Ezra Schwartz, Hadar Buchris, Eitam and Naama Henkin, Helene Muyal, Asta Diakite, Ariane Theiller, Halima Saadi, Lurii Shein, Anastasila Sheina.
And the list goes on.
There have been so many recent victims of radical Islamic terror in Israel, in Paris, over the Sinai, in Africa, and elsewhere that I find myself in a fog, wondering what has become of this world. Is this the most challenging global time that I have experienced in my 52 years? Each victim means a world shattered, a family in great searing pain, and human potential destroyed. Like many of the more than 7,000 people who watched the live feed of Ezra Schwartz’s funeral, I sat in tears and solidarity with the family, thinking of my own children who spent their gap years studying in Israel. And despite all this, I wonder if Islam itself eventually will be the greatest victim of this vile, inhuman terror campaign, devised and implemented by tens of thousands and condoned by millions of people in the name of intolerant radical Islam.
In Judaism we have the concept of “chilul Hashem” or “desecration of God’s name.” It is perhaps the greatest sin of all; many rabbis say it is unforgiveable. Is there any greater desecration of God’s name and religion today than the murder of people in restaurants, soccer stadiums, concert halls, driving on the roads, at gas stations, on buses, trains, and planes, in all the name of radical Islam? Done by murderers who are screaming “God is great”? How can decent, kind, caring, informed Muslims, including religious and other leaders around the world, not scream out “Enough”? Does the Muslim world want its religion hijacked by cruel murderers, thugs, and psychopaths? I can only believe that the answer is a resounding no.
Over the centuries, Islam taught the world so much. Ironically, for hundreds of years we Jews had better relationships and experiences within the Muslim world than in the Christian world. Now the free world is in peril. While we need stronger leadership and resolve, moral clarity, and action, what we need most is for Muslim leaders and others to be brave. They must stand up against those within Islam who are causing death and destruction in all corners of the world. And they must do it now, before more people are killed and Islam is forever tarnished as a religion of death and destruction, not a “religion of peace.”
Where is the peace? If I were a Muslim I would question my faith. I would question the tsunami of destruction it is wreaking around the globe. I have no doubt that many Muslims are starting to think this way. They must be starting to wonder what their religion truly stands for.
A few years ago, on a mission to Israel with my synagogue, Congregation Ahavath Torah in Englewood, we met Professor Sari Nusseibeh, a leading Palestinian intellectual. We asked Professor Nusseibeh about terror attacks in Israel — which he condemned — and why Palestinian and Muslim leaders do not come out against it more forcefully. He answered that the leaders were weak, at times they used violence for political reasons, and no one paid much attention to them. Years have passed, violence worsened, and there have been more and more victims.
How many more memorial ceremonies must we have before the Muslim world wakes up and takes back its religion and its true purpose — bringing goodness to the world?
I write this as I look at a photo of the smiling face of Koby Mandell, who was 13 years old when he is was murdered by Palestinian terrorists near his home in Tekoa in 2001. Koby’s parents, Rabbi Seth and Sherri Mandell, created the Koby Mandell Foundation, which provides hope and healing for victims of terror. The Mandells have injected much light and goodness into the world despite experiencing hate and darkness. This is the best of religion.
I call out to decent, kind, caring, informed Muslims and to Muslim religious and other leaders around the world. Where is your light and goodness? We need you. Act quickly, before it is too late.