Last week, we used this space to criticize the recent — and sadly, latest — attack on a Reform synagogue in the Israeli city of Raanan.
The Beit Shmueli synagogue has been targeted several times in the past by religious extremists, and it appears the police can’t (or won’t) do anything to protect it.
This is an example of religious intolerance in Israel. Sadly, it is not the only example. There have been many such attacks.
And they don’t all target liberal communities.
Last week, as JTA reported, hate graffiti and swastikas were painted at the entrance to a haredi Orthodox school in Beer Sheva.
Shas party leader Eli Yishai condemned the vandalism, saying it was the result of “incitement against the haredi Orthodox.”
Yishai wrote on his Facebook page, “The public atmosphere against the haredi public and Torah students has gotten out of control and actually encourages harassment of the haredi Orthodox public.”
He called on police to find the vandals and cautioned politicians that their actions have consequences. (The haredi community has been under fire for its opposition to the drafting of yeshiva students into the army.)
We don’t know if the draft issue was the reason for this particular attack.
And frankly, we don’t care.
There is no justification for an attack — any attack — on any house of worship or house of study. We don’t care if the weapon in question is bullets or spray paint.
Neither do we care if the facility serves haredi Jews, liberal Jews or no Jews at all. (Christians, Muslims, Druze, Bahai and every other religious group that peaceably observes its tenets between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River have as much right to feel safe in their houses of worship as do the Jews).
We would be remiss if we didn’t use this week’s space to deliver that message.
We would be equally remiss to not point out that such attacks as the ones in Raanan and Beer Sheva are endemic of a greater problem in Israel. Despite the high values and principles upon which the Jewish state was founded in 1948, realization of those goals remains elusive.
It’s a rare week indeed when the news out of Israel doesn’t include some shocking statement from an imam, a rabbi, a priest, a political leader or just a man (or woman) on the street, reminding us yet again that we’re a long way from everyone feeling safe under their vines and fig trees.
Let’s be clear, this problem is not unique to Israel. We American Jews live in a country where memories of Jim Crow, lynchings of black Americans, internment of Japanese Americans and institutionalized anti-Semitism are still fresh. Even today, the fight by the LGBTQ community for equal rights under the law reminds us that, as a society, we have a long way to go.
Yet somehow the problem just feels magnified in Israel — the land where the world’s three great monotheistic religions have sunk their roots. If tolerance can’t flourish there, can it flourish anywhere?
We believe it can, but the events of the past two weeks remind us that there’s plenty of work to do.