The Mishnah says that there are four New Years in our calendar but that only on Rosh Hashanah are we universally judged and on Yom Kippur, our fate sealed.
One of the keynote themes reflected in our liturgy is to “avert the evil decree”.
These ten days are a period of reflection and introspection but as a people, the Jewish People, and as the Jewish State, M’Dinat Yisrael – we need to consider the twin evils that are afflicting us as a nation.
Almost simultaneously in late July two terrible atrocities were committed.
The stabbing murder of 16 year old Shira Banki during the Gay Pride March and then the firebombing of the house in which 18 month old Ali Dawabsheh was burnt to death, with his father Saed Dawabsheh dying of his burns just over a week later.
The person responsible for the stabbing was an ultra orthodox Jew who opposes the existence and current concept of the State of Israel.
At time of writing, no-one has as yet been formally charged for the murder of Ali and Saed, Jew or Arab, but it appears that it is almost universally accepted by all political colours in Israel that this was the work of Jewish extremists, probably part of the “Price Tag” (Tag Mechir) group, or the so called “Hilltop Youth”.
Whether it will turn out that it was Jews who did this or not, we know that we do have people within our midst who have threatened to do so.
In a somewhat different way to the Haredi Jew who stabbed Shira Banki, these Jews are also opposed to the existence of the State of Israel.
That is, both of these incidents reflect the desire to bring about an end to the State of Israel as she currently is – a democratic, open and tolerant society.
The most profound statement I read about the atrocities that took place was as follows:
“Because of fractions of evil, we are all made evil.”
The first of the evils were the acts themselves and anything that consciously or inadvertently led to, assisted or encouraged them to happen.
Between 1979 and 1984 the Machteret (the Jewish Underground) carried out a series of attacks and car bombings on Palestinian leaders resulting in the Mayor of Nablus losing both his legs and the mayor of Ramallah losing one leg.
In 1983 in a retaliation attack for the murder of yeshiva student Aharon Gross, two men entered the Islamic College of Hebron and killed three Arab students and wounded thirty three.
From April 1984 Israel’s security service started to arrest members of the Machteret and eventually some twenty five Jews were charged, with three serving seven years in prison.
Never the less, this was indeed a failure of Jewish leadership and responsibility by not acting sooner.
The Machteret it turned out, was organised, well armed and had access to explosives.
Price Tag has a somewhat similar philosophy and it is our collective responsibility to follow the lead of Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Rivlin in condemning any rationalisation of either of the evil acts of July.
Yes it is possible to argue, as I have, that such unity of purpose and action should have begun some time ago as this fundamentalist anti-Zionist ideology was developing.
But if anything at all positive can come out of these recent acts of terror, it is the unified and universal denouncement of them by Israeli leaders and sincerely felt repulsion right across Israeli society.
The second evil however is that despite these murders representing but a tiny tiny number of Jews, the whole nation is being tarred.
Just as with the Machteret, we are talking about very small numbers of fundamentalists.
Unlike the Machteret, it is harder to deal with this group as in the words of Avi Dichter (former director of the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service):
“What we are seeing now is a disorganised group of young people. I’m happy to say they also have very meagre means”
The Shin Bet estimates that they are a group of several dozen mostly under age Jews who live in seclusion, completely insulated from all signs of Israeli sovereignty, which they do not recognise.
They are supported logistically by perhaps some several hundred additional people.
Till now their crimes have been of property rather than physical attacks on people. The recent house burning would seemingly represent an escalation, if indeed it turns out that these Jews are responsible for this act.
Israel treats murderers as criminals, not as heroes.
Israel seeks to arrest them and bring them to justice, not to promote them.
Israel does not name public squares in their honour and offer financial rewards to their families.
Israelis do not rejoice at what they have done but instead are ashamed by their actions.
Israelis go to comfort the families of the victims, Jew and Arab, not the families of the murderers.
Israelis enter a period of self examination and ask themselves how Israeli society could allow such philosophies to develop and whether Israeli society was in any way culpable for such ideologies sprouting.
Israelis condemn the evil that has taken place.
As we do so and as is our obligation, we cannot allow the fundamentalists to succeed in having Israel and the Jewish People collectively made out to be evil because of the actions of this tiny minority.
It is a matter of continuing double standards and immorality that reaction to extremely rare acts of Jewish terror which brings Jewish condemnation and police action is so dismissive and denigrating of Israelis as a whole and yet multiple and frequent acts of terror by Palestinians and their allies encouraged and rewarded by their leadership and praised by their people, are considered unworthy of mention, let alone criticism.
We cannot allow this hypocritical methodology to poison the minds of our children, to undermine the perception of the goodness of Israeli society as a whole and to diminish the reputation of the State of Israel.
Those within our midst, whether Jewish or non Jewish, need to be challenged each and every time they assert that because of these fractions of evil, we are all evil.
That does not absolve us from recognising theses evil acts for what they are, from bringing the perpetrators to justice and from doing all in our power to stamp out their ideologies.
These ten Holy Days are a time for responsible leadership to stand up against both evils – the evil some Jews do and the evil of unjustifiably tarnishing the entire nation.
May our words and actions indeed act to “avert the evil decree”.
Dr Ron Weiser AM