Jerusalem had a grim reminder Thursday night that the Jewish blood sacrifice did not disappear with the destruction of the Holy Temples. It was a reminder that terrorism in Israel does not emanate only from Judea, Samaria and Gaza, a reminder that the Jewish blood sacrifice yet flows through the heart of the Holy Land.
The massacre of eight young Torah scholars and wounding of 11 others by a lone Arab gunman at the Yeshivat Merkaz HaRav Kook was a nightmare from several different perspectives.
The scenes were horrific enough to prompt one of our editors at Israel National News (http://www.israelnationalnews.com/) to preface his report on the attack with the warning that his article contained graphic images. The option of reading the report without all those disturbing photos of blood-soaked tallis katans was made available through a special link.
The knowledge that a tip to police of an imminent attack on the capital was not enough to prevent it from happening is frightening because the comfortable thought that “forewarned is forearmed” has now been debunked.
This tragedy succeeded, because there were assumptions made by some of the authorities that the terrorist would come from outside the area of attack. Security checkpoints hastily placed in a tight ring around the city were wasted – because the terrorist came from within the circle.
It was an “inside job” in the truest sense.
The terrorist was a 25-year-old Israeli Arab citizen, complete with an Israeli ID card (teudat zehut), a resident of a neighborhood in the eastern section of the city, who had driven children and adults back and forth from schools in the city – including the Yeshiva. He was known and trusted. And therefore not suspect.
Many Palestinian Authority Arabs and Israeli Arabs work for and together with Jews in this country and there are still some Jews who have not yet learned to hate. Now the question is: which of their friends and workers can be trusted, truly?
Many relationships have been formed between Israel’s Arabs and Jews, some that have a basis in truth. But the problem is, it is impossible to know if or when the party will be over.
The vast majority of workers in Jerusalem’s hotels are Arabs who live in the eastern part of the city. There are many who work in hospitals around the capital as well, especially during the Sabbath when Torah law restricts Jews from performing certain actions.
Monit (taxi) drivers, bus drivers, workers in restaurants, open-air markets and building companies… Israeli Arabs in many ways are more integrated into Jewish society than one might realize.
This terrorist with the familiar face walked into the Yeshiva carrying a simple cardboard box. Anyone seeing him would have assumed that he was bringing supplies for the Rosh Chodesh Purim party scheduled for later that evening.
After all, he was not a stranger.
He knew that, and was confident that he would not be stopped. And he was right; no one checked the deadly contents of that box, which carried two guns and many clips of ammunition.
It was so easy.
Rabbonim who contend that Torah scholarship is as much a weapon to be used in war as a uniform and a gun found to their sorrow that the battleground has now indeed been brought to the study hall.
The terrorist killed five teenagers and three adults. He wounded 11 others, most of them teens as well. It’s enough, more than enough, but could have been so many more.
Had it not been for a part-time student armed with a gun, and a nearby resident who, as an IDF officer was trained to know the difference between Purim firecrackers and real gunshots, the attacker might well have murdered many others.
Thank G-d for the Jewish warriors who were as competent with a physical weapon as they are in Torah study.
This is Israel. The battleground for the Holy Land begins and ends in Jerusalem, the heart of the entire world, as it has for millennia.
The heart ached as we prepared for the imminent arrival of the Sabbath Queen. It bleeds for the stilled breath of those whose hearts beat no more. But battered as it is, the Jewish heart is steadfast and whole.
And although the bodies of eight young men now lie within the Land itself, the souls of those scholars will fight the battle on a different, more exalted level.
May they be strong advocates on behalf of our People as the Land embraces the discarded vessels that held their holy sparks.