So, last week, New York was the victim of another terrorist attack, this time in the southern tip of Manhattan. A year ago, homemade bombs went off on the same day in Seaside Park (New Jersey) and in Chelsea (Manhattan), while a third device was discovered in Elizabeth, New Jersey. In April 2013, three people were killed and several hundred injured when a bomb went off during the Boston Marathon.
At first, last week’s bombing was reported to be road rage. You know, the kind where someone cuts you off and you respond by speeding down a sidewalk for about a mile with a rented pickup truck and mow down scores of people, killing eight and severely injuring countless others. Then, it slowly began to leak out that the enraged driver screamed, “Allahu Akbar!” Oh, well: another Islamic-inspired terror attack. Kind of got used to that after the first World Trade Center attack in 1993, which killed six and injured over 1,000 – only to be outdone by 9/11, which killed 2,996 and injured over 6,000 others.
“Lead your lives normally!” and “New Yorkers are never scared by the actions of these cowards!” our brave politicians encouraged us. Of course, within 48 hours, new barriers were installed by the city along the sidewalks where the “road rage” incident took place to prevent future violent acts. Very normal.
We are supposed to find comfort when we are reassured that these terrorists are all “lone wolves” – that is, they are not connected to a larger organized group. We are also supposed to be reassured when we are told that 95% of Muslims are not terrorists and are law-abiding citizens – no doubt true. So I guess that reduces the terrorist force in America to a mere 100,000. Good to know. I feel better already.
The fact that the terrorists are said to be “lone wolves” is actually more reason to be concerned. What that means is that the guy next door may either be a terrorist or can become radicalized at any given time. The perpetrator of this latest attack was an Uber driver with a wife and three children – just another man making a living to support his family. In fact, a few days prior to the attack, the terrorist gave a lift (through Lyft) to a grandson of a friend of mine going from Newark Airport to Lakewood. The ride was without incident and pleasant. Makes it even scarier. The Boston Marathon bombers were high school kids and the Chelsea bomber owned a fried chicken store in Elizabeth.
I know this is going to sound self-serving and along the lines of “Some of my best friends are Jews,” but I need to mention it anyway to make a point. On Sunday, I was in a grocery on Main Street across from my house. The lady in front of me in line, dressed very obviously in Muslim garb, had only $5 for a $5.59 gallon of milk. Naturally, the cashier would not let her purchase the milk without the full amount. I felt bad for the lady so I offered to pay for the difference so she could take the milk home. She was very thankful to me but decided to buy onions instead.
The fact that the terrorists are said to be “lone wolves”
is actually more reason to be concerned.
What that means is that the guy next door may either be a terrorist or can become radicalized at any given time
I walked away realizing that no matter my expressed concern for Islamic terror, I do not harbor animus toward any particular Muslim. I think all Jews will agree that this is their same sentiment.
But we cannot allow political correctness to blind us. As I mentioned in shul, we hear the pundits on TV and radio trying to figure out what the origins are of this new line of car terror. Some point to France, others to England. What they neglect to point out is that car ramming became the weapon of choice for the last five years by Palestinians in Israel. In fact, modern-day terrorism began with Yasser Arafat (ym”sh) killing innocent men, women, and students in airports, during camping trips, and on school buses. But for some reason, that does not count.
In the last two Torah portions, we have read of the evil and then the destruction of S’dom and Amorah. In truth, the graphic details of the atrocities of S’dom are not at all depicted in the Torah. It is left to Chazal in the Midrash and in the Gemara (Maseches Sanhedrin) to fill us in on the wanton murder and torture that were commonplace in the Sodomite society. I believe the reason the Torah was not illustrative of their evil is so that we should not be led to believe that only a publicly horrific society can produce evil. Sometimes the roots of an evil society can appear to be benign.
President Trump is not crazy to insist that we not accept people from regions – and yes, religions – that are known to harbor terror. He is not crazy to refer to this last incident as “another Schumer beauty.” Senator Schumer was a lead sponsor of the Diversity Bill in 1990, which led to the terrorist, Sayfullo Saipov, arriving here from Uzbekistan. Thanks, Chuck! You cried at the Statue of Liberty at the thought of some immigrants not being allowed into this country. Will you shed a tear for those innocent victims killed by your naiveté?
Unless we realize that we are fighting a S’dom-like enemy, which will make especially liberal Jews swallow deep, we will tragically continue to accept the craziness of Islamic terror as the new norm. May Hashem protect us!
By Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld