Less than an hour after Robert Bowers murdered 11 people at the Etz Chaim Synagogue in Pittsburgh in October, Jewish doctors helped save his life. It’s possible that the doctors and nurses at Allegheny General Hospital didn’t know that the man they were saving wished them dead — indeed he shouted “All Jews must die” as he slaughtered — but it probably didn’t matter. Both as medical providers and as Jews, their obligation was to save human life. It didn’t matter how abhorrent the individual involved.
One hundred miles from Pittsburgh at the world renowned Cleveland Clinic, a first year resident named Lara Kollab wrote social media posts about giving Jews the wrong medicine. “Allah will take the Jews” she posted. A check on her social media showed this was not unusual. Ms. Kollab posted a steady stream of anti-Semitic rants dating back to 2011.
Perhaps more than any event in recent memory, the two incidents provide a clear reminder of who we are and who they are. We must never forget it.
Jews love life. We cherish it above practically everything else. While Judaism can be a rigid religion, there are almost no Jewish laws that can not be broken to save a life.
Jews go out of our way to save the lives of others, even those who wish to destroy us. How many Syrians were admitted quietly into Israel for medical care during the Syrian Civil War? Does anyone think the Arab countries would reciprocate if the roles were reversed?
In August, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that Israel must allow relatives of Hamas members into Israel for life-saving cancer treatment. Five months earlier Hamas refused Israeli medical aid for its hospitals when they ran low on medicine and supplies, mainly because Hamas diverted the funds to build attack tunnels.
Ms. Kollab is an example of a strain of ideology too prevalent in the Arab and White Supremacist world. Blinded by hate, inspired by what they perceive is required by their scripture, they see no issue with actively causing the death of others because of some grievance, real of perceived, that justifies inhumanity.
The haters believe this gives them strength. They believe their willingness to sacrifice themselves in order to murder others, even babies in nurseries, provides them with power.
It does the opposite. The worship of their death cults blurs their minds. It saps their strength that could have been put to productive purposes and redirects it in a blind pursuit of blood for blood’s sake.
Meanwhile, our worship of life sustains us. Through 2000 years of exile and 70 years of constant conflict for the one Jewish State, our belief in the sanctity of human life has separated us from those who wish us ill.
There are those among us who use this principle to take political positions that I believe are misguided and endanger us all. However, so long as this thought process underpins their position, the Jewish love of life provides a check on our belief system which keeps it from degenerating into the madness of others.
It hasn’t always been so. Study the history of the Jewish internecine fighting during the Great Revolt against the Romans and you appreciate both the fact that Jews are not immune from blind hatred and from the danger it portends.
For this reason I hope that we never lose those on our pacifist side. Despite coming generally from a center-right ideology, no matter how profoundly I disagree with groups like Jewish Voice for Peace, no matter how misguided I believe their policies are and no matter how naive and dangerous I believe their political platforms are, I’m glad they exist.
I’ll use all my strength to argue against them, and I hope they never gain political power, but I’m glad they’re among us. They help maintain the internal Jewish moral compass that results in the doctors and nurses in Pittsburgh coming from our Jewish community, and the Kollabs and Bowers coming from someone else’s.