As the Jewish people spend Tuesday and Wednesday celebrating Rosh Hashanah, the New Year, we ask ourselves the most important questions about the year ahead and what we hope to make of it – questions including who shall live and who shall die. Now, Jewish terrorists in Israel have offered their own twisted version of an answer, with the attempted murder of Israel Prize winning, Peace Now activist, Professor Zeev Sternhell.
And because I have recently called on the religious leaders of other communities to take a strong stand against the terror committed and celebrated in the name of their own traditions, I must do no less now. Because of that, and because I am personally horrified by these events, I call on all Jewish leaders, regardless of personal political opinion, to condemn this action and to place that condemnation at the center of their Rosh Hashanah messages.
It is most important that those who support the settler community do this – for the integrity of their cause, for the safety of the State of Israel and for the good of humanity. And if there is some problem integrating those three, then there is a problem with their understanding of one of those concepts.
I know how easy it is to be carried away by a messianic/apocalyptic version of settling the Holy land because I once had that vision and acted on it. I appreciate the thinking that animates those who placed the pipe bomb at Professor Sternhell’s door because there was time, almost 25 years ago, that I supported similar actions. And I know that only when those who are sympathetic to the politics of such fanatics stand up to them about their methods, does a real breakthrough occur.
After thousands of years of praying about who shall live and who shall die, we Jews can actually answer that question for ourselves more now, than at any time in our history. It is unimaginable that after millennia of relative powerlessness, we have recovered real power only to use it on others as brutally as it was used on us.
I am no pacifist, and I do not believe that the use of all force is morally equivalent. But I am certain that a state whose citizens use their faith to defend subverting their own country, risk the viability of their faith, their nation, and their own existence.
We can do better, and we must — both because we demand it from other communities that must also do better, and because that is the message of these first days of the Jewish New Year. It is the birthday of the world, we can be reborn. The only question really, is who do we want to be?