And If Not Now, When?

Today, in my hometown of Rishon Lezion, a quiet and peaceful suburb of Tel-Aviv, three Jews were stabbed by an Arab attacker from Hebron. One was an 80 year-old woman, stabbed while walking on rehov Tarmav, only a few streets away from our home. Another was stabbed while fleeing into a shop on our main thoroughfare, rehov Herzl, and a third was stabbed on a bus.

This brings it closer to me because the area is one in which we walk several times a day. I telephoned our 81 year-old widowed friend who lives on the corner of rehov Tarmav. Thank God, she was safe. I urged her not to walk out of her apartment for her own safety and she assured me that her children do all the grocery shopping for her so she doesn’t have to leave home. Still, she is frightened and concerned for the future. Born in Rishon Lezion eighty-one years ago, she has witnessed minor attacks since 1948 but none so terrifying as the situation of stabbings throughout our country in the past few months.

A few days ago, the Jordanian Muslim cleric, Sheikh Abdullah el-Alawneh, issued a fatwa of immense importance. In his decree he stated that “it is not permissible under Islamic law to kill Jews in Palestine…. Killing a Jew is permissible during a declared war…but if you both pledge for the safety of one another, you are not allowed to betray and kill him”.

The Jordanian cleric is not a friend of the Jews but he interprets Islamic law in its relationship to the killing of innocent Jews. Would that there be many more outspoken Muslim clerics as he.

I regret that our democratic country does not have a death penalty. Many other democratic nations, particularly the United States of America, do have the death penalty on their law books and use them frequently to put to death murderers, rapists and those who kill police and law officers.

Speaking with another friend in Rishon about the tragedy, he criticized our “misguided policy”. He insisted that instead of arresting the attackers, putting them in prison cells and feeding them three meals a day, it would be better to shoot them on the spot. He quoted the biblical law of “ayin tachat ayin, shen tachat shen”…an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. I remarked that if we followed that ancient law we would have many blind and toothless people wandering among us.

What then is the solution? Dialogue has failed. The outstretched hand for peace has failed. International interference has failed. UN resolutions have failed. Our government policies have failed. And recently I have seen posters declaring that Bibi has failed.
How is it possible to blame one individual for a failure of so many decades?

The solution must ultimately lie in the hands of a stronger government, one willing to agree to some degree of compromise, one willing to take a giant step to reach out not only to our Palestinian neighbors, but to more conciliatory voices in Kuwait and in Saudi Arabia.
But while searching for a peaceful resolution we must be armed with the best military equipment to defend ourselves when everything else fails.

Sometimes a government led by military officers can be more efficient than a government of “talkers”. We don’t want a military dictatorship nor a war-mongering cabinet or Knesset. When Vladimir Putin talks, the whole world listens. Perhaps they listen out of fear but they understand that he speaks from strength.

Our present UN ambassador, Danny Danon, lacks strength. His English is halting, he reads his speeches from sheets of paper, he is not forceful and is not, in my opinion, the right person for the job. Not everyone can be a polished speaker like Abba Eban, but our appointed ambassadors should have the ability to speak forcefully and convincingly so that those who must listen to them will sit up and not sleep.

Our whole Foreign Service needs to be overhauled and replaced with ambassadors who speak loud and well and who represent us with dignity and with power.

They need to convey our political decisions “dugri” with no fear or hesitation of being offensive. We must declare our intentions for our future borders, even borders that we ourselves define, and show our resolve in defending them.

Our religion teaches us that “adam karov etzel atzmo”…. Every man must think of himself first. Our concerns for our safety and security come first in spite of voices which may disagree with us.

As it is written in Pirkei Avot, the Talmudic tractate of the Ethics of the Fathers, “im ain ani li, mi li?”
If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And our government needs to decide “v’im lo achshav aimatai?”… And if not now, when?

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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