Shulamit S. Magnus
Jewish historian

Needed Now: Clarity, Perspective, the Right Choices

Horrific terrorist attack in Elad, a haredi town in Israel, last night.

Two terrorists, responding to the gun-waving call of Yihye Sinwar, head of Hamas in Gaza, for Muslims inside Israel and elsewhere, to attack Jews, period. With axes, he specified. Talk about racism, please, someone. The Palestinian kind that comes cloaked in rabid, fundamentalist, totalist, eliminationist, Palestinian nationalism. Preached and practiced by those who offer nothing but death and destruction to their own, see the hell hole that is Gaza after billions of dollars in aid, but first and foremost, to us. Because their paradise will come if only we are eliminated.

Two terrorists from a village near Jenin on the west bank, who were in Israel without permits and worked in Elad so knew its layout well, came to this town, specifically, where they know the population has not gone to the army: are we taking that in? Davka targeting Jews who have NOT and do serve in the army, please see the reference to Palestinian racism, above– and have many children, that is, are the easiest of targets; and murdered three men and grievously wounded three others, who are hospitalized and fighting for their lives, one of them, a SEVENTY-FIVE YEAR OLD man; see the reference to Palestinian racism, above. Again, this was not murder by automatic weapon, the murderers were up close and picked their victims.

Attacked them with axes. 16 orphans. The terrorists headed to — the town’s park, where families are likely to be. That is who and what we are up against.

A video of an interview on the spot with one man, a hasid of Vishnitz, not a person used to speaking to the press, he says, has gone viral. In it he says that he rejects categorically the attempt by Jewish fascists (sic) led by the kahanist, Ben Gvir (who adopts a name, tellingly, that addresses his pathetic lack of true manhood, a pathetic but dangerous man), to incite hatred and yes, murder, of Arabs. The chants his people incited and led right after the horrific terror incident in B’nei Brak a few weeks ago—another haredi town targeted specifically– this is now clearly a pattern for the murderers who want easy work; words to the chant I will not repeat. That lot shows up after such attacks and tries to incite against Arabs, threatens Bennett with assassination, in an effort to gain new adherents, says this Hasid of Vishnitz. They target haredi youth, the man says.

This is not the haredi way, this man says. We have never been right-wing politically but mainstream. We do not believe in civil war and we do not believe in murder; he cites the fact that the hero who ended similar carnage (albeit, that one by automatic weapon), in B’nei Brak was an Arab policeman (Amir Khoury, z”l, whose shattered, grieving family came to B’nei Brak this week to see the place where their beloved son fell saving Jews, where women and men came out to greet them, thank them, and hug them. One young haredi woman, who could have been next, hugged Amir Khouri’s mother, saying, you must be amazing to have raised a son like that).

This man in Elad cites “fascism,” and says, this is not us. To Ben Gvir he says, stay in your town, stay away from ours. Your way is not our way. Our way is of a torah whose paths are paths of no’am, pleasantness. There is fear here, women and children hiding in their apartments (as the mayor of the town told people last night to do– the terrorists escaped by car and have still not been caught), and you exploit fear. Stay in your town, stay away from ours. And from our youth.

Kol hakavod and may his message spread in the haredi world, and altogether.

But I have news for him.

Civil war, exploitation of fear, incitement to murder, fascism, racism, are not the way of non-haredi Judaism, or of Zionism, either.

There is a rotten, foul branch, emboldened and enabled by Netanyahu, which preaches those things, and it must be severed. The Likud of old boycotted Meir Kahane, delegitimized him out of politics. Never mind Netanyahu, he is beyond redemption. But is this what the rest of that party endorses? If not, it needs saying, and action, now. Disavow religious racism, fascism, and these men and their party, specifically. Say you will not run with them in any election nor serve with them in any government.

The last, truly the last thing this society needs right now is to be plunged into new elections not even a year since this government took office, to satisfy the sick needs of Netanyahu and the murderous schemes of his and the Likud’s protégés, Ben Gvir and Smotrich, enabled by the feeble likes of Idit Silman.

Someone, many someones, please, get a grip.


About the Author
Shulamit S. Magnus Professor Emerita of Jewish Studies and History at Oberlin College. She is the author of four published books and numerous articles on Jewish modernity and the history of Jewish women, and winner of a National Jewish Book award and other prizes. Her new book is the first history of agunot and iggun from medieval times to the present, across the Jewish map. It also presents analysis and critique of current policy on Jewish marital capitivity and proposals to end this abuse. Entitled, "Thinking Outside the Chains About Jewish Marital Captivity," it is forthcoming from NYU Press. She is a founder of women's group prayer at the Kotel and first-named plaintiff on a case before the Supreme Court of Israel asking enforcement of Jewish women's already-recognized right to read Torah at the Kotel. Her opinions have been published in the Forward, Tablet, EJewish Philanthropy, Moment, the Times of Israel, and the Jerusalem Post.
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