phenomenon? Nothing! Just lip service, but hardly anyone has been arrested or brought to justice.
In the wake of the horrific murder of three Jewish teenagers who had been kidnapped while hitchhiking in the West Bank, passions have been inflamed and there have been calls for revenge in Israel. And now, after the arrest yesterday of young Jewish suspects in the alleged revenge murder of a Palestinian teenager from the North Jerusalem neighborhood of Shuafat, the lip service of some of our political leaders is nauseating and simply too little too late.
It is very difficult to ignore all the incitement to commit acts of vengeance which have been voiced in recent days, which led to this disastrous development. Now, this murder has ignited a powder keg, resulting in a huge amount of anger and rioting within Arab towns and villages all over Israel, and in Jerusalem.
I and my organization, The Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel–are part of a coalition of more 40 organizations in Israel—representing thousands of people from all over Israel called Tag Meir—Light Tag—which has been combatting this phenomenon, without much fanfare, in Israel for the past 4 years. We have been responsive and empathetic up till now. But this is not enough.
We are now becoming more active by mobilizing the masses in Israel not only to raise a Jewish and interreligious voice for morality and sanity, but also to demand quick action by our government now to put an end to this dangerous phenomenon in our midst.
A few days ago, our coalition organized a demonstration within 24 hours that got over 3000 likes on Facebook, which brought out about 2500 people in downtown Jerusalem, and received major mainstream media coverage, to counter all the cries for vengeance and to make a plea for sanity. “Mourning and not vengeance is needed now,” we argued.
And tomorrow, we will go to comfort the bereaved family in Shuafat. After posting this event on Facebook yesterday, we already have 4 busses of people who will go with us to offer comfort and empathy for the horrible murder, a murder which was waiting to happen after the last few years and weeks of incitement.
A few years, ago, I took a group of Israeli rabbis and imams, kadis, sheikhs and priests to a seminar on the theme of reconciliation in Northern Ireland for an intensive week of dialogue and discussions. It was a difficult and important week, but a meaningful and worthwhile experience. When we returned to Israel, the brother of the leading Muslim Palestinian Israeli in the group died suddenly. All the rabbis in the group responded to my phone calls the next way, and we all paid a condolence call to the home of this man in an Israeli Arab village in the center of Israel. This condolence visit was well received by the family, and it cemented good personal relations for years to come among the Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs of Israeli citizenship in the group.
Now it is time once again to offer condolences and say clearly to our Palestinian neighbors: this is not the Jewish Way! Desecrating the Name of God by murdering innocent civilians in a brutal way is inhuman and not Jewish.
I am already gratified that hundreds of other citizens of Israel will be expressing solidarity with a Palestinian family that has been harmed so deeply. This is a wake-up moment in our society. Let us band together and take action so that the voices of sanity and human dignity will be heard over those of vengeance and insanity.