The Heart-Hardening of the Jews: A Corollary of Purim?

“Recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world” (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Preamble). It derives from the Torah: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” (Lev. 19:18). “You shall treat the stranger who resides with you as the native born, and you shall love him as yourself” (Lev. 19:34). Hillel, Jesus, and Akiva called selfless love the essence of Judaism. It applies even to enemies: “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration without distinction of any kind” (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 2). “If you come across your enemy’s ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to return it. If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help them with it” (Exodus 23:4-5). “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:44). How does it happen, then, that Judaists throughout the world choose to party even to drunkenness while children, mothers, elders, and other innocents are attacked daily by the Israel Defense Force?

Netanyahu denies Israeli responsibility. He claims Hamas, by using innocents as shields, is responsible for any harm that comes to them. Let’s assume he’s right. Would that excuse Judaists from the empathy they owe their neighbors, even their enemy neighbors? Let’s assume with Netanyahu that there is no alternative solution to the problem of Hamas but to obliterate the membership. Let’s assume that innocent deaths may be inadvertent. Does that free Judaists from the obligation to mourn the carnage?

Jews of Biblical times could be hard-hearted (Exodus 32: 27-29, Numbers 31, Deut. 13:6-10, Joshua 6:20). But from 135 CE, the end of the bar Kokhba revolt, to 1914, the end of the “Fiddler on the Roof” era, there is no evidence of Jews uniting for violence. Jews served in armies certainly, but as individuals, not as organized Jewish militias. I call this long era, the Golden Age of Judaism.

But the Golden Age, with its Golden Rule, is out of vogue. Israel imposed a total siege on Gaza without a whimper from rabbis. Would we want a siege imposed on Israel if rouge Israelis had butchered 1200 innocent Palestinians? And how can there be no hand-wringing when children and mothers are killed daily by Israeli bombs? Jews throughout the world are partying tonight. How do you do that when such horror is being perpetrated daily by Jews? Even if you agree with Netanyahu’s assumptions, don’t you have to agonize over the innocent suffering?

Purim’s called a minor festival, but it’s the only synagogue service that encourages debauchery. That leaves a major impression on children, who learn to enjoy Purim long before they know what it’s about. Eventually they learn it’s in response to the reprieve from annihilation that Ester won for the Jews of Persia in 450 BCE. Not many ask about the details, but they explain what’s happening in Gaza, and not happening in synagogues.

The King granted Ester whatever she wished, and she wished for revenge (Ester 8:8-11). In two days, the Jews slew 76,000 Persian men, and then rested for a day of feasting and merrymaking. How do you make merry after such slaughter? Were there Jewish casualties? It’s hard to imagine Jewish merrymaking amidst Jewish casualties, and even harder to imagine ignoring Jewish casualties if there were any. But it’s impossible to imagine an attack by 76,000 Persian men causing no Jewish casualties. So, maybe those Persian men didn’t actually attack. Maybe some of them didn’t even threaten to attack. And, then, maybe, the Jewish attack was not justifiable homicide. We’ve been teaching Jewish kids to celebrate mass homicide, if not mass murder. Is that really what we want to teach? It’s a long way from the Golden Rule and Universal Declaration, but it explains the Purim parties and apathy toward Gaza’s suffering.

Why didn’t Ester ask for peace instead of revenge? The king offered whatever she wanted. Imagine if she had anticipated von Suttner, Gandhi, King, Chavez, Tutu, Mandela, Betty Williams and Mairead Maguire? What a legacy she would have left. But when Jews learn from childhood to celebrate mass homicide, or mass murder, it’s no wonder Israelis can kill civilians while Judaists watch apathetically. There’s a price for such hardness: It kills Judaism.

We can’t correct the past, but we can use it to correct the present and future. Israel is homeland for the Jews. To become, in addition, a home for Judaists, it must stop the siege and build for Palestinians what it builds for Israelis. Does that seem impossible?

For those who think Palestinians can never forgive Israel for this siege, harken back to Japan after the fire-bombings and atomic bombs. No people ever had more reason to hate their conquerors, or more ability to resist them. But the Japanese turned in their arms and embraced the Constitution MacArthur wrote for them. Why? Because they knew that Constitution was better for them than anything any emperor had ever done. That’s the blueprint for reconstructing Gaza. Israel must do more for Palestinians than has ever been done for them. And the most direct route to that goal is to rejuvenate Judaism by loving all Arabs as Israelis love themselves.

About the Author
Doug Dix, Ph.D., is Emeritus Professor at the University of Hartford and Secretary/Treasurer of MOMS: The Fund for Mothers with Young Children. He's been married to Rosenbloom Cohen for 53 years and is father of seven, and grandfather of thirteen children. He teaches that the family that matters is the ONE we all belong to and offers a blueprint for building that family. This blueprint is based on the Golden Rule, Tikkun Olam, and rejuvenated, evidence-based, Judaism. For 3,000 years, Judaism was the glue that held Jews together and empowered them to survive in the face of fiercest oppression. Now this most ancient religion is endangered, not by enemies, but by Jewish affluence. Israel ranks now among the richest and least religious nations of the world. It's lost its purpose, i.e., to be a blessing to all and a light to the nations (Gen, 22:18, Isaiah 42:6). I will blog to restore this holy mission to Judaism and Judaism to Israel by repairing the world. See "The Health and Wealth of Nations" in current issue of Advance Research Journal of Medical and Clinical Science at link in "How Do You Know" above.
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