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Thirty Days Later

Dear friends,

Thirty days have passed since two perfectly sane men, men with family’s and jobs, entered the Bnei Torah synagogue and committed pre-meditated murder. Their village, Jabal Mukabar is right below the Haas Promenade. In Southern Jerusalem, not far from East Talpiot and Armon HaNatziv. If you want to see Yerushalaim from South heading North, this is one of the most beautiful places to do so. Avraham who was looking for Mount Moriah, (where the Bais HaMikdash was built hundreds of years later) must have seen it from this angle.

The homes in the village are mostly one family dwellings in the typical Jerusalem stone that is used throughout the city. There are a number of multi-storied buildings, gardens, and paths, and of course the minaret from which the kadi preaches love and hate, violence and compassion in the same sermon. It looks like any other placid and somewhat quaint village that dots the hills around Yerushalaim. The two men who equipped themselves with guns and a cleaver left the charm of their village to head towards Har Nof.

They earned their livings here.

Their sister is a social worker with Jerusalem’s municipality. They, like the other people of Jabel Mukaber, which is the home of quite a number of Terrorists Past. see people like me every day, and at the same time don’t really see them at all. They see one dimensional caricatures, captioned “Other” “Enemy” because I am not one of them. That’s enough to make me an enemy. They have learned to disengage from seeing of the subtle human dignity and vulnerable frailty that makes us tick. It would be easy to say that these two men were victims of their educations, and if only they had opportunities to interact with real Others, and learn more about what they are, things would be different. It hasn’t worked out that way. Education has provided the two men who set out to murder complete strangers the words and the skills needed to get Jabel Mukaber into the 21st century, but it hasn’t changed the inner workings of the village. What on earth were they thinking when they tied their shoes that morning? The Torah gives us some insight. The truth is, that this insight is the reason that I “brought you” to Jabel Mukaber.

The inner dimension of What Went Wrong in Yishmael is discussed in the Zohar. Both Avraham and Yishmael excelled in kindness. The difference between them is their point of departure. For Avraham did chessed out of humility. His humility was so deep that he said to G-d, “I am dust and ashes.” He was so humble that it was second nature for him to empathize with everyone he encountered. The same humility that he felt when he recognized that he lives in a world that is G-d’s creation and that he is one of them, let him see anyone else as also being G-d’s creation, and made him exquisitely sensitive to each individual who crossed his path needs and wants because he felt that they were part of him. Yishamael was deeply spiritual and at the same time as Hagar’s son had an unquenchable love of freedom. He submits to no authority any more than a lion or tiger would. He wants to give if giving buys him dominance. If it doesn’t, he is out of the game, and viciously attacks anyone who he feels competes with his desire to be top dog. There is chessed, but it is corrupted by ego. His spiritual heirs, the two men who left Jaabel Mukaber that morning, can’t bear my presence in a land that they claim. They can’t bear my breathing their air, walking their earth and they set out that morning to set things straight.

Tonight there will be a gathering in which the lives of their victims will be held up to the public. They were all different, but they all followed Avraham’s choices, not Yishmael’s. The real question is where does that put you? Making no change is a choice, just like making a change is a choice.

Tomorrow there will be Tehillim and learning at Kever Rachel leaving from Neve at 3:30. Its purpose is to replace darkness with light, trust in Hashem, and prayers for the surviving victims of that day’s treachery. Wednesday morning there will be an event in the Great Synagogue with the goal of creating tangible and positive goals for change. I am fully aware that you aren’t going to be at any of this. The reason that I am telling you about these gatherings is so that you can be there vicariously at least for a couple of moments, asking yourself tow questions. Do I want to be a giver? Do I want to do it like Avraham or like YIshmael? Am I on the bus, or off the bus?
On the subject of chessed, Maya Clausner who many of you remember isn’t well, and would love visitors. She is in the hematology department on the second floor of the main building in Hadassah, room 13. She wants friends to drop by, especially (but not only) those who know her.

With the initial 30 days over, most of us will go on to the next adventure that Hashem has in store, with love, awe and optimism. There is a lot to be thankful for. My son-in-law is doing well, and the kids are doing their home made version of play therapy, playing a ghastly game of “attack” where they kill each other all Shabbos afternoon. I just came back from the bris of Eitan ben Sara Mualmi’s brand new grandson! It was beautiful. The family is so positive and life-affirming. They had it in a hall with music! He couldn’t come because he is still hooked up to various devices at Hadassah, but they made real-time video for him. Consciously or subconsciously the family decided that this wasn’t going to be a bitter sweet event. It would only be sweet, and indeed it was. Keep the tefillah going, especially for Chaim Yechiel ben Malka Rotman, who so far hasn’t regained consciousness?

Love always,