David-Seth Kirshner
Author of Streams of Shattered Consciousness

Streams of Anxious Consciousness IV

My “rabbi” on most things Israel, Yossi Klein HaLevi, wrote a reminder in the Atlantic this week about the tragedy masterminded by Samir Kunta against the Haran family. In 1979, in the town of Nahariya, a gruesome brutalization of innocent civilians took place. Israel actually considered instituting the death penalty for Kunta because his crimes were so heinous and his acts were so depraved and inhumane.

Yossi’s retelling was a reminder to all about Israel’s vulnerability and fragility and the eerie reminder of helplessness we felt, not long ago.

Haran’s only crime was being Jewish and living in Israel. Kunta was not seeking a partition of land. He wanted all of it to be Jew-free. He did not aspire for two states for two peoples.

Ironically, Samir Kunta was exchanged to Hezbollah, very much alive and nourished, along with four other bloody-handed terrorists for the cadavers of Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser. These two soldiers were abducted from sovereign Israel in 2006.

Fast forward 23 years.

In 2002, shortly after the towers fell in Manhattan, WSJ reporter on assignment, Daniel Pearl was captured in Karachi, Pakistan. There he was tortured and video-taped saying, I am a Jew. He was then gruesomely decapitated for the world to see.

We were reminded that simply being Jewish is a crime for many in the Middle Eastern world.

Pearl was not Israeli. He was not working for Israel. But his identity as a Jew and, de facto, a Zionist, were intrinsically connected.

Fast forward 21 years.

Hamas terrorists behead and butcher and brutalize innocents for the crime of being Jewish.

Judaism and Zionism are strands of the same DNA. For some it is more pronounced while for others it is less prominent. But we cannot divide them or separate their identities. They are rooted together.

The death of more than 1,200 (that seems to be the latest number) was not only because they lived in Israel, but also because they are Jewish. There is no separation for our enemies. There was no division for the Nazis. No division for the Cossacks and Isabelle and Ferdinand didn’t care one iota which stream we were from. It has always been about Judaism. Not Israel. And our enemies don’t care which group we affiliate with or who we voted for, I assure you.

It is so ironic that we spend inordinate amounts of time and energy fighting over streams and denominations and differences and interpretations. How we pray. Who can join our prayer. How we interpret Gods will. Judicial reform. Government leaders. What a seemingly silly act of bickering that divides us.

And then an evil and indiscriminate act happens against some that effect all of us, for the crime of existing. For breathing. For living. All because some haters think our DNA makes us felons.

Ironically, that venom espoused towards us is more unifying than any other concoction ever mixed. It is the antidote to all denominations, differences and flavors.

Fire shapes us. The hotter the heat, the more we bend towards one another. The more intensity of the flame, the clearer we can see.

What a sad and painful paradox.

The Haran family died for being Jewish. Daniel Pearl died for being Jewish. More than 1,200 people died for being Jewish or for living in a Jewish state. And the thing that unites us is the very vice we have been trying to break for generations.

About the Author
David-Seth Kirshner is the senior rabbi of Temple Emanu-El, a Conservative synagogue in Closter, New Jersey. He is the past President of the NY Board of Rabbis and the NJ Board of Rabbis and is a Senior Rabbinic Fellow at the Hartman Institute and serves on the Executive Committee of the JFNA. Rabbi Kirshner was appointed to the New Jersey/Israel Commission by Governors Christie and Murphy. Rabbi Kirshner is a National Council member of AIPAC and an adjunct faculty member at the Academy for Jewish Religion, (AJR). He is the author of Streams of Shattered Consciousness, featured in The NY Times Book Review (Feb '24) and has over 11,000 copies in circulation in its first three months since publication. He has spoken on his book and topics connected to Judaism and Zionism across the world.
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