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Tisha B'Av: Senseless Violence Then and Now
by dropsofhoney
 Drops of Honey
Aug 05, 2014 | 22981 views | 0 0 comments | 671 671 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
     Today is Tisha B'Av , the date on the Jewish calendar that our tradition tells us that both Temples were destroyed in ancient Israel.  Jews around the world are fasting, reading the book of Lamentations, and mourning the loss of our ancient centers of worship and Jewish life.  The holiday is not observed by many Jews in the same way since the founding of the modern state and the reuniting of Jerusalem, but that is a subject for another post.  Today I want to use a famous piece of text from the Babylonian Talmud, Yoma 9b, about this holiday that is painfully on point in our time as well as the time of our Sages.

     "Why was the First Temple destroyed? Because of three evils in it: idolatry, sexual immorality and bloodshed . . . But why was the Second Temple destroyed, seeing that during the time it stood people occupied themselves with Torah, with observance of precepts, and with the practice of charity?  Because during the time it stood, senseless hatred prevailed. This is to teach you that senseless hatred  is deemed as grave as all the three sins of idolatry, sexual immorality and bloodshed together" 

     Today, thankfully, a 72 hour cease-fire in the war in Gaza between Israel and Hamas is holding and there is hope for a negotiated permanent cease-fire.  Since Hamas first started firing rockets at Israel from Gaza almost a month ago, over 1,500 Palestinians and at least 65 Israelis have been killed in the escalating violence.  Senseless hatred is clearly a factor in this crisis.  It has been increasingly and understandably common in the past month to hear both Jews and Muslims the world over calling for the death of the other where ever they may be.  Acts of anti-Semitic as well as anti-Israel vandalism and intimidation have been reported all over the world that have been tripped off by the crisis, and the boiling anger against not only Hamas but all Palestinians has been more visible among Jews now than I have ever seen.  The Palestinian-Israeli crisis has been convulsing through the middle east for over a century and neither side is completely blameless for why it has not been resolved to this point.  However, the current violence is recognizable to some extent, and while not desirable or endorsable it is at least understandable. Hamas has continued to terrorize all of Israel with indiscriminate rocket attacks since almost immediately after Israel turned the Gaza Strip over the Palestinian Authority in 2004, and Israel has responded by essentially keeping Gaza under siege and laying waste to it when the rocket attacks become unbearable.  We can argue who is more in the wrong in this situation or what ultimately will need to happen for peace, but the reasons for the violence can at least be understood (i.e. it makes a certain amount of sense) regardless of which side's viewpoint you endorse.  

     But we cannot forget on today of all days that the precursor to this latest round of violence was four murders motivated by senseless hatred.  Three Jewish Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and killed in the West Bank by Palestinians, and a Palestinian teenager was burned alive in retaliation by Jewish teens.  None of these deaths make any sense.  The attackers did not know their victims nor were they provoked by them.  The victims were just targets of opportunity for people filled with senseless hate to unleash it upon without any thought to its repercussions. Even though the authorities arrested and charged the Jews with murder, Hamas took the event as an excuse to launch rockets at Israel in retaliation.  Now, a month later, that narrative of revenge has been lost as the violence has intensified and it is now being justified by the historic arguments of self-defense and righteous indignation.  However, those four fatal acts of senseless hatred have led to close to 2,000 deaths and countless wounded. Those casualties were foreseeable by (as we say in this town) anyone who had a lick of sense, but the hatred in those perpetrators was so strong that it knocked the sense right out of them.   

     The Middle East today is not a barren world of barbarians.  There are schools and universities all over the region and especially in Israel and the Palestinian territories.  There is global miedia access and digital knowledge resources all over.  No one can say that the average Palestinian or Israeli doesn't know any better or isn't educated enough to make rational decisions.  These perpetrators knew exactly what they were doing and did not think enough ahead or care to do so before they acted, and they touched off a war in the process.  Their hateful acts were senseless and the entire region, including Jerusalem, is that much closer to another episode of destruction that will be remembered for a long time to come.  On today of all days, I hope the negotiators for the permanent cease-fire will make sensible decisions for everyone and move the underlying, historic hatred away from the destructive flames of war.
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