Yes, you read that right. The first time I saw that written on the side of a synagogue in my old Bronx neighborhood, I thought it was just some moron’s stupidity. It didn’t make me angry, not at first, because I had no idea who had scribbled that on the temple. But then, I got to thinking (not particularly easy for a confused 15 year old boy) about the sentiment behind that hateful phrase.
You see, it was on the 5th of June, 1967, a Monday morning and I was rushing to my 10th grade class as I knew I was going to be late for first period World History ( I guess they call it something else today). I was running behind because I was glued to the television screen from 7 AM that morning watching the late Walter Cronkite on the CBS News, talking about war in the Middle East with all these maps behind him and speaking about an Arab attack on Israel.
Ordinarily, that might have not really been anything of interest to me because, at that time, I didn’t know Haifa from hummus-all I knew was that my maternal grandmother, z”l, had made her first and only trip to Israel the previous February and never stopped talking about what she saw and how she felt. Look, I loved by grandma, we listened to Yiddish radio together on Sunday mornings because I was always sleeping over in her apartment on Saturday night after hanging around with my friends in the old neighborhood the night before. And besides, she always made me whatever I wanted for breakfast. But it was too much already to hear her talk about how she looked at the Temple Mount across no man’s land and how beautiful her cousin’s kibbutz was and, with a 15 year old’s waning patience, I pretended to listen.
Like all my friends, we hated Hebrew school. Three afternoons a week, for 2 hours after spending 6 in regular school, it was too much. Reading in a language we didn’t understand, reciting prayers from a siddur that we never got translated for us, being lectured by an old man with bad breath and a terrible disposition, well, it really sucked (okay, maybe I need to curb my street argot, but I need you to know how it felt.).
All this for a bar mitzvah that I didn’t want, to go to a shul that bored the daylights out of me and cutting into my afternoons when I still had to do homework. To me, the High Holy Days of Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur. meant very little except that I would get nicely dressed, go to the shul to kiss my grandma, then run home, throw off the suit and take off the good shoes, throw on my dungarees, grab my baseball bat, my glove and cap and head over to the field in the park and meet my other Jewish friends (who were also kissing their grandmas in shul) and play ball, after which, we’d go to the local pizzeria (yes, even on Yom Kippur because all the kosher delis were closed) and scarf down sausage pizza and drink our fill of soda. Thank G-d, New York City public schools were closed on those holidays.
Somehow, something turned up the flames inside me and I was really angry and , to put it into a Bronx phrase, “pissed.” I didn’t want to leave the news, but my mother said to get to school or what the Arabs and the Israelis were doing to each other is nothing compared to what my father, z”l, would do to me for cutting school.
That graffiti really made it quite clear to me that even though a war against the Jewish state was happening thousands of miles away from me, someone in my neighborhood, thought it was alright to strike out at my people. Now, I wasn’t thinking of the Israelis, nope, I was thinking about all the older people I knew-Mottel, the man who gave me my first grownup watch as a bar mitzvah present, who had a series of blue tattooed numbers on his arm that he was always trying to conceal-Hymie, the deli man who used to send me down to the basement of the restaurant I worked in part time to shlep up another bundle of frankfurters for the grill whose son, Ruby, was named for a brother gassed at Auschwitz-Mr and Mrs Eisenstein, my best friend Jackie’s parents, who emigrated to America after spending years in concentration camps and made a successful small business where I bought lox and pickles from a big, wooden barrel.
I thought about how lucky I was to be alive because both my mother’s and father’s families had had the luck and good idea to leave a war ravaged Europe behind after World War One and the Bolshevik Revolution. None of my great uncles or aunts had any tattoos on their arms.
So, I never found out who wrote that evil diatribe on the synagogue wall, and it’s a good thing for him because I swore that if I ever found out who did it, before I would knock all his teeth out, I would make him use a toothbrush, a bucket of ammonia and pay for the damage to the temple, and then, I would break his fingers with a hammer-one by one. If you ask how I could have accomplished that, well, let me tell you that I was tough enough then to do it and several decades later, I would not hesitate to do it now.
You see, these so-called “price tag” attacks are exactly the same as what I read so many years ago. They are hateful, bigoted and disgusting. They are done by cowards and people with little or no conscience and they do it at night to hide themselves from the light. Because they are viruses, and sunlight kills viruses.
I don’t care if these scurrilous assaults that damage property, that wreak fear and that insult anyone with any civility at all are Israeli Jews, Israeli Arabs or anyone, they should be hunted down like the criminals they are. They should be made to clean up their filthy sentiments on their hands and knees with bleach, acid or whatever is needed and then, have their hands broken-before they are put into prison.
Inscribing hate and prejudice and death threats are totally unacceptable anytime, anywhere, by anyone. If you have a grievance against an individual, or a group of people, for political or social reasons, have the guts to face those who oppose and bring your arguments to the light of day, don’t slink around at night like a sewer rat-actually, sewer rats are better than those who put poison on walls, slash tires or break windows.
To desecrate a mosque or a church is no less evil then painting swastikas on Jewish headstones in a cemetery.
Sure, I’ve written about executing terrorists and evicting their enablers, but Israel is a nation at war and terrorism is the enemy-not a mosque in Sakhnin or a church in Jerusalem.
Every time a Jew desecrates a mosque or a church, he is aligning himself with the vandal that inscribed “F–K THE JEWS” on the wall of my synagogue-how does that make you feel, you lowlife scumbag?