Joel Haber
Tour Guide, Comic, Foodie, Israel-Lover

Revenge, Revenge You Shall Pursue?

I am sick. But then, I’ve been sick for a few days now. It’s just that I keep getting sicker with each passing moment.

Of course, when I heard the other night that the outcome of the horrific kidnapping was a heinous murder I was heartbroken and immensely saddened. I prayed that the families and friends of our boys would find some kind of comfort and peace, and that the evil terrorist perpetrators of this crime should be brought to justice. After all, we Jews believe our God is Just, and we are told to emulate God.

I posted this wish for justice on my Facebook wall, and the response I received from many of my friends made me sicker. Hatred and vitriol aimed at the Palestinians that would have made Kahane look moderate.

I felt the need to delete that Facebook status, because I did not want anyone to associate or confuse me with the comments and attitudes I “allowed” on my wall.

Then yesterday, after a lovely day spent guiding a family through the Old City of Jerusalem (a city whose name, tradition tells us, incorporates the Hebrew word for Peace: Shalom), we returned to the New City of “modern” Jerusalem only to discover that while we wandered calmly through history, many of my contemporaries were expressing their feelings in anything but a calm manner.

As I walked to my bus past the aftermath of the protests on Yaffo Street I was shocked. Teenage girls and little children wandering around (with smiles on their faces, as if it were a party) wearing bumper stickers on their shirts. Though I wasn’t happy to see all of the “Kahane Tzadak” (“Kahane was Right”) stickers, I can stomach them. What truly turned my sadness into disgust was the plethora of stickers that declared “Dorshim Nekama” — “We Demand Revenge.”

I couldn’t help but think back to a few hours earlier when I was retelling to my tourists the horrors of what the Crusaders perpetrated upon their arrival in our Holy City. Who knew that Medieval attitudes were being expressed just a few kilometers away by allegedly more advanced people.

And then this morning. I wake to hear reports of possible revenge attacks (kidnappings and murders) by Jews aimed at Arabs. These are as yet unconfirmed, and I pray with all of my being that these prove to not be what they seem. But if they are, I am not sure if “sick” will even be an accurate representation of my emotions.

Revenge? You call yourself a Jew and you think that revenge is what we do? That revenge is a Jewish concept?

We are commanded in the book of Devarim/Deuteronomy “Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof” — “Justice, Justice You Shall Pursue.” But revenge is not justice. Revenge is compounding one heinous act with another.

You want to tell me that the Torah also commands us to take “an eye for an eye?” Well our Talmudic rabbis go out of their way to make clear that this is anything but a literal commandment, but rather indicates compensation.

Okay, so what if you want to tell me that you are calling for revenge for practical, not Jewish reasons. Revenge is not pragmatic in any way either.

Psychologists have proven with multiple studies that revenge does not lead to the desired catharsis. Rather, they make the revenge-takers feel worse, by dwelling on their pain for longer.

It is also not practical as a means of stopping future attacks. Some people say, “we need to exact vengeance because it is all that the Arabs understand.” Look at history, people. I am not apologetic for most of the things our country has done (I believe that with a few notable exceptions, we have acted in a largely just and justified manner), but there is no denying that we have punished the Arabs plenty. If punishing them would force them into submission, we would have peace already. Even if our enemies “understand” violence, Our use of it does not lead to us achieving our stated goals.

Israel has been cracking down on Hamas. This is “just.” And when we catch the criminals who kidnapped our boys, we will be acting justly in our punishment of them. But neither of those things would be “revenge.”

You who have been calling for revenge, and potentially actually exacting it: swallow your base desires. Revenge will not make you feel better, it will not stop the terrorists from committing more heinous crimes and it will not provide justice.

Rise to the level where we thought you already should be. The level of genuine Judaism. The level of humanity.

About the Author
Joel Haber (aka Fun Joel) is a licensed Israel Tour Guide. Born and raised in New Jersey, he spent many great years in NYC, and a few more in LA before making Aliyah in 2009. Interests include Israel, food, and making people happy.
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