Jews who love to hate

The recent 12th anniversary of the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was largely ignored in the West. But a fascinating blog post has emerged, written by Yossi and telling of his experience, 12 years ago, when he was still a Yeshiva student, part of an ultra-orthodox community in Jerusalem:

I was a fresh Yeshiva student at that time, and I had no idea who Rabin was.

On Saturday night (the night Rabin was murdered), like every other Saturday night a few of us stayed on studying while the rest went back home or to the dorms. When I got home from studies, there were celebrations, food and music in the dorms, very different from its usual dead state. I asked my friends what the celebration was for, if I made a mistake in the date, since in that month there were no Jewish holidays at all.

One answered – “Rabin died, he was shot!!!”
I asked – “Who is Rabin?”
He answered – “The prime minister”
I continued asking – “Is he Jewish?” (the name Rabin didn’t sound Jewish)
He answered – “Yes, of course”

I asked if it is possible to be happy over the murder of a Jew? And that the bible states that you should not be happy upon the fall of your enemy (”×‘נפול אויבך אל תשמח”), and the Midrash states that your enemy the non-Jew, is all the more so Jewish (”××•×™×™×‘ך הגוי, קל וחומר יהודי”).

He replied – “Why are you disturbing our celebration? Go back to study. The Rabbis said he (Rabin) has a troubled destiny (דין רודף) and that we need to be happy!”

That answer did not satisfy me – I am not cynical nor laughing. Looking back, I don’t understand why that answer looked so distorted because I was raised precisely on these values, like all my friends in the Yeshiva, in an even stricter environment. Today, this answer raises my anger profoundly. How can it be that the State of Israel finances educational institutions that teach people murder; that celebrate when the prime minister is killed??? And what about the enforcement authorities in this country, who do not prevent Rabbis from inciting and teaching what they want, claiming freedom of speech and religion. We forget that we are creating the future generation here, which might already be full of murderers like Yigal Amir. You can already find petitions for his release.
I have to mention that I am proud of my childhood as an ultra-orthodox Jew. I learned many things that secular Israelis will never learn – about myself, my abilities and what real studies are. But that which I am most angry about is the existence of this school of thought that claims – he who doesn’t suit you, his blood can be spilled (”×ž×™ שלא מתאים לך דמו מותר”).

I do not understand this.… 

The extreme, Jewish right is alive and growing in Israel, and they don’t just live in the settlements. Israel has created for itself, after decades of nourishment, funding and support, a fundamentalist fringe that wants to establish a rabbinical, Taliban-style state in the Middle East. As if the Jewish state isn’t isolated enough, the future may well bring a civil-war within Israel’s borders.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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