Ron Kronish

Fighting darkness with light

On Thursday this past week, I joined a delegation of Jews from “Tag Meir” (a “Sign of Light”) in a demonstration of solidarity with the Franciscan community in Jerusalem, whose church was desecrated by vandals from the “Tag Mechir” (Price Tag) group of extremist hooligans who have been making a bad habit of desecrating mosques and churches during the past year.

While no one yet knows for sure who exactly they are — unbelievably, there have been no arrests yet by police — it is assumed that they are religious extremists from the settler movement who have decided to “exact a price” on some institutions of other religions as retribution for what they view as unfair policies, like actually taking down five homes a few weeks ago at Migron in the West Bank (or what they call “Judea and Samaria”), which led to the attack on the monastery at Latrun.

Tag Meir, which is a new coalition of some 30 Jewish and inter-religious organizations — representing thousands of people throughout Israel — has a good track record during the past year of appearing after every Price Tag attack and offering another view of Judaism than the one of religious fanatics, who are really only a tiny minority in our country (although you wouldn’t believe this from all the attention they get in the press).

Tag Meir began last December (2011) around Hanukkah time. At that time a woman named Ilana Kraus wrote in her blog:

At a time when Israel truly feels overcome with the darkness of hatred and violence, both towards Muslims and even towards Jews who dare to think differently, this Chanukah will see the launch of an initiative moving towards the light, and refusing to condone the actions of those who use the darkness of night to conceal their reprehensible acts. Each night during Chanukah there will be a candle-lighting event to support peaceful relations between Jews, Muslims and Christians in different parts of the country – at the various sites where Jewish extremists have perpetrated acts of ‘Tag Mechir’ terror over the course of the past months – whether the burning of mosques, the assaults on army officers or the attacks on peace activists.

The name of Tag Meir was taken from a well-known children’s Hanukkah song: “ כל אחד הוא אור קטן. וכולנו אור איתן” — “each of us is a small light, and together we are a strong light.”

The first demonstration took place on the first night of Hannukah. I arranged for a Muslim member of ICCI — Abdelsallam Najjar, of Neveh Shalom/Wahat El Salaam — to attend and say a few words, which he did with distinction and pride. He was the first Israeli Muslim Arab to speak at such an event.

Following the desecration of the Franciscan convent on Mt. Zion last week, ICCI and JCJCR (as members of Tag Meir) helped organize a delegation to visit the main church of the Franciscan order in Jerusalem, St. Savior’s, in the heart of the Christian Quarter. At this meeting we expressed our empathy and our solidarity with the Custodian of the Holy Land Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, who received us warmly in the courtyard of the church. Father Pizzaballa welcomed the initiative for showing that “religion and tolerance are not contradictory values,” as well as acknowledging the “solidarity” expressed for the monastery and the monks from around the country, “which strengthens the idea that these incidents do not represent Israel or Jews… and that we can continue to live together in this city.” (The Jerusalem Post, Friday, Oct 5, 2012)

In the article, I was quoted as saying that the Tag Meir coalition represents the majority of the Jews in Israel, and that “the price tag phenomenon is conducted by an outlandish, extremist minority.” This is undoubtedly the case. Very few people in Israel support such outrageous acts of religious hatred, and we must make it clear that these acts represent the insane thinking and infantile actions of a very small religious minority, even if one can trace some of their thinking to certain extreme xenophobic “religious” leaders in Israel and the West Bank.

As representatives of sanity in a sometimes insane environment, we members of Tag Meir will be there again if and when members of extreme religious groups in Israel, under the name of “Tag Mechir,” seek to present Judaism in a distorted image by desecrating the name of God via such unholy acts.

About the Author
Rabbi Dr Ron Kronish is the Founding Director the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel (ICCI), which he directed for 25 years. Now retired, he is an independent educator, author, lecturer, writer, speaker, blogger and consultant. He is the editor of 5 books, including Coexistence and Reconciliation in Israel--Voices for Interreligious Dialogue (Paulist Press, 2015). His new book, The Other Peace Process: Interreligious Dialogue, a View from Jerusalem, was published by Hamilton Books, an imprint of Rowman and LIttelfield, in September 2017. He recently (September 2022) published a new book about peacebuilders in Israel and Palestine entitled Profiles in Peace: Voices of Peacebuilders in the midst of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, which is available on Amazon Books, Barnes and Noble and the Book Depository websites,