A public rally would send the right message

Galit Lev-Harir is a frequent contributor to the Light. Galit lived in Israel for nine years. She and her husband, Elie Harir, are members of Congregation B’nai Amoona.

By Galit Lev-Harir

Rabbis and leaders of the St. Louis Jewish community have discussed whether or not to have a rally expressing support for Israel given the current wave of terror, which began in September, and escalated on Oct. 1, when two Jewish Israeli parents were shot dead in front of their four small children. Subsequent violence has been characterized by Palestinian attacks on unarmed Jews, including stabbings with knives, screwdrivers, and axes; throwing rocks, boulders, firebombs, and pipe bombs; shooting guns and rockets; and ramming vehicles into pedestrians at bus stops and train stops.

Israel solidarity rallies have attracted thousands of supporters this past week in Paris, Madrid, and Rome. In the United States, there have been mass rallies in New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Miami. Additionally, hundreds of Jews, Arabs, and Palestinians attended a march in Jerusalem last Saturday night calling for an end to the violence, and calling on Jews and Arabs to live together in peace.

Local Jewish communal leadership has to date not chosen to proceed with a community rally. As stated by Andrew Rehfeld, CEO/President of Federation, on his Facebook page: “At this point (more precisely, as of last Tuesday) our community leadership was of near consensus that it is not the right time for a rally. This decision is based on a strategic concern—rallies are important messages not only of support, but also to the general community precisely as you have recognized. We are concerned, deeply concerned, that the crisis in Israel is likely to get worse before it gets better.”

How much worse does the situation need to be before our leadership feels that a rally is justified? Currently, many Jews are afraid to leave their homes, as people are literally being stabbed on the street. One attack was against a 70-year-old woman. In another attack, a teenage Palestinian stabbed a 13-year-old Jewish boy who was riding his bike out of a candy store.

Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the Palestinian Authority, has praised the current attacks, calling the terrorists “heroes” and “martyrs.” In the past, he has named streets after terrorists, and most recently, he proclaimed that Jews “have no right to dirty the [Temple Mount in Jerusalem] with their filthy feet.” Prior to the start of the current violence, Abbas made several inflammatory statements in Arabic professing that the Jews planned to change the status quo on the Temple Mount. Also, the current violence is a natural consequence of the Palestinian educational system and Palestinian TV, which for years have encouraged Arab children to kill Jews and have praised those who carry out homicide attacks. 

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It is important to note that there are many Israeli Arabs and Palestinians who have loudly and publicly condemned the current violence and who express a desire to live together in peace with Jews — such as the hundreds who marched in Jerusalem last Saturday night. 

I am appalled by the unwillingness of our St. Louis Jewish leaders to call for a public rally on the heels of the recent atrocious events in Israel.  I sincerely hope they will reconsider their decision, and will decide to hold a rally in partnership with non-Jews who support Israel’s right to exist and who want an end to the violence. This is not a time for silence. In the words of Rabbi Hillel, as is written in Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers, 1:14): “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?”