The attack by Yishai Schlissel at the gay pride parade was unequivocally horrific. There is no justification, excuse or way around this. Everyone agrees on that. But what we’re disagreeing on is where to point the finger.
Right now – surprise, surprise – we’re blaming the “ultra-orthodox.” Even the more right-wing pro-religious Jerusalem Post began its news article by saying “Six people were stabbed at the annual Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade on Thursday by an ultra-orthodox man.” The more left-wing slanting journals went even further as to use the attack as a universal onslaught on the entire state of Israel. For example, Aeyal Gross in Haaretz wrote: “The stabbing…reminds us that, despite the liberal image we flaunt, Israel is still not a safe place for gays, lesbians, transgender people or bisexuals.” And the articles go on.
The problem with all of these interpretations, analyses, attempts to find some solace as to why this murderous attack could have happened, is that they fail to comprehend exactly what did happen and why it happened.
There are two primary issues that especially bother me about the analyses to date. The first one is the haredi bashing (a particular pet peeve of mine) and the second is our failure to appreciate the deep depravity that can exist within some individuals suffering from severe mental illness.
We’ll deal with the first one first. Let’s say one day I wake up and decide I am a firefighter. Not that I want to be a firefighter, or that I’m going to be a firefighter but that I am a firefighter. I wake up that morning, dress in my firefighter garb, say things like “3D Zone Control” and “Auto Ignition Temperature” etc., put on that cool helmet and I’m done. There you go now I’m a firefighter.
Yeah right. Seriously? Do those actions and clothing make me a firefighter? Further, does that mean if a fire occurs and I don’t put it out all firefighters should be condemned? Of course not. Only a crazy wack job, or someone desperately trying to find a reason their loved ones perished in the fire and are thus not thinking clearly, would say that.
If we know that logically, then why is the same theory not applied with this bloodied attack ? I don’t believe for one second that Schlissel is an ultra-orthodox/haredi Jew. Nor do I believe thatnormal, sensibly-thinking, non-mentally unwell haredim would believe he is part of their group. True, he may wear the garb and live out some of the lifestyle but that doesn’t render him an ultra-orthodox Jew. Because those individuals – that community – is committed to upholding the laws contained in the Torah, most fundamentally of which are to “act within the image of G-d.” And that means being appalled by such attacks.
Now over to the second issue. I fundamentally believe – almost know actually – that Schlissel is suffering from some deep mental illness. Just like I can never get into the mind of one who murders another human being, or who takes their own life from such deep self-hatred or misery at life, I cannot fathom what he did. And guess what: neither can you. But here’s the kicker: society is set up – or should be set up – to protect us from such individuals. They get locked up, put in institutions or however else you politically correctly want to say it. But we don’t need to do that: society does.
Now I’m not saying that Schlissel should never have been released from prison. (I don’t know enough about the legal justice system in Israel or anywhere else for that matter.) What I am saying however is that the police, or the government, or any other official authority that has taken on the responsibility and commitment to protect society from people living with such severe mental depravation as Schlissel should have been in charge of him. It was their responsibility to make sure he didn’t strike again.
In addition, his crazed action was not the responsibility of a community he purports to belong to. Just like I can’t control his acts of depravity, neither can the ultra-orthodox simply because they wear the same clothes. And it’s not our job. Actually it’s no-one’s job to protect our society, except those whose job it is! Just like the firefighter story.
So stop for a minute and please, I beg of you, stop racially discriminating and using the haredim (as it always is the haredim we all know; we’d never do this to another sect of society but that’s a subject for another piece), as a scapegoat.
Point the finger at the authorities who should have been watching Schlissel like a hawk and ensuring he was not the danger he was to our society.