Today, as I knew they would, crazed Palestinian mobs are desecrating 25 synagogues in Gaza, setting them on fire and destroying what it took years to build. I have visited almost all of these synagogues and prayed in many of them. I cannot even begin to put into words the pain I feel today, the anger, and the sadness.
The world, as I expected, is silent. The UN’s Kofi Annan was asked to protect the remaining synagogues, but we hear nothing. Empty buildings, they will protest quietly, and what did you expect? Unspoken is the silent message that while the Christian world and the Jewish world would respect places of worship, the Moslem world cannot be held to the same level of accountability. Did you expect any different? No, I did not, though it would be a mistake to assume that knowing they would destroy these holy places in any way lessens the pain.
We can’t say that we expected no better, of course, because that would be deemed racist and wrong. It would be insulting to the honorable religion of Islam, even though it is the truth. It would imply that their values are different than ours, even though they are. It would suggest that their culture is one that lacks respect for other religions, one deeply embedded in violence and one that cannot tolerate and respect the beliefs of others. We can’t say all that, and so the lie will live on, the destruction go unpunished, the truth left unsaid.
The world will quietly offer Israel their condolences and throughout the world, in places like Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, and even in Poland, Romania, Hungary and the Ukraine, people will wonder if maybe they could destroy a nearby synagogue too. Why should the land on which these buildings sit continue to be ”wasted” when there are no Jews around? Could there be a way to rid Europe and Arab countries of these buildings in which Jews once prayed? The first step, of course, is to deny.
Palestinian President Abu Mazen has become a rabbi, apparently. He can now determine the holiness of a synagogue and has issued his rabbinic doctrine that these buildings are no longer synagogues, no longer holy. If you take the wooden pews, the musical instruments, the Bibles, hymnals, altar furnishings and vestments out of a church, is it then permissible to burn it down? Does it lose its sanctity because the inner contents have been removed?
Perhaps others are wondering if they too could use the Palestinian excuse that a building stripped and desecrated is no longer holy and can be destroyed. How many Jewish cemeteries are there in Europe? Are Jews ever likely to return to Iraq? Must Tunisia protect the remaining synagogues? What of Morocco?
Luckily, our holy places will be saved by the most unlikely source. Abu Mazen has one problem in making his claim believable. His own people reject his words. Watch the pictures of them dancing on the rooftops of these buildings, see how they set fire to these holy places.
In his mad rush for the border, Sharon gave the Palestinians millions of dollars in infrastructure, public buildings, lighting, roads and more. And yet the pictures in the media are all the same. The Palestinian mobs are frantic and out of control in their bloodthirsty quest to destroy the synagogues because they recognize that these places are holy to the Jews. Of course they are synagogues, today as they were yesterday. The ground sacred, the buildings holy.
What interest would they have in simply destroying a building? They will scavenge around and take what they can…but the synagogues are being destroyed. Why burn and damage them if not for the intense hate-filled desire to destroy something that represents Judaism, a non-Moslem place of worship?
But it is not only the pictures from Gaza that cause me great pain today, not just the hatred and destruction that we all knew was inevitable. Add in a debate going on now in England. At first glance it seems like it is a different topic entirely, and yet, in its own way, it is the same debate, albeit in a more civilized environment. Perhaps commemorating Holocaust Day is a little too Jewish, say a team of advisors to Prime Minister Tony Blair. Perhaps it would be more politically correct to call it Genocide Day so as to avoid insulting England’s growing Moslem population.
Words fail me. How many fronts can we fight at one time? How appropriate that this debate would be raised on days when synagogues are again being burned and destroyed. Would England deny the unique place the Holocaust has in world history? Are the Holocaust and the few days we commemorate it not sacred? There have been many attempts at genocide throughout the centuries, but none were as systematic and endorsed as the Holocaust.
Nowhere was the machine of a government focused so totally on obliterating all traces of a religion or people in such an efficient and barbaric way while being accompanied by the silence of nations who could have and should have done something.
Not since Nazi Germany have so many synagogues been destroyed. Moslem intolerance is well known and yet the world continues to be silent. Why was the world silent when 2000 Hindi temples were destroyed by Moslems in India? When will the world finally react to Islamic religious intolerance? Would the world remain silent if 25 churches were burned in one day? Where is the Vatican’s voice of outrage as the synagogues in Gaza burn? I can only imagine what fury there would be if Israel were to now demolish 25 mosques on Israeli soil.
I stood in the Yamit Yeshiva in Neve Dekalim last week, the famous synagogue in the shape of a Jewish star. Rabbi Abu Mazen has promised that this building will be destroyed. Apparently its continued existence would be an insult to the Palestinians who do not believe in the sanctity of any religion but their own.
As I walked around, there was a swirl of action. Soldiers moved quickly back and forth removing whatever could be taken. The books had been removed, the holy Torah scrolls long since taken away so they would not see the shame of what would come. The High Court had not yet ruled whether Israel should destroy the buildings in anticipation of the desecration Abu Mazen and his government was promising. But the soldiers knew destruction was coming soon.
In the end, the Israeli government made the correct choice. We will not destroy synagogues. We will not send a signal to the world that it is acceptable to wantonly destroy the holy places of our religion or another, and so today, as yesterday and tomorrow, mosques will be safe in Israel while synagogues burn elsewhere.
Jews do not destroy places of worship even if the alternative in the end is the desecration of these Houses of God at the hands of rioting mobs who worship terror, incite violence and care not for any buildings or any people, not even their own. The world will not admit it; it can’t be said or written, but Jews honor churches, mosques and synagogues throughout our country and in our communities. Since the Holocaust, the Jewish synagogues in Europe have largely been protected and public outcries have often resulted when desecrations have occurred.
Israelis even protect Arab holy sites when they are built on top of our holy places, as they are on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Joseph’s Tomb, Samuel’s Tomb and the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron.
Make no mistake, the face of the future state of Palestine can be seen in the actions of Palestinians today. There is an impossible divide between our culture and theirs, our dreams and the nightmares they would force upon us.
Jews made their stand yesterday by not destroying the synagogues. Palestinians made their stand today by burning and desecrating them. The remaining question now is what the Christian world will do. Will you express outrage at Islamic intolerance or continue the silence?
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