Last week, Jewish religious extremists, under the slogan Tag Mechir (Price Tag), desecrated the Abbey of the Dormition on Mt. Zion in Jerusalem. This was yet another violent act against Christian institutions by right-wing Jewish fanatics during the last year and a half. They don’t only attack Christian institutions. In recent months, they have also desecrated mosques and defaced homes of peace activists and even recently of a woman who is involved with the struggle for freedom of religious expression in Israel, via “Women of the Wall” who is a friend and neighbor in Jerusalem.
No one has yet been brought to justice for any of these hate crimes which are becoming part of our daily life in Israel. The Prime Minister denounced attacks on Arabs one day this week (finally). The Chairman of the Knesset Committee on Education, Mr. Amram Mitznah, holds hearings, articles are written about this almost daily in our newspapers here. But the security services just can’t seem to find the culprits, arrest them, bring them to trial, and put them behind bars.
Why not? Well, no one really seems to know, as it were. When I attended a meeting of the Knesset Committee on Education a few weeks ago, this question was asked repeatedly, but no genuine answer was provided. Representatives of the police and Ministry of Justice referred to all kinds of legal technicalities, but no one had a good explanation.
Many of us in Israel who are involved with trying to counter this wave of racism against individuals and institutions of other religions feel that there is just not enough will to get the job done on the part of the security establishment. If it was the other way around – if Palestinians were attacking Jews and Jewish institutions – the perpetrators would have been found, arrested and incarcerated a long time ago.
But the problem here goes much deeper than a lack of law enforcement. The problem essentially is an educational and social one. These kinds of acts of extremist vandalism are tolerated because there is no great groundswell against them. They are acceptable in many sectors of our society, the same sectors that gave legitimacy to a young “religious” Jew to assassinate a Prime Minister! It is part of the atmosphere of living in an ongoing conflict, we are told. We live in an increasingly violent region – just look at Syria or other places in the Arab world where the Arab spring has become the Arab winter.
But beyond all these excuses, I feel that the problem is deeper. It is a religious problem, at base. The Jewish mainstream here (and abroad) does not seem to care enough about this. They are not enraged, as they should be. They are not shouting from the rooftops that this is not Judaism, that these racist acts are a distortion of basic Jewish values, which view every human being as created in the image of God, that this new form of xenophobia should be completely unacceptable in the Jewish state!
I belong to a new coalition called Tag Meir (The Tag of Light). I have written about this new group before on this blog. We are a growing coalition of over 35 organizations – including the one I lead, the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel (ICCI) – which not only denounces these incidents in no uncertain terms but attempts to show empathy and solidarity with members of other religions in Israel who have been hurt by these attacks. We want them – and you our readers –to know that mainstream Judaism does not support this, that these are acts of extremists who are far beyond the Jewish consensus and that Judaism is a religion that preaches and teaches love and respect for all human beings.
As representatives of sanity in a sometimes insane environment, we, as members of Tag Meir, will be there again if and when members of extreme religious groups in Israel, under the name of Tag Mechir, seek to present Judaism in a distorted image by desecrating the name of God via such unholy acts.