World Jewry is in mourning. The horrific events at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania were shocking to everyone. The massacre was terribly sad for those of us living in Israel, but it was not a surprise. We have seen so much carnage perpetrated in the name of hatred of our people. I am sure that the citizens of Europe who have seen such horrors up close are moved as deeply as we are in Israel.
The world has seen so many horrid attacks on innocents. Muslims kill Muslims at prayer in their own mosques …simply because they are the wrong kind of Muslim. Islamic Fundamentalist terrorists killed ninety at the Bataclan theater in Paris. Concert goers had to flee assault weapons killing blindly in Las Vegas and in other venues. Alienated teenagers took multiple weapons into their high schools and cinemas in the United States and mowed down fellow students and citizens for their own sick need to feel powerful for the first time in their worthless lives.
There are many versions of these killings. This one was perpetrated by a disgusting individual who decided to hate Jews and prove it to whomever he needed to impress. On the one hand, it is a shame that he was arrested and not killed on the spot. On the other … if it results in a capital punishment, it will be a reminder that awaiting your fate is a hell of its own. I cannot see how he could possibly escape the death sentence. Still it is a shame to waste public resources on this vile man.
In a conversation last night, it was pointed out to me that the polarization of Left and Right ideologies in the United States…be they political or religious, is divided between those who feel that their freedom to do whatever they wish, supersedes all -and those who are willing to embrace limitations. It was said that the extremes of the left -thinking citizens want no restrictions on their personal freedoms. Hence -as an example- all illegal immigrants are welcomed by them (with no respect for the normal process of immigration) and the rule of law is seen as a joke when sanctuary cities are created in conflict with Federal laws. This is actually a new phenomenon. When before did we see local government officials, both city and state, willing to defy Federal laws in such an aggressive manner? The fraying of the fibers of civil obedience are very worrying.
There is a civic blindness to what is occurring with greater and greater frequency. Democratic order is being degraded with each incident. It is not just a Jewish problem, but it is one that Jews need to take quite seriously indeed.
Years ago I began writing columns to suggest that much of the human carnage we have witnessed time and time again, could have been reduced if those holding concerts, or other events were required by law – to provide armed undercover security inside the building. When I heard President Trump say last night, that had someone in the synagogue been armed, the shooter could have been stopped before so many lives were lost. I reacted immediately with the implausible statement: “perhaps he read one of my articles!”
The idea of an armed guard at the door of a synagogue or other venue has been conventionally thought to be a deterrent. In truth, someone looking to murder many for their sick purpose will kill the guard and enter the location to continue their plan. Someone unexpected inside the location, with a gun accessible, could stop the assailant. Without such possible recourse, there will continue to be unlimited slaughter of innocents.
This is a very difficult concept for people to absorb. No one wants to live in a world such as this. But it exists. How many will need to die before communities will be prepared to be proactive on behalf of their constituencies… be they students, church or synagogue members, concert, event, theater or film goers? Of course- there is a price to pay for this degradation of the moral fiber of the societies in which we live. The cost of absolutely everything would rise to pay for the required security . Once again, a decision needs to be made whether one cares more about finances or safety.
By force- we return to priorities. Is a higher priced movie ticket, or school budget, or church/synagogue membership fee… worth the peace of mind? Are we willing to face the reality that our societies are no longer as safe as they once were?
Those against the ownership of guns are right. No one should have a gun. But in the mean-while we live in the real world… where the United States as an example has as many guns in private ownership as there are people. Approximately 350 million guns are in American homes and cars. Why are they not, by law, where they are actually needed…undercover – in pubic venues. Google the words “mass shootings” in the country of your choice. You will see a list which seems to go one forever.
Incidents such as the recent one in Pittsburgh tend to spiral. The Anti-defamation league reports that antisemitic abuse of all variations has increased 50% in the past year in the United States. The UK is experiencing overt hatred of Jews like never before. The very same environments which have polarized populations politically, are breeding a new kind of unexpected violence which eventually will touch us all.
The Mayor of Pittsburgh spoke on television saying he did not want to react to the synagogue murders with undercover security. In essence he was saying that this is an isolated incident which should not change their lives. That is the easy response. Tell your citizens not to panic. At some point in time, the mass slayings that are being perpetrated everywhere- need to be faced square on. The inconvenience and costs of doing so need to be weighed against the grief of those families who lost their loved ones to hatred.
One can only imagine the heartbreak of the entire community of Pittsburgh- of the synagogue members whose friends were mowed down…and most of all, of the family who came together to make a brit milah for their newborn son. They came to create a covenant with Gd for the next generation. Instead they experienced trauma and the horror of losing the child’s grandfather, dear friends and family in the massacre.
When will we accept that the rights of peace-loving people to survive supersedes the inconvenience and cost of self-protection? When will we all demand that enough is enough and take the measures needed to stop evil doers in their tracks? How many more “Pittsburghs” must we endure?