A Terrorist Taught Me Something This Week

A terrorist murderer and a mosque-arsonist taught me this: There is no such thing as revenge. Revenge implies putting an end to it. There is no end to it.

Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston
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Friends and family attend the funeral of Dalia Lemkus, who was killed in a terror attack in the West Bank on November 10, 2014.
Friends and family attend the funeral of Dalia Lemkus, who was killed in a terror attack in the West Bank on November 10, 2014.Credit: Tali Meyer
Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston

We were hoping for an autumn of healing after a horrific summer of war. We were wrong.

I've lived here long enough to know, though, that in times of darkness, misrule, overreaction, chaos and terror, there are still lessons to be learned.

This week, I found myself learning something from a terrorist murderer and from arson terror vigilantes:

Love the victim. Even if it's much too late.

Love the victim by seeing that person, their family, not reduced to categorizable terms of ideology or nationality or religious observance, but for what they are: Human beings, just like the rest of us. Not targets. Not symbols. People. Beautiful, flawed, loved. Robbed of their lives, the lives they were meant to live out, by a villain. A criminal.

I learned this because I had never heard of Dalia Lemkus before Monday, when a terrorist tried to crush her to death with his van, and, failing that, stopped, grabbed a knife, got out of the van and laced the blade again and again into her neck.

I learned this because she had been killed for the crime of waiting at a bus stop for a ride home, her workday at a Kiryat Gat kindergarten finally over.

And then I learned this, from Sherri Mandell - a remarkable woman whose own son Koby, then 13, was killed in 2001 in another terrorist attack of unbearable brutality - who wrote in anguish and ire and loving kindness this week of "26-year-old Dahlia, who was just getting started in life after finishing college, studying occupational therapy so that she could have a job where she could help people who were sick or infirm or disabled to live in a fuller way."

There will be those who will say that when you see these attacks in their broader context, the actions of the terrorist become understandable.

Just as there are those who will say that that the overnight attack in which a mosque outside of Ramallah was defaced, torched, and badly damaged, should be understood in context. Or, that the overnight firebombing of an ancient synagogue in the Arab-Israeli town of Shfaram - only recently renovated by Arab and Jewish youths in an effort to counter hate crimes - could somehow be made comprehensible.

Not true.

There is no justification or legitimate excuse for any of the crimes committed by terrorists against unarmed, innocent people going about their lives.

An ostensibly religious person who attacks a house of worship is a traitor to his own religion, and to his Creator.

The terrorist's actions are not the actions of his people, his religion, or the nation he wants to see. They are the actions of a criminal. The terrorist is a traitor to his own people.

I also learned this: There is no such thing as revenge. There is hate. There is crime. Each fuel the other. Revenge implies putting an end to it. There is no end to it.

This summer, when Jews kidnapped and burned alive an Arab youth in what they said was vengeance for the Palestinian kidnap-murders of three Israeli Jewish youths days before, Rachel Fraenkel, mother of one of the Jewish boys, spoke out against vigilantes, adding that "No mother or father should ever have to go through what we are going through, and we share the pain of Mohammed’s parents."

There is no such thing as revenge. In the end, there is only what the living can do to support those who have been left bereaved, to help rebuild sacred places destroyed on both sides, to help rebuild trust in humanity destroyed on both sides, and to work, on both sides, to stop violence before it claims new victims.

There is no such thing as revenge. It has nothing to do with self-defense, self-esteem, or bravery. There is nothing godly in it. There is no justice in it.

All too often, there is only the inextinguishable pain of one more person horribly dead. One more family forced to live out its lives with a hole carved into its heart.

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