My original intent was to write about the awful Jewish – and in some cases even Orthodox – reaction to the Jewish action in Arab Huwara, Israel. You will recall the awful spate of terrorism in Israel as two brothers, Hallel and Yagel Yaniv, were killed at the hands of Palestinian terrorists. It was then followed with the murder of Elan Ganeles, an American visiting Israel. Two weeks earlier, ten people were killed exiting shul on Friday night. That was followed by a car ramming that killed two little brothers Paley in Ramot. How much tragedy can any people suffer?
The handwringing and virtue-signaling by many Jewish establishments, including an Orthodox one, was, let’s be generous, highly objectionable. The most appropriate response was from Likud MK Tali Gottleib. Ms. Gottleib, from the Knesset podium, cried bitter tears for all the terrorist victims. But she said that when asked if she will condemn the Jewish rioting in Huwara, where many terrorists have originated, she said, “Perhaps one day, but not today.” Let Israel first absorb and mourn their great losses. Then we could talk about the Jewish response.
I sent that clip to some of the Orthodox leadership who were quick to pounce on the Jews. Of course, they did not respond. I did not expect them to.
My thoughts were to spend time detailing, quotes and all, the knee-jerk response from these organizations, but I decided to let it go.
I received a call today from a certain frum merchant, not in our area, many years my junior. He accused me of using one of his services and intentionally not paying. The accusation was absurd, but he would not yield without screaming and carrying on while spewing unbridled chutzpah. We both got excited, and I ended up hanging up the phone on him, as I told him that I would do, if he didn’t calm down. He did call back, but my wife was smart enough to take the call and the matter was eventually settled.
After a few minutes passed, I decided to call him and apologize if I said anything to offend him. I had to swallow deeply, because he was absolutely wrong in the accusation and in his anger.
I told him that now it’s Purim time. Part of our problem during Haman’s time was that we were a “scattered and fractured people.” Let’s just put this behind us and move on for Purim’s sake. He was not the most gracious in his response, but he did appreciate the call.
I then came to the conclusion that, during this Purim season, I will refrain from some of the heavy criticism of fellow Jews. We need unity more than ever. The divide among our people, both in this country and in Israel, has unfortunately never been greater.
Let us daven that Purim should indeed be a time of “topsy-turvy,” and we Jews can emphasize more of what unites us than what divides us.
Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld is the Rabbi Emeritus of the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills, President of the Coalition for Jewish Values, former President of the Vaad Harabonim of Queens, and the Rabbinic Consultant for the Queens Jewish Link.