Monday 2 April 2012

Unspeakable Tragedies

I did write a blog last week, which I was unable to post due to technical problems incurred while I was travelling.  It covered the hideous story of the murder of the innocent victims, particularly young children, at the Jewish school in Toulouse.  It is my conclusion from this event, and from a series of events in which Islamic radicals have killed innocent men, women and children, that the strength of anti-Jewish and anti-western sentiments within the Islamic radical movement are at dangerously high levels.  They are reminiscent of the anti-Semitism that was in evidence prior to the Holocaust, the worst example  of genocide known to man.  There can be no doubt that the program of legitimising the hatred of Jews on an institutional, national and international level that the the Nazis embarked upon, was a key driver in the murder of millions of Jews without any meaningful opposition being raised.  There is clearly an attempt by radical Islamists to recreate this legitimisation, and the UN and other international bodies are still unwilling or unable to do anything to oppose this in any substantial way.

Since that tragedy, a further tragedy has befallen a Jewish family.  This time, the disaster took place in the Israeli city of Rehovot where a father and five children were killed in a house fire.  Perhaps one of the most dramatic parts of this disaster, is the fact that the mother of the family is the only survivor.  Avivit Shaer has been left a devastated and broken woman after losing her husband and five children in the space of a few deadly minutes, when an electric short destroyed her world.  How she is able to survive such misfortune is beyond my comprehension.  There is a view that she may have been better off to have perished along with her family, rather than haiving to deal with the after-effects of this terrible loss.  Only a few days before, she had completed the seven day "shiva" period of mourning for her brother who died of cancer.  She is now sitting shiva for her husband and their five children.

In an emotional scene, Eva Sandler, whose husband and two children were murdered in Toulouse, paid a condolence call on Avivit.  There was no dry eye in sight as the two women comforted each other for their losses, and did all that they can to provide the other with reinforcement for their faith.  Both religious women, they are trying to maintain their belief that this tragedy has happened for the best, and that G-d has good reasons for putting them through such suffering.  Avivit explained that she believes that she may never understand why this tragedy has befallen her, as humans have limited ability to believe G-d's actions and intentions.  This is immense faith coming from a woman who has suffered such extreme heartbreak.  In a show of some of the inner turmoil that her emotions are suffering, Avivit told Eva that at least her family died "al kidush Hashem" - in the sanctification of G-d's name - rather than as the victims of negligence that was the case with her own family.  This is reference to the fact that the Sandler family was murdered simply because they were Jewish, and for no other reason.

Despite the fact that Avivit Shaer feels that being murdered for being Jewish is a more justified and honourable way for a family to meet their demise rather than because of negligence involved in a house fire, it is horrifying that such acts of discrimination are still taking place in a so-called enlightened world.  This type of behaviour is reminiscent of the Dark Ages, when uneducated masses took every word of their leaders at face value and followed their instructions without thought.  The problem is that modern anti-Semitism is not based on lack of education, or blindly following orders as was frequently the case in Nazi Germany.  Mohamed Mehra was clearly influenced and trained by groups like Al-Qaeda before going on his killing spree in Toulouse.  His actions, however, seem to have been undertaken of his own volition, and following his own instinct rather than following orders from others.  This can be more dangerous than the masses following orders of a few leaders.  Under the modern scenario, the source of a racist attack can come from any quarter in a manner that is entirely unpredictable.  This is how young children can be murdered in cold blood in their school ground by a gunmen with the same nationality, and living in the same town.

The fact that such virulent anti-Semitism is in evidence shows some type of failure in society, following the undertakings at the end of the Holocaust.  The establishment of the UN was, amongst other things, designed to prevent events like the Holocaust from recurring.  Despite this, the international community has systematically failed to prevent this in places such as Rwanda, Bosnia and many other locations.  It has also failed to prevent anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiments that have slowly risen to boiling point.  This failure to stem the increase of hatred, racism and discrimination spells trouble for the future.  Racist behaviour leads to further hatred and violence, all of which means that genocides are more likely in the future.

Even though Avivit Shaer has a feeling that losing family members to anti-Semitism is more honourable than loss of life due to negligence, I hold the opposite view.  Of course, I understand that she wishes the members of her family to be remembered for being prepared to stand up for their beliefs and their religion, even at the risk of death, in the way that Rabbi Yonatan Sandler and his children were gunned down.  She may, however, draw some strength that her family had the honour and privilege to exercise their faith and beliefs in the Jewish state before their lives were so cruelly cut short.  The State of Israel is surely the biggest miracle to have occurred in Jewish history, and the Shaer family was a part of this miracle.  It is only through a strong Israel that we can be assured that the interests and safety of Jews around the world will be taken care of.  Unfortunately, even this was not enough to save the Toulouse victims.  Eva Sandler is considering the possibility of moving to Israel to secure a future for herself, her surviving daughter and unborn child.  Unfortunately for the rest of the Sandler family, this comes a few weeks too late.  Avivit Shaer was doing all that she could to encourage Eva to bring her family to Israel.

Our heartfelt condolences go to both families, as well as to the family of 8 year-old Miriam Monsonego who was killed in Toulouse.  May the memories of the departed be for a blessing.

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