When is Jewish revenge OK?

Rosh HaShana has always been a time of reflection. A time to take stock in ourselves and the world around us. We have seen the world become a complex theater of terrorism, bigotry, racism and anti-Semitism over the past twelve months. I received a note from my sister in Israel. Every year on the eve of Rosh HaShana she and her husband take their children to pray at the Western Wall. It was a gesture which infused them with a spiritual kick for the Day of Judgment. This year they decided to go to an equally holy place. They went to the graves of the three young Jews, Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaer & Eyal Yifrah, who were brutally slaughtered by Hamas terrorists.

The kidnapping of these three boys did more to unify the Jewish nation than any event in recent memory. We prayed, cried and hoped against hope that they would be safely recovered. The State of Israel did everything humanly possible to try to find the boys. The boys were found but there was no fairytale ending to this story. The Jewish people mourned three more lost princes. Many tears were shed at their funerals. What should the Jewish response be?

Yesterday, Israeli Special Forces found and tried to arrest the brutal butchers who murdered the three boys.  After they resisted Marwan Qawasmeh and Amer Abu Aisheh were killed in a firefight. This was the ultimate Jewish answer. To announce to the world that Jewish blood is not cheap and justice will be done to all those who try to harm Jews.

Simon Wiesenthal said many times that he never pursued Nazi war criminals because of revenge. It was always about Justice. The world must know that revenge is not and never will be a Jewish value but Justice always will be. All those that seek to harm Jews must know that there are ramifications to their actions.

Prime Minister Netanyahu noted at his weekly cabinet meeting that over the past year the Jewish population of Israel has surpassed 6,000,000 Jews for the first time in modern history. This is the only acceptable Jewish type of revenge and perhaps the greatest payback against Hitler and the Nazis.

It was under this backdrop that I attended a rally this past Monday night to protest the metropolitan opera’s showing of ‘the Death of Klinghoffer”. When I addressed the rally I took note of the irony that just two weeks ago Germany put up the first monument to over 300,000 disabled individuals who were brutally murdered and in New York we were glorifying the assassination of a Jew in a wheelchair. As I told Fox news, this is not about the conflict in the Middle East this is simply about lionizing cowardly terrorists who attack those that can’t fight back.

As we enter the new Jewish year, we must support those that fight for Jewish dignity and safety. The State of Israel must be defended. Jews around the world must be defended. Hate, bigotry, racism and anti-Semitism must be defeated. I am proud of the work that we have done over the past year at the Simon Wiesenthal Center. We exist to remind the world that NEVER AGAIN is not just a slogan. We will continue to stand for what is right and just.

About the Author
Rabbi Steven Burg is the Director General - Mankal of Aish HaTorah. He previously served as the Eastern Director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Museum of Tolerance, as well as the Managing Director of the OU and International Director of NCSY. Rabbi Burg has his Masters in Medieval Jewish History and has studied at Harvard and Kellogg Business schools.
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