It was just 7 minutes—7 minutes of terror that shook a nation. “I had just finished the Shmoneh Esrey prayer,” said one worshiper. “I had just recited, Oseh shalom bimromav Hu yaaseh shalom aleynu v’al kol Yisrael, ‘May He who makes peace in His high places, make peace on us, and on all Israel.’” In just 7 minutes, 2 Arab terrorists barged into the Kehilat Yaakov synagogue in Har Nof, Jerusalem, attacking with meat cleavers, knives and a gun, killing 4 Jewish worshipers and an Israeli Druze policeman. Several others were severely wounded. It was a massacre!
Shmuel Goldstein (from Ynet.com) had taken his 12-year-old son to pray at the shule. The terrorists seriously wounded Goldstein, but his son Mordechai managed to escape unharmed—physically, at least—by crawling out the door. Goldstein—father of 9—is in serious condition.
Yaakov Amos was still davening the Shemoneh Esrey at the time of the attack: During the prayers, I heard shots and saw a worshiper wearing Tefillin lying on the floor. The bastard passed me from the right while shouting, Alahu akbar, “Allah is great,” while firing. 3 fell immediately, and I saw him keep on massacring people…One of the terrorists did not waste bullets and aimed directly at people. He fired and then looked at me, and chose people closer to him, shooting them at point blank range.
Yossi Barzani, one of the worshipers, recounted: I tried to flee. At one point, one of the terrorists approached me with a knife, and there was a chair and a table between us. I drew back and ran from him and fled outside. In those moments, I asked Gd to save me. My prayer shawl got caught. I left it there and escaped. On the way out, I saw terrible sights and bodies.
Ofer, whose brother was wounded in the attack, told Ynet his brother had been struck in the head by a meat cleaver and was undergoing surgery. Ofer said: We all love him. He is an outstanding person; he loves to help people and would never take a shekel from anyone. We hope that my brother will come out of this and keep on teaching and being a righteous family man. My brother was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The police officer who eliminated the 2 terrorists recalled: When I arrived at the scene I saw 2 policemen at the entrance to the Yeshiva and continued to hear shooting. It was clear to me that if I stay outside people will be murdered inside. The policeman standing near me was shot and wounded and I understood I was in the line of fire. I saw 2 Arabs—one was holding a gun and a butcher’s knife, and the other one was holding a knife drenched in blood. I understood it was me or them, and I shot them both.
There’s one image that will haunt me for some time. It’s the image of a severed arm still wrapped in tefillin. That terrible image reinforces the sense that the war against the State of Israel is only the latest phase of the old war against the Jews. When pious men are slaughtered at prayer simply for being Jewish, there’s a painful flashback to the barbarous acts of centuries past. In fact this week was also the anniversary of Kristallnacht—the painful pogrom that initiated the Holocaust. This year Jerusalem had its own Kristallnacht.
All of us are in a state of shock. We feel helpless. We wonder what should we do? I looked to our leaders. Barak Obama, 1st said he condemned the attack, “in the strongest terms,” and then said: Tragically, this is not the first loss of life that we have seen in recent months…Too many Israelis have died, too many Palestinians have died. And at this difficult time, I think it’s important for both Palestinians and Israelis to work together to lower tensions and reject violence.
When I 1st heard this, it didn’t sit well with me. After thinking about it upset me more and more. I thought, “Israel needs to lower tensions, to restrain violence???” This was a terrorist attack! We don’t need moral equivalence. We need a real condemnation—not a qualified one. We need to hear what Obama is going to do about the assassinations of 3 Americans—rabbis all—who were victims along with a British rabbi and a Druze policeman. For Obama to cite Palestinian suffering in the same breath as this atrocity is nothing short of disgusting! Can you imagine any world leader telling the United States after an ISIS beheading that there needs to be calm on both sides?
What Israel needs now is confidence that the U.S. will not reward these acts of jihad by pressuring Bibi Netanyahu prematurely back into negotiations with the Palestinians. The best way to prevent this incident from morphing into another Intifada is to reassure Israel that the U.S. supports its self-defense, while warning Palestinians that they will never have a homeland as long as they cultivate a society that celebrates murdering the innocent in the name of their faith. The main obstacle to peace isn’t building Jewish apartments in the united city of Jerusalem. The real barrier to peace is the culture of hatred against Jews that is nurtured by Palestinian leaders.
Does Israel really have a partner in peace with the Palestinians? Just 2 weeks ago Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas urged using violence to prevent Jews from entering their most holy site, the Temple Mount, “any means.” Judge and Abbas adviser Mahmoud al-Habbash, in an interview (11/5/14) on Palestinian State TV, openly admitted that Abbas was inciting terror. Palestinian groups following his lead then called for a “Day of Rage” against Israel.
This week, under heavy pressure from Secretary of State John Kerry, Abbas condemned the killings in the synagogue, but not without calling for Israel to halt what he called “invasions” of the holy Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. What invasions? It’s all a fabrication!
It’s not surprising then that the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine—of which Abbas is the ultimate leader—claimed responsibility for the synagogue massacre. Are these our partners in peace? Secretary of State John Kerry blamed Tuesday’s attack on general “incitement,” but Mr. Abbas was the chief inciter!
You may say that these are the leaders, but perhaps the average Palestinian really wants peace? A Pew poll taken this summer shows that a majority of Palestinians support violent terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians. Did you see the videos of Palestinians dancing in the streets this week giving out candies and cookies in celebration for killing Jews just like they did after the attacks on the Twin Towers on 9/11 for killing Americans? Do they look like they want peace? The grandmother of the one of the terrorists, al-Shaludi, said: “I’m so proud of him.” Is this a partner for peace???
Yossi Klein Halevi, in an article in the Wall St. Journal (11/18/14) noted: Since 2000, when the Oslo peace process collapsed, Israel has been fighting one long war, interspersed with prolonged cease fires…But this latest wave feels different. In recent weeks, terrorists in Jerusalem have twice driven their cars into crowds of Jewish pedestrians and on another occasion stabbed a Jewish passerby with a screwdriver. The synagogue attackers, who were killed by police, wielded axes in the murders. This is not the impersonal terrorism of suicide bombers and rocket launchers. This is an intimate war. The terrorism of neighbors…
In an era of moral madness, in which much of the world judges Israel more harshly than it judges Hamas, this must be said: Nothing Israel does or doesn’t do is responsible for provoking young Palestinians to hack to death Jews in prayer.
Sometimes it seems that the world tries every which way to condemn Israel. CNN’s reporting of the massacre was particularly onerous. In its initial coverage it used the headline: “4 Israelis, 2 Palestinians dead in Jerusalem,” never mentioning that the 2 Palestinians were shot and killed by Israeli police while attacking Jewish worshippers. It’s like reporting the 9/11 massacre by saying, “8 Saudi men died in an airplane crash!” CNN finally took down that headline but what they replaced it was not an improvement: “Deadly Attack on Jerusalem Mosque!”
CBS wasn’t much better. In its morning news show, anchorwoman Nora O’Donnell said: “The 2 Palestinian attackers died in a shootout with police. It happened at a contested religious site in Jerusalem.” There is, of course, nothing “contested” about the Har Nof synagogue where the attack took place. It’s a Jewish neighborhood in the western side of Jerusalem that no one contests. But if you’re so inclined to believe the worst about Israel then you’ll report everything that way!
Today’s Torah portion has a verse (Genesis 26:16) that’s the origin of the end-letter mem. As you know, Hebrew is one of the only languages that have end-letters. The Talmud tells us that they were instituted by the prophets to represent certain verses that will tell us what will be in the end. Before this verse, Isaac had gone to live with the Philistines because there was a famine in the land. He was hugely successful, so much so, that Avimelech, king of Philistines comes to pay him a visit saying, Leych mey-imanu, “Go away. Get out of here,” ki atzamta mimenu m’od, “for you are stronger than we would like you to be.” Notice the repetition of the letter mem in the verse—atzamta mimenu m’od. The end-letter mem was given to us by the prophets to tell us that in the end, wherever we will go, in the end they may tell us as did Avimelech, Leych mey-imanu, “Jew, go away. Get out of here, for you are stronger and more successful than we would like you to be.”
We’ve seen this story repeated over and over again throughout our history all over the world. Now we see it in Israel. Now it’s today’s Philistines—“Palestine” is the Roman corruption of the word “Philistine”—telling us, “Jew, go away. Get out of here. Go back to Europe where you came from or to America.” And the world seems more and more inclined to buy into their false narrative of Israel being the aggressor who doesn’t belong in the Holy Land.
But there is nowhere for Israel to go! Israel is the last stop for the Jew and she will do what she must to defend herself and the Jew’s Gd-given right to be there and to worship freely in her land—the Holy Land, the land Gd promised Abraham and, in today’s parsha, his son Isaac and their descendants for all time. No, the Jew will never again leave their land. Am Yisrael chai b’Eretz Yisrael, The people of Israel will always live in the land of Israel.
Please rise as I recite the Moley Rachamim prayer for the victims of this week’s shule massacre in Jerusalem.
Rabbi Moshe Twersky, 59, the head of Torat Moshe yeshiva
Rabbi Aryeh Kupinsky, 40
Rabbi Avraham Shmuel Goldberg
Rabbi Kalman Levine, 50
Zidan Saif, 30, Druze policeman
Leaving behind 24 orphans
Rabbi Mark Hillel Kunis