Thursday, March 17, 2011

About the Itamar massacre

Some have wondered why this blog has not mentioned the horrific murder of the Fogel family in the Jewish community of Itamar on Friday, March 11th.

Be assured that the murdered and their family members have been in my mind since I first read the news Saturday evening after the Sabbath.

Frankly, my silence is attributable to being as the proverbial deer blinded by the headlights of an approaching car. I’ve been frozen not only by the attack but the implications of the attack and the world’s response to it.

When the Associated Press could only conclude its Sunday report of the massacre by stating that the community of Itamar is “home to some of Israel’s most radical settlers,” a line picked up by the New York Times, my fear that we are sinking to the lows of pre-war Nazi Germany in the demonization of Jews became more real.

In that vein, I came across the following poem by Uri Tzvi Greenberg written in response to the Holocaust.

To God in Europe

We are not as dogs among the gentiles: a dog is pitied by them
fondled by them, sometimes even kissed by a gentile’s mouth
as if he were a pretty baby
of his own flesh and blood, the gentile spoils him
and is forever taking pleasure in him.
And when the dog dies, how the gentile mourns him!

Not like sheep to the slaughter were we brought in
trainload but rather-
through all the lovely landscapes of Europe-
brought like leprous sheep
to Extermination itself.
Not as they dealt with their sheep did the gentiles deal with
our bodies;
they did not extract their teeth before they slaughtered them
nor strip them of their wool as they stripped us of our skins;
nor shove them into the fire to turn their life to ashes;
nor scatter the ashes over sewers and streams;
like this that we have suffered at their hands!
There are none-no other instances.
(All words are shadows of shadow)
This is the horrifying phrase: No other instances.

No matter how brutal the torture a man will
suffer in a land of the gentiles
the maker of comparisons will compare it thus:
He was tortured like a Jew.
Whatever the fear, whatever the outrage,
how deep the loneliness, how harrowing the sorrow-
no matter how loud the weeping-
the maker of comparisons will say:
This is an instance of the Jewish sort.

What retribution can there be for our disaster?
Its dimensions are a world.
All the culture of the gentile kingdoms at its peak
flows with our blood,
and all its conscience, with our tears ....
(Tr. Robert Friend)

I conclude by reminding myself that it’s necessary for me to double my efforts to understand the message of this disgusting act of violence and to teach that lesson to our friends, neighbors, media people and elected officials. So I’ll ask God to give me the strength for that because my tank is getting perilously low.

Stephen M. Flatow

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