Shame and Pride

There’s a couple of things that happened in Israel the last couple of days. Things that are… well… hard to explain… to understand… to digest.  Because some guy, who proclaims he’s a religious Jew, decided to skip the part about God judging us, and instead decided to take on the role of God himself.  He tried to murder people at a Gay Pride Parade, because he, this self-appointed judge, decided that it was okay to do it.  Now he may claim to be religious and he may claim to be moralistic and he may even claim to be a good Jew, but he is none of those things.  He is a person filled with hatred and an enemy of decent society.  And someone like that deserves to be removed from society.

Then, in another horrific attack, some as yet unidentified people decided that they would attack a family of Palestinians in an arson attack for some crazed reason and ended up killing a little toddler, injuring his family and ruining many many lives in the process. This was a terrorist attack – designed to terrorise the innocent, because what is more innocent than a small toddler sleeping in a cot, unaware of the evil that dwells around him?

When I think of these two appalling events, it fills me with a sense of shame – shame and profound disappointment.  Not shame because I did it or support it or condone it or think in some twisted way that it’s okay.  But shame, because I am a Jew and this was a Jew who committed these acts at the Gay Pride Parade, and an as yet unknown assailant for the attack on the Palestinian family which some people are attributing to Jews, even though no hard evidence exists yet of that. But to the world Jews are not seen as individuals and never have been.  Our enemies that seek us out do not inquire about our opinions or our views or our feelings.  We are Jews – and that is enough.  And when my fellow Jews commit acts that rebel against the laws of nature, I take it personally and I am disappointed.  And although these crazed actions of crazed people (who might or might not have been Jewish) do not represent us… nevertheless we expect more of ourselves.  We expect ourselves to be better.

But there’s another side to this and that is that I also feel a sense of pride.  Pride as to how we have reacted to this evil unleashed.  Across Israel and the Jewish world, there is no celebration, only shock and disgust at these actions.  There are no guns being fired in the air.  Sweets are not being handed out to children.  There is only condemnation by everyone across party lines and political affiliations.  There is only determination to find those guilty.  There is only resolve to punish those to the fullest extent of our laws.

When people say Israelis and Palestinians are the same, they should look at the reaction of their respective societies.  In Israel, there will be no hero’s welcome for these murderers.  There will be no town squares named after them.  There will be no visits from the president to their families.  And their families will not be receiving a pension for their actions.  There will be only disgust and repulsion and rejection.  As it should be.

I was in Israel on the night of the 4th of November, 1995 – when Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by one of our own.  I witnessed a society that fell into a deep sense of shock and sadness.   But I was also at Kikar Rabin a week later when Israelis got together peacefully to commemorate Prime Minister Rabin and to remember him.

And despite the sadness and sorrow that was felt by all, Israel is a rightly proud society that could have torn itself apart, but instead ultimately came together.  And just as on that night, Israel will not be defined by the actions of some crazy people, but will instead be defined by how it reacts to them.

About the Author
Justin Amler is a South African born, Melbourne based writer who has lived in South Africa, New Zealand and Australia.