The murder of a Palestinian toddler in the village of Duma this past Friday arouses shock, outrage and disbelief among Jews everywhere. How could such a thing happen? How could a Jew, a rachman ben rachman, toss a petrol bomb into the room of a sleeping child?
Even more disturbing is that last week’s atrocity wasn’t the first of its kind. Last summer, a 29-year-old Jew and his two 16-year-old accomplices decided to “avenge” the kidnapping and murders of Gil-Ad Shaer, 16, Eyal Yifrach, 19, and Naftali Fraenkel, 16, Hy”d. They did so by abducting Mohammed Abu Khdeir, 16, from his Shuafat neighborhood in Yerushalayim and cruelly murdering him in the Jerusalem Forest.
Moreover, in a series of criminal acts that some seek to sanitize as “price-tag attacks,” meaning revenge for wrongs done to Jews, usually in the context of harming the settlement movement, churches have been desecrated and, last month, burned down.
Though the individuals who commit these acts are a tiny minority — more often than not young, impetuous and immature — the damage they do is so great that the matter must be taken very seriously. In the immediate term, the army and police must pull out all the stops to arrest those responsible for Friday’s outrage, and the courts must ensure swift and fitting punishment. The message must go out to misguided youths and to the world at large that Israel shows zero tolerance for such actions.
In the long term, parents and educators should do a cheshbon hanefesh and ask themselves not just what messages they are giving the young, but how these messages are being understood and internalized by their recipients.
For instance, when it comes to the concept of nekamah, there appears to be a fundamental misunderstanding. The ring-leader who abducted Abu Khdeir last summer told investigators that he saw himself as avenging the killings of the Fogel family, Hy”d, and Shalhevet Pass, Hy”d, the baby who was shot in Hebron, in addition to the three kidnapped youths.
Where did he get the preposterous idea that nekamah is in man’s domain? It is solely for Hakadosh Baruch Hu, Who metes it out fairly and effectively. Even the Egyptians at the Yam Suf received three different types of death — sinking into the water like lead, stone and straw — depending on the level of their crimes against the Jews.
Second, violence isn’t a deterrent. To the contrary, it brings more violence and puts more Jews in danger. The attack of Friday, for instance, inflamed the region and brought a huge surge in attacks over Shabbos; it is only b’chasdei Hashem that none of them resulted in casualties.
Third, the actions of these hotheads are an incalculable chillul Hashem. Those who think such actions bring honor to the Jewish people must understand that they bring the greatest shame and disgrace.
Such attacks erode Israel’s image in the international arena and undermine her claim to being a democracy that guarantees the rights of all religions and protects the safety, welfare and human rights of all her inhabitants, including the Palestinians.
They are exploited by Israel’s enemies who make the preposterous claims that terrorism in the Middle East is an even playing field, with Arabs killing Jews and Jews killing Arabs. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Not only are the numbers grossly disproportionate, but the attitude of the Palestinians toward their murderers stands in stark contrast to the way Israel relates to those of her citizens who go astray.
As Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu pointed out Sunday, Arab leaders not only don’t condemn the killing of Jews, but they name public squares after the murderers and pay generous allowances to their families.
In Israel, by contrast, there is wall-to-wall condemnation for these deeds. The president and the prime minister come to the hospital to visit the wounded. There are joint prayer groups between Jews and Muslims and huge rallies in city squares across the country protesting the heinous acts, and unfairly blaming the entire “settlement” movement for the crimes of the very, very few.
While we resolutely refuse to join in the indiscriminate and unfair condemnation of an entire movement, we do make an impassioned plea of its leaders, mechanchim and social workers. The vast majority of your youth are fine, upstanding people who would never engage in wanton vandalism and certainly not in the kind of unspeakable atrocity we saw in Duma last Friday.
But there are the exceptions, few and far between, who have a history of deviant behavior. It is up to you — who are in a position to spot the problems early — to turn to the appropriate authorities, including social workers, health officials and community police, to get help for these disturbed youngsters in time to prevent tragedies that could chalilah bring terrible consequences for all of Am Yisrael.