The FBI’s annual report on hate crimes shows 2019 was the deadliest year on record with 51 recorded hate crime murders: last year marked a 113% increase from 2018. This year may be worse.
And a recent British analysis of 27 leading anti-vaccine networks (vaccines prevent 5-6 million deaths globally every year) operating on Facebook and Twitter, found that antisemitic content was present in 79% of them.
Yet, during the last three years there were a much larger number of acts of kindness and compassion that occurred every week with little or no media publicity.
After a Florida mosque was torched in an arson attack, a local Muslim noticed something odd about donations made to a repair fund he launched. Instead of the round numbers Adeel Karim expected —$25, $50, $100 or more —many of the donations were in multiples of $18 — $36, $72, $90 and more.
“I couldn’t understand why people were donating in what seemed like weird amounts to the cause,” Karim wrote in a Facebook post. “Then I figured out after clicking on the names Cohen, Goldstein, Rubin, Fisher …. Jews donate in multiples of 18 as a form of what is called ‘Chai.’ It wishes the recipient a long life.”
Specifically, since each Hebrew letter has a numerical value; the letter “chet” equals 8 and “yod” equals 10. Together they form the Hebrew word “chai,” which has a numerical value of 18 and means “life.”
Karim’s local mosque, the Islamic Society of New Tampa, which had its exterior damaged by an arsonist was the beneficiary of a wave of interfaith support between Jews and Muslims since the inauguration of President Trump.
Other instances of interfaith support include: When vandals damaged headstones in a Missouri Jewish cemetery, Muslim activists raised more than $125,000 to fund repairs.
When a Victoria, Texas, mosque was razed by vandals, members of a local Jewish congregation gave the displaced Muslim worshippers a key to their synagogue. “Everyone knows everybody, I know several members of the mosque, and we felt for them,” said Robert Loeb, the president of the Jewish congregation Bnai Israel.
When vandals toppled more than 100 headstones in a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia, Muslims and others traveled from other states to repair them.
The Muslim Student Associations of Florida State and Florida A&M universities delivered bouquets of flowers to campus Jewish organizations and local synagogues in a show of solidarity after two cemetery attacks.
Jonathan Greenblatt, head of the Anti-Defamation League, an anti-Semitism watchdog group, received a standing ovation when he said at a conference that if U.S. Muslims were forced to register with the government, he would register as a Muslim, too.
Most dramatic of all was the tragic Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, the worst attack on a synagogue in the history of the United States; followed several months later, on March 15, 2019 by the tragic mass murder of 51 Muslims in two New Zealand mosques.
But we can and should also remember and give thanks for the response which later occurred when the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh raised over $900,000 for an Abrahamic fund for Christchurch Muslims; an act of generosity inspired by how many Muslims rallied around the Jewish community when a white supremest shooter opened fire in a Synagogue in Pittsburgh, killing 11 people in October 2018.
These accounts of brotherly love are a modern descendant of the following archetypical fable, transmitted orally in both Arabic and Hebrew for many centuries; and finally written down in several different versions in the 19th century.
“Two brothers who inherited a ‘valley to hilltop’ farm from their father divided the land in half so that each one could farm his own section. Over time, the older brother married and had four children, while the younger brother was still not married.
One year there was very little rain, and the crop was very meager. This was at the beginning of a long term drought that would turn the whole valley into an arid, treeless, desert where even grain did not grow, and all the springs dried up.
The younger brother lay awake one night praying and thought: “My brother has a wife and four children to feed, and I have no children. He needs more grain than I do; especially now when grain is scarce.”
So that night, the younger brother went to his barn, gathered a large sack of wheat, and left his wheat in his brother’s barn. Then he returned home.
Earlier that very same night, the older brother was also lying awake praying for rain when he thought: “In my old age, my wife and I will have our grown children to take care of us, as well as grandchildren to enjoy, while my brother may have no children. He should at least sell more grain from his fields now, so he can provide for himself in his old age.
So that night, the older brother also gathered a large sack of wheat, and left it in his brother’s barn, and returned home.
The next morning, the younger brother, surprised to see the amount of grain in his barn seemed unchanged, said “I did not take as much wheat as I thought. Tonight I will take more.”
That same morning, the older brother, standing in his barn, was thinking the same thoughts. After night fell, each brother gathered a greater amount of wheat from his barn and in the dark, secretly delivered it to his brother’s barn.
The next morning, the brothers were again puzzled and perplexed. “How can I be mistaken?” each one thought. “There’s the same amount of grain here as there was before. This is impossible! Tonight I will make no mistake—I will take two large sacks.”
The third night, more determined than ever, each brother gathered two large sacks of wheat from his barn, loaded them onto a cart, and slowly pulled his cart toward his brother’s barn. In the moonlight, each brother noticed a figure in the distance.
When the two brothers got closer, each recognized the form of the other and the load he was pulling, and they both realized what had happened!
Without a word, they dropped the ropes of their carts, ran to each other and embraced.”
Christians and Jews believe the hill is Jerusalem. Muslims believe the valley is Mecca.
I believe they are both right and God willing, someday everyone may see both cities and their sanctuaries as a pair of lungs; that are central to humanity’s spiritual inspiration in connection to the One God of Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac.
As the Qur’an states: “’Believers, be steadfast in the cause of God and bear witness with justice. Do not let your enmity for others turn you away from justice. Deal justly; that is nearer to being God-fearing.” (5:8)
May the inspiration of this ancient tale, transmitted orally for so many centuries in both Arabic and Hebrew, help Christians, Jews and Muslims overcome the many hate filled actions occurring in today’s world. As the Qur’an states: Good and evil deeds are not equal. Repel evil with what is better; then you will see that one who was once your enemy has become your dearest friend…” (41:34)
And as the Qur’an also states: ”Say: the Holy Spirit has brought the Revelation from your Lord in Truth, in order to strengthen those who believe, and as guidance and glad tidings to Muslims.” (Qur’an 16:102) and as the Hebrew Prophet Joel (2:28-9) states: in Messianic times the Holy Spirit will be poured out upon all the People of Israel; and according to a statement in the rabbinic Midrash Tanna debe Eliyahu, (Friedman edition) from the era of Prophet Muhammad: the Holy Spirit will be poured out equally upon Jews and non-Jews, men and women, freemen and slaves.