Jerusalem (Har Nof)


In the middle of prayer, the atrocity at Kehilat Yaakov synagogue in the Har Nof neighborhood Jerusalem, the terrible desecration today is going to sear into Jewish memory. The fight for Israel and Palestine turns into a bitter and blood-soaked religious war of attrition.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
This entry was posted in uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Jerusalem (Har Nof)

  1. Zach, I’m Jewish, and it is not seared into my memory. It is a terrible tragedy, the latest in an endless tragedy. It will be replaced tomorrow by another tragedy, as Israel and the settlers take their inevitable vengeance reprisals. And then the cycle will continue. Maybe it’s my age, but my memory can’t take much more searing. The cause of both peoples would be better served if they forgot more than they remembered.

    • zjb says:

      I’m with you, Chip. I’m not so young myself, but this one’s going to cut deep. The death’s too bound up with too many iconic signifiers. I feel the same way about the 4 boys this past summer. Even with Goldstein and the Merkaz Ha’Rav massacre, these all feel like new lows, things that I don’t remember ever seeing before, the butchering of children and men at prayer. But yes, we could all do without so much memory.

      • Michael says:

        Sounds as if you’re not aware of the 1929 Hebron massacre. Let me remind you, because it sounds rather similar to the current events. A peaceful crowd of Jews held a demonstration at the Western Wall. Arabs perceived this as a provocation, and spreaded rumours (false, of course) that Jews have massacred Muslims. Incitement in mosques and newspapers (Jewish newspapers, too – albeit in a much lesser extent) led to an outburst of violence against Jews. The Jewish community of Hebron has been offered protection by the Hagana, which it declined on account of being on good terms with the local Arabs. The consequences – the desecration of synagogues and the vicious murder of dozens of Jews, including children, and the ethnical cleansing of the Jewish community from Hebron are well-known. We could do with a lot more memory, as those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

      • zjb says:

        Michael, your sketch of 1929 is selective. The straw that broke the camel’s back as a march to the Wall by members of Beitar. The demonstration was intended to be provocative and provoke it did.

      • Michael says:

        Right, waving flags is a reason to murder hundreds of people. How about reacting peacefully, even when “provoked”?

        Tensions surrounding the Western Wall were nothing new. The Beitar demonstration was an excuse to riot, not more. And what “broke the camel’s back” was not the demonstration, but the false rumours that the demonstrators attacked Arabs and cursed the Prophet.

      • zjb says:

        I think these provocations and counter-provocations work in tandem vis-a-vis relations defined by social violence and fueled by rumor. My point is not to justify either party.

      • Michael says:

        When a party A is peacefully demonstrating and party B responds by stabbing party A to death, where is your point then? It seems pretty clear-cut to me. I know who’s doing the violence (what is social violence anyway? another Orwellianism?) and who’s listening to evil rumours, and who’s giving in to the vilest urges of the human nature. Do you?

      • zjb says:

        My point is that I don’t think the first parties are “peacefully” demonstrating, especially today when the Temple Mount demonstrators are backed up by the power of a state. I think you look at things in a one-sided, one dimensional way, as do many on the right and as do many on the left.

      • Michael says:

        I think that the freedom to express your opinion in a non-violent way is a very basic rule in a democracy. If others do not like what you think or feel, they may express their feelings, too, but without hurting people. This does not apply to the demonstrations of Beitar in 1929, by the way, that were not supported by the state.

        If this is the way you think about it, I wonder what is your opinion on the gay-pride events in Jerusalem? Are they also provocations that shouldn’t be allowed? Because I see those as a legitimate expression of opinion, and the violent people who oppose them as mindless idiots who should mind their own business.

        It cuts both ways, you see. Arabs, Jews, gays, women – in a democratic state they all are entitled to their freedom of speech. As long as they are not violent. And its the job of the state to guarantee that. Whether the demonstrators are backed up by the state (which is not really the case here) or not, is irrelevant.

      • zjb says:

        No, a gay pride march down King George does not fall into that category. But yes, a gay pride march through Mea Shearim on Yom Kippur would be a provocation, just like rightwing marches through East Jerusalem, let’s say, on Yom Yerushalayim, or the Temple Mount demos on Sukkot.Women of the Wall is an interesting case where the identity of a public space is contested. But it also depends upon the level of intimidation that marchers bring to a march.

      • Michael says:

        That’s not how the opponents of such a march view it. They see any and all expression of homosexuality in Jerusalem as an offence to the holyness of the place. Just like to some, an Israeli flag anywhere in Jerusalem is an offence to the Islam. Like at the Western Wall. Or the Olive Mountain.

        Again, the right to freedom of speech and expression is way too fundamental for a functioning democracy to uphold. Even if some are offended by it and start rioting, forbidding demonstrations is just not the answer.

        And if people start murdering other people claiming to be offended by actions of yet another people, giving in will only encourage them to step up the violence, because it achieves their objectives. So because gays are attacked in Jerusalem, regardless of where they wave their flag, should gay events be forbidden? Or is it more sensible to apprehend their attackers? If Arabs are angry with Jews, and vent their anger by random acts of violence, do you remove the Jews and tell them to shut up or do you protect them and punish the Arab criminals?

        If people are offended by other people, they need to speak up. Not ram cars into babies. Not shoot and axe random people. No matter how offended they may feel, that is just not the option. Remaining polite and civilized, even if you feel mistreated is a sign of nobility, not charging on innocents with blood-shut eyes like an evil beast. And a society that rejects people who commit such acts is a better one than one that celebrates them. Regardless of the excuses they come up with for their actions.

        If someone wanted an example how to treat a demonstration you find repulsive – here’s a good one:

      • zjb says:

        Look, it’s not that I don’t agree with you, Michael, about the murders and murdering, and about what ills Palestinian society. But I think you tend to overlook the political contexts in which this violence gets generated. I tend to see these things in terms of vicious circles, whereas I feel like you, as well as my friends further to my left, tend to draw straight lines.

      • Michael says:

        And I think that you’re way too quick to contextualize the violence, and by doing that provide an aura of justification for these deeds. In fact, I think that you and your friends in the left contribute to the perpetuation of the violence by not unambiguously condemning the violence, without connecting it to acts that “justify” it, or “provoke” it.

        The vicious circle is a single one – Arabs do not want a Jewish state. In fact, as the Arab Winter clearly shows, Arabs do not want a secular state, too. Regardless of whether its a Jewish, a Kurdish or an Arab one.

        In my view, your attempts to link the violence to anything else – occupation, Nakba, are all based on the false assumption that there is something else besides removing the Jews from what briefly used to be called Palestine that will resolve the conflict. That was clearly shown by the failure of Oslo and subsequent negotiations. An Arab state in Western Palestine was offered and was rejected because it did not solve the “Jewish problem” – the Jews did not want to self-destruct their state.

        Not that removing the Jewish state would do much good – Arabs are remarkably well in bashing each other’s heads, too, with not a single Jew in sight.

        As to the “straight lines” comment – I decline the honour. I am really smart enough to be able to reflect on the complexity of the issues. And I am enough of a liberal democrat to see the value of freedom of speech and its prevalence over someone’s excessively long toes. Something you don’t seem to value much.

Leave a Reply