Naftali Bennett’s visit to the Tree Of Life Synagogue

Re: The recent visit of Naftali Bennett, the Education Minister/head of the Orthodox, settler-aligned Habayit Hayehudi party to console and show unity with Pittsburgh’s devastated “Tree of Life” synagogue.

He came to the bereaved, the broken, the wounded and the dead supposedly to offer consolation from the government of Israel, speaking with an official voice before a vigil of the the Jewish People, organized by the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh. He was doing so in the name of our heritage and supra-national historic bonds, transcending questions of diaspora, and of any affiliation to a particular Jewish movement. Or so he said.

Pittsburg’s Tree of Life Shul, that chamber of horrific bloodshed was longing for his consolation. Israel had come to their doorstep. He would declare, they were certain, that her  heart was cleaved by the bullets which tore the flesh of our Jewish family in that Pennsylvania city, indeed to tell how our People’s heart had been strafed asunder in Eretz Tzion herself. There too, he might assure the congregation, the Peoples’ tears would be matched only by the sea lapping Tel Aviv’s shore, and their wailing loss would be so loud as in days gone by at Jerusalem’s Western Wall. Yes, he might have said, the lamentation would be heard as far as the border with Lebanon, with tears dampening the gaity of the shores of Eilat.  And I am certain, for many Israelis, that’s exactly how word of the massacre hurt.

But the man found no such imagery envisioning us as one Jewish People. Instead-but will you have heard this? he offered to all the victims his official Likud-Habayit Hayehudi-Netanyahu political accreditation that now they were “true Israeli-style Jews.”

Forthwith, his words in an echo of virtual paraphrase rang out, that all should accept the fact that the killer’s depravity was identical to a member of Hamas shooting a rocket into Israel –and that with the pain and loss as their initiation, the victims had become “just like us!”

What a relief it should have been to the bereaved! The Tree of Life mourners would finally share with Israelis what it meant to live there, where Jews face vicious rocket-firing enemies daily- instead of forever remaining refugees in this forsaken American diaspora. With deep gratitude to the Netanyahu-Bennett official position –those devastated by the mass murder committed by a rabid ani-Semite in Pittsburgh, would finally be  granted the political status of  “true, Israeli-style Jews.” Thank God we Americans, who always thought we were fully woven into the fabric of our People’s historic identity, the same as Jews living anywhere else, are now shown the path to “Bennett’s Salvation through having some idea of what it’s like to face those mean-spirited Arabs in Israel.”

Never mind that the whole world has watched the Likud coalition take Israel’s democracy to utter ruin with an oppressive Occupation of the Palestinians and a home rule reducing its own Arab citizenry to a second-class population by law.

Down the street, a protest by  IF NOT NOW against Bennett’s verbal abuse of the fallen, loudly limned his prior assault on Torah values, railing against his lead in efforts to expel thousands of poor African asylum seekers seeking refuge in Israel, until the court stopped him.

I am certain, if he said Kaddish, and I don’t know that he did, even God would have sat down.

About the Author
Abram Epstein, a New Yorker, has served as Director of Education for several synagogues and actively participated in the Manhattan Educators’ Council. His graduate studies at New York University’s Hagop Kevorkian Center focused on ancient Near Eastern religion and Biblical Judaism. He is a recipient of the university’s prestigious Founders’ Award for Academic Accomplishment and has a screen credit as Historical Consultant for "The Seventh Sign" starring Demi Moore. His other books include, "The Historical Haggadah," "The Matthias Scroll," "A Documented Biography of Jesus Before Christianity," and most recently, "The Matthias Scroll–Select Second Edition." Abram invites communication on his FB page: "Abram Epstein" or "Abram's Historical Writing."