There was something impressive and admirable in the way that the ultra-Orthodox community reacted to the shocking terrorist attack that landed on it. Secular society, for whom hatred of the Haredim has become a central value, can learn a great deal from those hated Haredim about how to react to such a terrorist attack and what conclusions can be drawn from the horror. Whereas most Israelis are used to blaming only the perpetrators after each attack, without thinking for a moment that there was also something in their actions that brought on the disaster, there was something very impressive in the way in which the Haredim sought the blame in themselves and their actions. It was not only their acceptance, which stems from their religious faith, that gave them great strength, but this way of examining themselves as well. Even if their religious conclusions are suitable for them alone, their introspection cannot but impress in its daring and its strength. The Palestinians are also invited to adopt this way of looking for the guilty person and the blame in oneself, before blaming the whole world.
The reaction in Israel after every attack is uniform and entirely predictable: After the shock comes the desire for revenge and the placing of blame - on the terrorists who carried out the horrible act, on the Palestinian nation that gave rise to such beasts and on its bloodthirsty leaders who allowed the horror to take place. Nobody thinks to ask, just at difficult moments such as these, what caused the horror. What turned the wheels of hatred and violence and brought them to such depths. What brings a young Palestinian to sacrifice the most precious thing he has, his life, and to a great extent the life of his family as well, to do such cruel things? Is it really only religious incitement, and if so, what about the secular terrorists? Are these really automatic killing machines, and if so, how did they turn into such machines? And what about the horrors of the occupation? Didn't they have an influence? Nobody asks, like the Haredim, if perhaps there is something for which we, the Israelis, are responsible.
The Haredi community is the most hated population in Israel today, after the Arabs. Hatred of the other, racism, chauvinism and acute militarism fuel the most politically correct hatred in Israel, especially in circles that define themselves as liberal and enlightened. A population group that for the most part lives in abject poverty is defined as "parasitic," "sucking the marrow of the state," and "squeezing the udders of the budget," only because most of them do not serve in the army, thanks to the arrangement made by secular governments. In a country where serving in the army is a supreme value, no matter what this army and its soldiers do, the Haredim have become contaminated and ostracized. As in the case of the foreign workers, only after a murderous attack do they receive some humane attention, instead of blatant disregard (of the foreign workers) or hatred and ridicule (of the Haredim).
This same community is now enveloping itself in its profound grief and isn't blaming anyone except itself. In the Haredi neighborhoods in Jerusalem they are asking only: How did we sin? "A surprising atmosphere of reconciliation prevailed after the attack. Although the walls in the neighborhood are filled with old slogans `Death to the Arabs,' this evil spirit disappeared entirely yesterday," reported Lili Galili in Haaretz the day after the attack. The Haredim examined their deeds and tried to understand why this had happened to them. Their religious conclusion doesn't obligate the secular community, of course, but their brave approach is worthy of emulation.
We secular Jews also have to ask ourselves courageously after the attack in Jerusalem, if there was anything in our actions that caused it. Nobody can claim that the attack came as a surprise: Nothing was more expected. The person who ordered the elimination of Mohammed Sidr in Hebron in the midst of the hudna, and earlier the elimination of two Hamas members in the Balata refugee camp, knew for certain that these actions would lead to horrible suicide attacks. Was the price worth it? Are those who ordered these assassinations free of responsibility? Not only the Haredim have to ask such questions now.
The ultra-Orthodox are convinced that the attack landed on them because of their "evil deeds" and because "the people of Israel have not repented." We, the secular community, have to ask whether Israel has really done enough to strengthen the opportunity that sprouted for a moment in the guise of the road map and Abu Mazen's government, or sabotaged it in advance and on purpose. Did Israel do something for the benefit of the Palestinians, or did it do everything only in order to fulfill its duty to Washington, totally disregarding what it is doing to its potential partners for reconciliation?
The secular community must admit frankly that in Jerusalem there is a government that is purposely missing an opportunity for change. A chief of staff who several weeks ago declared the completion of the victory over the Palestinians is now leading us into another useless campaign of revenge and punishment. Nobody is asking: If that's the level of accuracy of his assessments, maybe we shouldn't rely on him so blindly?
Just because of its severity and because of the fact that it came after two quiet months, the attack in Jerusalem should have brought the secular community to do some soul searching. Meanwhile there is no sign of that. The Israel Defense Forces are already galloping forward into the territories, destroying and killing, imprisoning and tearing down, starving and humiliating, promising that this time they will really vanquish the terrorism. Nobody is asking why, until when, and above all, when we will try something else for a change.
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