R Pini Dunner:
Dear Members and Friends
Once again, and with a heavy heart, I find myself writing an email about the senseless killing of innocent Jews in Israel. This time the brutality and barbarity of the act, and its place of perpetration, defy our ability to absorb it, never mind react to it. Four Jews davening in shul, hacked, stabbed and shot to death by ruthless murderers, whose hatred enabled them to enter a sacred place and kill, kill, kill. Puddles of blood in a shul, with the dead and injured lying on the ground still in their tallit and tefillin, is a scene that we associate with the darkest periods of Jewish history, not with an era of Jewish prosperity and freedom in our own country.
The fact that Jews can be attacked by terrorists while praying in a synagogue, in an act planned by a terrorist group, and then widely celebrated by Palestinians across Israel, must force us to question whether it will ever be possible to find common ground with these people in any kind of 'peace' agreement. And for the news media to declare that Arabs are being provoked by 'settlement building' and Jews demanding the right to pray on Temple Mount, is beyond sickening. It is like saying that because someone built a non-permitted building near one's house it is then legitimate to go on a killing rampage in a church because one has been 'provoked'. If you don't like settlements, use peaceful methods of protest. If you feel that Jews ought not to have the right to pray on Temple Mount, use peaceful methods of protest. Killing is murder. Killing people with knives and meat cleavers and axes makes you a savage. It seems that 'savages' is becoming the most apt definition of the Palestinians. And by the way, I am not suggesting that praying on Temple Mount is the right thing to do - there is no doubt that it is halachically problematic. But to deny Jews the right to go there and pray, and to declare that the holiest site of Judaism must remain Judenrein, is simply unacceptable. It should be our choice, not the choice of Muslim bigotry.
But that is a discussion for another day. Today we must simply mourn and grieve the 4 wonderful men who lost their lives this morning, while praying in shul. Rabbi Moshe Twersky, formerly of Boston; Rabbi Aryeh Kupinsky and Rabbi Kalman Zev Levine, both originally from the US; and Rabbi Avraham Goldberg, originally from Liverpool, and later London. All of them had emigrated to Israel. Their deaths leave 26 orphans.
There were also a number of men who were very seriously injured in this morning's attack. Here are their Hebrew names - please pray for them:
Shmuel Yerucham ben Baila
Chaim Yechiel Ben Malka
Avraham Shmuel Ben Shaina
Eitan ben Sarah
Aryeh ben BrachaFinally, one of the rabbis killed this morning was Rabbi Moshe Twersky, son of the late Rabbi Isadore Twersky, who was the son-in-law of Rabbi J.B. Soloveichik, Rosh Yeshiva of RIETS at Yeshiva University, and the leading light of Modern Orthodoxy in the twentieth century. I feel, therefore, that it is apt to reproduce the following quote from Rabbi Soloveichik, written in the 1960s. It is particularly pertinent because the Rav was not a man who was considered extreme or reactionary:
"The fifth knock of the Beloved is perhaps the most important. For the first time in the annals of exile, Divine Providence has amazed our enemies with the astounding discovery that Jewish blood is not cheap! God did not seek honor and recognition. He wanted Pharoah, Moses' contemporary, to know that he must pay a high price for his edict that "Every male child born shall be cast into the river" (Exodus 1:22), His present desire is that the blood of Jewish children who were slain as they recited the eighteen benedictions of the daily [Amidah] prayer shall also be avenged. When God smote the Egyptians, He sought to demonstrate that there will always be accountability for the spilling of Jewish blood. At present, it is necessary not only to convince the dictator of Egypt [Nasser], but the self-righteous Nehru, the Foreign Office in London, and the sanctimonious members of the United Nations that Jewish blood is not cheap... A people that cannot defend its freedom and tranquility is neither free nor independent."
My friends – this morning our brothers, including Rabbi Soloveichik's grandson, were slain while reciting the eighteen benedictions of the daily Amidah prayer. Jewish blood is not cheap. In the same way that Israel exchanges 1000's of prisoners for one captured soldier, so too Israel must let the world know that when innocents are slaughtered it will make no compromises in ensuring the safety and security of its civilians, and of every Jew. We expect no less. God expects no less.
May the injured be healed, may the dead be avenged, and may we soon see the ultimate redemption of Moshiach, and the rebuilding of the Third Temple. Amen.
Rabbi Pini Dunner