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The Bombing and Bloodbath in God’s House

A Palestinian gunmen today walked into Merkaz Harav Yeshiva gunning down eight boys in the middle of prayers. This horrible act of terror is but another sad chapter in this 60-year war. Yet, it represents an emerging trend in the sorry state of relations between Palestinians and Israelis–one based in the house of study. As this war continues, it’s bloodying and blurring the lines between what is politics and what is theology, what is sacred and what is profane, and what is holy and what is secular. A 60-year battle is being re-turned into an eternal war.
To understand the significance of this act one needs to understand who and what is Merkaz ha-Rav. Simply put, the act is nothing short of a Jew walking in to Al-Ahzar University or Notre Dame and wantonly killing Christians taking the Eucharist or Muslims prostrating themselves to Allah. Mercaz is the leading religious Zionist learning center. It is also a hotbed of settler ideology and the recent events will only further radicalize the student body.


There is much to be said regarding this scene of bloodshed occurring in this specific house of study. There is also much to be said about the holy books lying on the ground strewn with blood. There is also much more to be said about what it means that is horrid act took place right before the festival of Purim when Jews in Persia thousands of years ago overcame the threat of annihilation. But now is not the time for academic conversations and intellectual meanderings about warring ideologies and fundamentalisms.
Now is a time to weep, to weep for the dead, to weep for what has been made profane, for what cannot be celebrated and for what cannot be saved.
Now is also the time for Muslim’s around the world to express their commitment to te project of humanity. Let me just say for record shame on every Muslim who does not outright condemn this heinous crime. Shame on every Muslim cleric who tries to wash his hands by saying “what do you expect when Israel…” as if this is what we should expect from any living creature.



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Al Eastman

posted March 7, 2008 at 4:14 pm


I must agree with Rabbi Stern’s closing paragraph:
“Now is also the time for Muslim’s around the world to express their commitment to the project of humanity. Let me just say for record shame on every Muslim who does not outright condemn this heinous crime. Shame on every Muslim cleric who tries to wash his hands by saying “what do you expect when Israel…” as if this is what we should expect from any living creature.”
Unfortunately, except for those here in the US of A, it is rare that we hear of a Muslim cleric’s condemnation of the acts of these fanatics. One day, perhaps……



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klauden

posted March 8, 2008 at 3:31 pm


Horrific! The imagery is horrific. Its one thing to see fallen soldiers
on the field of combat-another to witness inside a ‘holy’ sanctuary.
Bloodied bibles strewn on the floor……..young mens fingers wraped
around the pages of text. This hostile ‘retribution’ on each side has
to and must desist. BUT HOW? That is the sad question which begs for an
answer. Perhaps the ‘answer’ lays inside one of those sacred bloodied
texts whose young finger had paged and being read at the time.
Rabbi Stern, i’am ashamed of the ‘human race’ once more.
klauden-



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writer2consultant

posted March 8, 2008 at 5:15 pm


The Palistinians are acting like Palistinians again for some reason. Go figure? They are aware that they cannot survive without the Jewish presence yet they show hatred and retaliation against the Jews. I think the Palistinians need to get over it and live as one nation peacefully with Isreal. Palistinians must help prevent this violence as much as the Jewish state and the rest of the world.
But the people in the world like violence, sex, drugs and rock and roll. What can I say. Oey Vey! We all need to change what occurs around us and be more aware of our environment and what influences there may be. The television screens and what we are allowing our youth and ourselves to be exposed to in our daily lives, movies, the news broadcasts show horrific things and we become numb to watching it. People used to come and watch beheadings and deboweling along with dismemborment and hangings publically for many years and cheer. We are not different. Even our sports arenas display violence. It is a world problem not just a Palestinian/Israeli problem



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Dave

posted March 9, 2008 at 10:54 am


Are there not religious schools in Gaza-many I would imagine…



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jon01

posted March 9, 2008 at 1:09 pm


Shalom Aleichem.
With all due respect Rabbi, unfortunately I must take issue with your closing paragraph.
First I’m unclear on the meaning of the phrase “their commitment to the project of humanity”, both on what this project is and when a true Muslim ever made a commitment to it.
Second you state “shame on every Muslim who does not outright condemn this heinous crime”. I’ve had a morbid fixation with the “conservatives” on Calgary’s talk radio and heard a few interviews with members of the moderate Muslim Canadian Congress. These people readily make statements like “The problem with Moderate Islam is that there is no theological basis for it”. I’ll presume your suggestion that these clerics should feel shame for not speaking out against this attack is made either in denial or well meaning projection.
Third: “as if this is what we should expect from any living creature”
Perhaps you’re not a fan of TV nature programs or have not spent much time in the wild rawness of it. Living creatures act this way on a regular basis, and this without “religious fundamentalism” to spur them on. For example, are you familiar with what happens when a new male lion takes over a pride? His actions are only slightly less barbaric than those portrayed in movies like Tears of the Sun.
In my opinion, while the incident at Merkaz is sad, these relatively rare acts of terrorism pale in comparison to what is experienced continually in nature and by millions of other people around the world. I recommend we honour the memory of those killed by being candid about the events, rather than making disingenuous comparisons to an idealistic, Utopian portrayal of Nature.
Chimo



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Elisheva

posted March 9, 2008 at 1:55 pm


With all due respect Chimo I disagree on your comparison between the environment, living creatures, and humanity. Although humanity is part of the animal kingdom, we were given a soul and rationale different than the rest of the animals. (That’s what I believe the Rabbi meant)What the lion and the other animals do deal with pure instinct of survival. A perfect balance that nature maintains. And since you are familiar with Nature you should know that the way the animal kingdom behaves is the natural selection of survival of the best specimens, control of over-population, etc.
But, after thousands of years of development, growth, and maturity I believe it’s time for humanity to behave different than the animals. If radical islam can’t contribute to this development of growth and sharing with other human beings then it is below the level of being classified as human. This is also true for all intolerant groups including the Nazi,the egotistic,those who want to enrich themselves through oppression, those looking out the self alone, etc. This behavior is even lower than the animals (beasts) for it is not done because of a process of natural selection but arise of the worst instincts of a negative side that is not ever present in animals.
I still want to believe that there will be a day when such “beasts” will disappear from the face of the Earth since they are neither human or animal.



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max ellis

posted March 10, 2008 at 11:45 am


Rabbi Stern- Should not mention be made of Baruch Goldstein coming in during moslem prayers in Hebron and gunning down worshipers there? Does Barch Goldstein reflect the same part of Settler Orthodoxy that Merkaz HaRav represents? I am not saying all the students there would be like Goldstein just that he- educated at Yeshiva University- was part of the Gush Emunim that arose from Merkaz HaRav and that Rav Kook’s son helped to foment.
So Merkaz HaRav is not like Notre Dame or Al-Ahzar. Your link to the Wikipaedia of Merkaz does not address the settler movement much but among the former sudents listed is R. Moshe Levinger- probably the best known ‘zealot with a rifle’ of the Settlers aside from Baruch Goldstein. This attack was horrendous and the blood lust involved is to be comdemned but was Merkaz HaRav selected rather than another Yeshiva for a reason? I suspect so and that the Settler movement and the yeshiva its sons select for study was the target, and the political role of the Settlers can not be ignored in this attack.



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Al Eastman

posted March 10, 2008 at 2:52 pm


Mr. Ellis, the Baruch Goldstein shooting was, to the best of my knowledge, an isolated event. To compare that one incident to the myriad Muslim murder/suicides in Israel (and around the world) is to me disingenuous.
Furthermore, to even suggest that the recent shooting was somehow tied to an event that occurred on February 25, 1994, OVER FOURTEEN YEARS AGO, to me, suggests someone looking to justify Arab atrocities against Israel’s Jews. Your logic escapes me!



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Dave

posted March 10, 2008 at 3:14 pm


‘Was Merkaz Harav selected rather than another yeshiva for a reason?’ No Islamicist group has said there was any distinction between this yeshiva and any other. Why do you?



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max ellis

posted March 12, 2008 at 12:10 pm


I was not making a direct causal link with Baruch Goldstein but to look at attacks at religious institutions. If you think Baruch Goldstein was a singular act,then you ar eithe to young to remember or have forgotten various acts of a jewish terrorist cell about 20 yesrs ago that went around putting bombs at islamic colleges, under buses, and other religious school in the West Bank -and to which the Israeli govermnment had linked R. Moshe Levinger as an influence. No islamicist group has to say why they chose Merkaz HaRav, to necessitate pointing out that the yeshiva where one choses to study is often chosen for political as well as ‘religious’ and location of a particular rebbe reasons.
Ne need not have to posit an equivalence of acts to suggest we not forget other elements in the picture. To take my note about the Gush Emunim, settlers, and Merkz HaRav as justification for acts is to misunderstand me. It also is a refusal to take the leaders of the settler movement at their word as to their objectives and to refuse to see the yeshiva as a political player- the religious zionist movement and Black Hat movements are quite diffrent politically and represent not only separate parties but varying political views of necessary actions. When yeshiva students leave the doors of the yeshiva and go directly to set up new settlements against the express direction of the Israeli government, who is undermining democratic Israel now?



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Al Eastman

posted March 12, 2008 at 5:36 pm


Mr. Ellis,
You made a vague reference to “…various acts of a jewish terrorist cell about 20 yesrs ago that went around putting bombs at islamic colleges, under buses, and other religious school in the West Bank -and to which the Israeli govermnment had linked R. Moshe Levinger as an influence.”
Please, edify me. WHAT “…terrorist cell”? Also, would you please cite your source for “…to which the Israeli govermnment … linked R. Moshe Levinger…” You apparently have made a comprehensive study of Rabbi Levinger’s activities against the Arabs in Hebron (and elsewhere?). My admittedly cursory review of some sites Google provided made no mention of the foregoing. References to his convictions by Israeli courts were provided.



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max ellis

posted March 13, 2008 at 11:18 pm


In response to your request for a citation for my references to a jewish terror cell and R. Moshe Levinger I also performed a cursory review of sites through Google and provide the follow as an easily obtianed description of the Jewish terror cell and reference to R. Moshe Levinger. This was in fact 28 years ago but in addition in 1985 R. Levinger was convicted of homicide.
Jewish Terrorists Try To Kill Three Mayors Of Palestinian Cities
By Donald Neff
It was 18 years ago, on June 2, 1980, that Jewish terrorists tried to assassinate three Palestinian mayors. Bombs exploded in the cars of Mayors Karim Khalaf of Ramallah and Bassam Shakaa of Nablus. Khalaf lost a foot and Shakaa both legs. A third bomb planted in the car of El Bireh Mayor Ibrahim Tawil was discovered before it could injure him.1
The bombings occurred at the end of the 30-day mourning period for six Jewish settlers killed in Hebron on May 2 by Palestinian terrorists. A day after the Hebron killings a group of 20 Jewish settlers from Kiryat Arba reacted to the massacre by secretly forming a Jewish Makhteret—underground—to strike fear in the Palestinians. The group was known as TNT—Terror against Terror.
TNT was led by Menachem Livni, commander of a reserve army battalion of combat engineers and a follower of Gush Emunim leader Moshe Levinger. Livni later recalled: “I met with Rabbi Moshe Levinger, and I expressed my view that for this kind of task pure people should be selected, people who are deeply religious, people who would never sin, people who haven’t got the slightest inclination for violence.”2
Reported Robert Friedman, an expert on Israeli extremism: The Makhteret “would become the most violent anti-Arab terrorist organization since the birth of Israel.”3
TNT was active over the next four years until the gang was finally arrested in 1984. A study of Jewish terrorism between 1980-1984 showed a sharp increase in Jewish terrorist incidents. There were 30 in 1980, 48 in 1981, 69 in 1982, 119 in 1983, and 118 in 1984. The number of Palestinians killed in the incidents was 23, with 191 injured.4
The New York Times reported in early 1983: “Bombs have been planted at mosques. Shots have been fired into Arab homes and automobiles. Arab youths accused of throwing stones at Israeli cars have been seized from schoolyards by angry settlers and taken to settlements or military headquarters….In the past, vigilantism in the West Bank usually went unpunished, for settlers argued effectively that the army was not doing enough to protect them in a hostile environment….Most of the clashes in the last few years in which settlers have shot and killed Arabs have produced no arrests, and none have resulted in a conviction.”5
TNT’s bloodiest act came on July 26, 1983, when masked gunmen invaded the Islamic College in Hebron and killed three Palestinian students and wounded 33 other students and teachers. Despite the carnage, Gush Emunim leader Levinger declared: “Whoever did this has sanctified God’s name in public.”6
TNT’s potentially most dramatic act came on Jan. 27, 1984, when it tried to blow up the two holiest Muslim shrines in Jerusalem—the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa mosques on the Haram al-Sharif, known to Jews as the Temple Mount. TNT members smuggled 22 pounds of explosives and 18 hand grenades of Israeli army issue onto the Haram al-Sharif. The terrorists were discovered by a Muslim guard and fled before they could be arrested.7
Yehoshua Caspi, commander of Israel’s southern police district, said the army-issue hand grenades pointed to Jews as the perpetrators. He had good reason to be suspicious. During the previous month, 13 Israeli army hand grenades had been discovered planted as booby traps at mosques and churches in Palestinian villages. Three Palestinians—a Greek Orthodox nun, a Muslim imam and a Muslim worshipper—had been wounded in explosions.8
It was in late April 1984 that TNT was finally broken. More than three dozen Jews were arrested after three members attached bombs to five buses parked beside the homes of their Arab drivers in East Jerusalem. Shin Bet agents had infiltrated the group and dismantled the bombs before they detonated.9
The trial ground on for 13 months and was highly unpopular among a number of Israelis, who were sympathetic with the accused terrorists.10
Three Jews were convicted on July 22, 1985, for the Hebron Islamic College slaughter and other crimes, while others were exonerated or convicted of lesser crimes and mainly pardoned. The convicted murderers were TNT leader Livni, 41, and members Shaul Nir, 34, and Uzi Sharabaf, 28. All were highly regarded in the Jewish settler community, well educated, very religious, and Livni had a distinguished military record. They were sentenced to life imprisonment, but served less than seven years, including the time of their incarceration during the trial.11
Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, May/June 1998, Page 81
I would prefer to end this thread and exchange now- thank you.



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Yechiel

posted March 19, 2008 at 10:27 am


This was a tremendous tragedy. It is yet another motivation for the Israeli government to end its illegal occupation which holds three million people hostage every single day. We should give the Palestinians back the land we took from them and begin paying them reparations as soon as possible. Otherwise, we are simply maintaining conditions that guarantee yeshivot and other institutions will be attacked over and over again.



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