The impact of Ali Saad Dawabsha’s untimely death is still being processed within my soul. I received the news of the Jewish terrorist attack against the Dawabsha family right before my Shabbat in Japan. In a sacred moment to sanctify God and acknowledge Him as Creator and Redeemer (as stated in the Ten Commandments), the mood of Shabbat was diminished by my thoughts of how can a Jew cause such intentional pain and devastation on an innocent family. What haunted me even more was that I predicted a tragedy like this a month ago right after the Tagbha church arson attack.
While the perpetrators of the church burning might have thought this was another act of vandalism, the words from the “Aleinu” prayer written on the church walls was a cause of great concern. A prayer for the world to know of the God of compassion, mercy and righteous justice was twisted to justify harm against the members of humanity. I actually met with a former government official to discuss how we can convince the local police to beef up security around holy sites as well as add patrols in the streets of the Old City to ensure certain religious people do not spit at Christian clergy. In my discussion with the former government official, I expressed that if we do not handle this right now, “I am afraid the next attack would involve the loss of human life.”
With little progress after my discussion and my impending travels abroad for my work in Jewish-Christian relations I thought there would be time to deal with this situation upon my return. Sadly, time was not on my side.
I am a religious Zionist and made Aliya 10 years ago to be part of the narrative of Jewish sovereignty in the only piece of real estate chosen by God. The fullest of Jewish expression can only take place in our national homeland, but it cannot be at the expense of oppressing those who are not part of my faith. To intentionally cause harm and destruction and use biblical text to rationalize it is a sin. The perpetrator(s) of Ali’s death is a sin on all of us.
Many of you reading this article will take offense to what I just wrote and claim that I have gone too far since we are not the ones who lit the match. However, we were complacent and even tolerated all the acts of vandalism from Jewish terrorists groups until now. In a country willing to gather at Rabin Square for the rising costs of cottage cheese, we could not protest for the acts of our own people against the minorities in our land? We value our bank accounts more than the dignity of human life.
God makes it very clear in the Bible that the cries of the childless never go unheard. What do you think happens when we cause a woman to be barren? Not only is the mother suffering unbearable pain from the burns on her body, but also the emotional trauma of losing her child. This a collective sin we cannot just sweep away with words of sympathy or condemnation. The loss of Ali requires collective introspection on how did we get to this point.
We, the Jewish people, have always prided ourselves in that we are one body. We go to unbelievable lengths to save Jews from all over the world who suffer persecution. God gave us a gift – the State of Israel. In the past because of our sins, we were exiled twice from her. Covenant land comes with covenant responsibility. If we continue to tolerate acts of intolerance, history may repeat itself. I never want to witness Psalm 137 in my lifetime. Jerusalem is held to a higher standard not because of what the world thinks, but of what our faith demands.
Jewish terrorism within the body of Israel cannot be tolerated. It is a time of action and the government must take bold steps in cracking down on these organizations and individuals. The rabbinate must speak from the pulpits that true Judaism is about loving the residents in our land. They also must condemn these actions and bring the full weight of Halacha jurisprudence to people that violate the tenets of our faith. Average citizens need to protest when acts of this magnitude occur.
As I currently tour through Japan speaking to groups about the importance of Jewish-Christian relations, I realize a recurring motivation for Christian support of Israel was due to our country arriving first on the scene after the 2011 earthquake. They could not believe we would be interested in helping them. An act of tikkun olam to a stranger among our international community has resulted in a community of faith in helping us. This type of goodwill is what God requires of us and what sanctifies His name in the world.
During the Civil Rights Movement the 1963 Birmingham Church Bombing resulted in the deaths of 4 children. Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. sent a telegram to Alabama Governor George Wallace stating bluntly: “The blood of our little children is on your hands.” The brutal attack and the deaths of the four little girls shocked the United States and drew international attention to the violent struggle for civil rights in Birmingham. The deaths of children have a way to resonate tragedy more than the loss of adult life.
I am not trying to compare the historical problems of U.S. race relations with what we face in Israel, but I am trying to point out that murder of a child is a wake-up call for our nation. We cannot afford to lose another human being in our land.
I ask the Dawabsha family for their forgiveness and I pray for a full recovery physically and emotionally for the parents of Ali. The loss of Ali is a loss for all of Israel.
David Nekrutman is the Executive Director for the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding in Israel.