September 15, 2005, Jerusalem:
It seems that the consensus of the major media outlets and governments the world over is that Arabs are subhuman.
How else can you explain their deafening silence in face of the destruction of Gaza’s synagogues? I searched for the screaming headlines and official condemnations, but few were to be found. Where was the outcry?
Imagine the world’s response if the story was reversed: Jews were burning Mosques in Jerusalem… The world would be thundering against this barbaric, pointless and cruel act; Israel would be internationally condemned; Jewish leaders the world over would convey their sorrow over this despicable act of destroying holy sites of another religion.
But with the Palestinians, it seems, all is permissible. In their struggle against Israel there are no boundaries that may not be crossed. Kristalnacht has re-occurred and no one uttered a cry.
Imagine if the Palestinian Authority ensured that the synagogues were left standing in a respectful fashion? The Palestinians would have been hailed as heroes, as peacemakers. But apparently they are savvier than we think. They decided that demonstrating any signs of respect for Jews or Judaism might weaken their claim that Israel is an illegal entity.
We used to think that it was the corrupt leadership that was solely responsible for the foolish policies. That the average Palestinian wanted to be able to go to work, send his children to grade school, maybe even university, and improve his family’s daily quality of life. But the facts, sadly, tell a different story.
The people have power. Palestinians are masters at creating massive demonstrations almost instantly. The sight of tens of thousands of demonstrators assembling is common. Where are the Palestinian people demonstrating for democracy? Or against Hamas and other armed groups that even the Palestinian police fear? Don’t they realize that sane businessmen won’t invest in a lawless Gaza? A Gaza where houses of worship are defaced and greenhouses with potential to bring in significant income are looted?
Funds numbering in the billions of dollars have already been allocated to help rebuild Gaza. Quickly forgotten are the billions of dollars that disappeared under Arafat’s leadership. Why isn’t the Palestinian Authority given 5 million dollars at a time, and when it becomes apparent that the initial 5 million dollars have been used to actually help the Palestinian people, then they will receive the second payment of 5 million dollars and so on? Let’s see basics like schools not preaching hate and violence to children before billions of dollars are siphoned away by those in power leaving a poor and deprived population.
The Jewish response
We cannot rebuild the physical structures of the approx 20 synagogues destroyed in Gaza. But we can rebuild their spirit and their vibrancy. Let our existing synagogues become living monuments for the houses of G-d burnt in the Gaza strip. Let us rebuild the sacred homes of Gaza through our prayers, our studies, our tears, our love, and our strengthened commitment to our very own shuls.
As the high holidays approach, let us not forget the images of 20 Jewish shuls gleefully destroyed this week. Let us commit ourselves to ensure that the voices of prayer pervading those very structures till a few weeks ago continue to vibrate in our heartd, souls and houses of worship the world over.
Avi Weinstein is Director of Programming for the Mayanot Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem and can be reached at email@example.com.