It should have happened somewhere around Rosh Hashanah or even Yom Kippur. It is supposed to happen each year. For some odd reason, this year it did not happen at all. I am speaking about that part of our yearly duty as Jews, and even more widely, as human beings, to assess our weaknesses and strengths and improve what needs to be improved so that we are better human beings and more adept at making the entire world whole. At some point, however, this process appears to have broken down. Instead of self-reflection and self-improvement, we have mayhem, chaos, murder and revenge.
The Jewish Nation is under attack. This is not new. What is new is the thought that many Israelis are now seeking gun permits and cans of pepperspray by the bushel. When did we become the Nation of Charles Bronson and Sylvester Stallone? Did people suddenly forget the hundreds of thousands of highly-trained Israeli policemen and women and our soldiers? Do we no longer trust them with our lives? How can we pull back from this abyss before Israel becomes the Wild East complete with shootouts on Rothschild Boulevard and in the Mehane Market? Do people really want to have to be in the position of asking God to forgive them for killing innocent people at the Tachanah Mercazit? Clearly, someone will have to do exactly that for the chagim next year. Just as the government will have to treat Eritrean victims of Israeli paranoia as a “victims of violence” entitled to remuneration from Bituach Leumi as any victim of a piguah is entitled. It is too soon to tell why someone running in the Tachanah Mercazit in Be’er Sheva would be targeted by a mob. If someone was firing randomly with an automatic weapon, I would be running, too, although probably in the opposite direction. The police will have to come up with answers for this behavior. Calling it an example of “mob justice” does not relieve the mob from liability for committing a crime. I doubt this inquiry or its aftermath will make the family of Haftom Zahum feel any better.
What should be clear to all is that there is no such thing as a “lone wolf” attack. It is as mythological as Bigfoot and the yeti. Merely because one person acts alone and seemingly without assistance does not mean they acted alone or without preparation. One person can kill several innocent people before anyone even knows it, due to the use of automatic weapons. I am thankful that the State of Israel has the sense to heavily regulate such weapons from finding their way into the wrong hands which is why you have terrorists grabbing IDF-issued weapons so often. The sad fact is that someone who is sick, mentally on the edge of reason or humanity uses a method of communication to express their own hatred for others and some moron or mentally defective creature acts on it. There are millions of clips online to help even the not-so Internet-savvy types in finding a screaming mullah to follow. However, you never do see Ismail Haniyah shoot someone in cold blood, do you?
I am not saying that Israelis will also have to remove themselves from the high ground in the debate over who is inciting to violence, the Arabs or the Jews? Is crowd paranoia contagious? Yes, it is highly contagious which is why it is illegal in civilized countries. Have its effects been discussed widely enough in modern society? Clearly not. If you ever want to see how easy it is for mob rule to take form, there is no finer film on the subject than Fritz Lang’s “Fury.” It is all there, including the townspeople’s shocked reactions at seeing themselves on film viciously attacking a falsely-accused kidnapper. Released in 1936, the film still shocks the conscience and with good reason. Many attribute the film’s subject as a very early indictment of Nazi Germany. And no, I am not saying that Israel is headed down the slippery slope to mob rule or becoming another fascist state. What I am saying is that it is time to pull back, calm down and re-assess the kind of society we have where these kinds of events occur and see to it that they never happen again. This collective re-assessment should have happened after the sad spectacle of an injured Syrian fighter being dragged from an IDF ambulance and murdered in cold blood by Druze civilians in Israel. For some reason, no one outside the police or army paid it any attention.
I have often cited Mahmoud Abbas as the instigator for the not-so-random attacks against Jews and our religious symbols—most recently the damage caused to Joseph’s Tomb. Evidently, what I think is holy is not so holy to someone else. Someone didn’t get the memo.