The end of this week brought us the news of two horrific attacks in Israel. In one, a Jewish man stabbed six people at the Jerusalem Pride Parade, which celebrates the Israeli LGBT community, leaving at least two people with very serious wounds. In another, unknown assailants firebombed a Palestinian family’s home in the West Bank, killing an 18-month-old child and leaving his family gravely injured, with burns covering most of their bodies. Hebrew graffiti left on the home suggested that this was a “price tag” attack carried out by Jews. Both of these awful acts of violence have been condemned by the Israeli government as hate crimes and have caused outrage in Israeli society. Prime Minister Netanyahu called the firebombing a terrorist attack on Palestinians that will not be tolerated. Huge forces have been mobilized to find the attackers and bring them to justice.
While the reactions of both the Israeli government and the Israeli people are reassuring, we also need to look more deeply into the forces that drive these attacks. When political opinions turn into hatred, when shouts of disagreement are replaced by knives and bombs, when Jews turn from argument to violence, something has gone very wrong inside our Jewish communities. As Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said, “A people whose children were burned in the Holocaust must search our souls at a time like this.” We need to look inward and commit ourselves more fully to finding ways to disagree without condemning each other, to make our political arguments without personally attacking each other, and to face the fears and anxieties that come from within us without turning away from the human face of the other that calls us to behave humanely toward them, no matter how much we may disagree. The rabbinic tradition teaches us that strong conflicts can be discussed in an atmosphere of respect and love for those with whom we argue. We need to model that behavior in our own, very diverse community and spread that message out into the world. May these awful events inspire us with the urgency to make this task our own.