Who Is the Victim?

Shlomo Hamelech, whom Chazal call the wisest of all men, writes in Koheles; “Elokim yivakesh es hanirdaf,” Hashem will seek out the one who is pursued. Harav Yehoshuah of Kutna, zt”l, pointed out an obvious oddity in the verse’s choice of words: presumably, it would have been more appropriate to say that Hashem “saves” the pursued one. His answer goes to the core of any conflict; determining the identities of the aggressor and the victim.

Quite often, the party who is viewed as the victim of pursuit is far less innocent than he may seem. As such, Hashem, so to speak, conducts His own research into the situation and determines who is the true aggressor.

As many readers have likely heard, last week, an individual associated with the chareidi community violently attacked several people who were participating in a parade, held in Yerushalayim, to “celebrate” patently immoral behavior. Tragically one of the victims, a 16-year-old girl, later died of her wounds. The attacker had just been released from a 10-year prison sentence for committing the exact same crime at the same event in 2004, and obviously suffers from severe mental illness. What has ensued since is an unrestrained attack in the public forum on religious Jews, ostensibly as a result of this unfortunate incident. Moreover, it became a convenient pretext to further legitimize immoral behavior and delegitimize any condemnation of it.

Sometimes, one must look more carefully at a situation to accurately determine who the assailant is and who is the assailed.

We find ourselves in a very unfortunate situation. A deranged individual has repeated his heinous crimes under the mantle of religious zealotry. Disturbed people always find an excuse under which to release their insane tendencies. In no situation, the present one included, does this have anything to do with religion, values, or any other manufactured justification, but with mental instability.

However, as what has since happened in this instance bears witness, the actions of those on the fringes of society are able to set a ripple effect in motion that feeds hatred and intolerance on all levels.

In any dispute, there is a rhetorical advantage to being in the victim’s shoes. It gives that party the opportunity to respond disproportionately, with the full support of any third parties involved.

Anybody who looks at this matter with a modicum of honesty admits that the person who perpetrated this attack was moved to act by insanity and not by Judaism. As such, we must analyze the root cause of what triggered the reaction that has played out.

The zealous drive, although obviously not wanton acts of violence, is legitimate. It has become increasingly prevalent to condone a lifestyle that is anathema to the core religious and moral beliefs of a large part of the population not only in the courts and legislatures, but with lightshows, parades and other abrasive “in your face” methods. The even-handed observer would admit that this is not a civilized way of dealing with a strong and significant clash of value systems.

This would be the case in any locale. However, this issue is incalculably compounded by the intentionally provocative choice of venue for this specific event, Yerushalayim.

Yerushalayim cannot be viewed, even from a secular perspective, as just another cosmopolitan city. For millennia and to the present day, it is a center for the three major western faiths, and particularly Judaism. This is the eternal uniqueness of Yerushalayim. The choice of a city holy to billions of people for this salute to immorality was hardly coincidental. In their view, is this a wise manner of dealing with a fundamental difference of opinions?

Furthermore, to use such an attack as a tool to label anybody who identifies with a traditional belief system as a criminal is in itself a despicable act. Such rhetoric from intelligent and mentally sound public figures is as equally worthy of condemnation as the brutal acts of a lunatic.

Prime Minister Netanyahu stated that “justice will be dealt to whoever is responsible for this act.” Who is the object of this remark, the madman who committed this crime? Or, is this yet another attempt to use the despicable actions of an unbalanced individual to trample on the beliefs of innocent people and to brand them as legitimate targets and pariahs in society. Those who advertise themselves as people who care about the unity of the Jewish people, or at least of the State of Israel, should know better than to make such irresponsible and suggestive remarks.

Elokim yevakesh es hanirdaf. Let us honestly and accurately identify who is the victim and who is the perpetrator.