by Richard Pater, Director of BICOM in Israel
Soul-searching demands more than words. Last weekend thousands returned to public squares in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and other towns to demonstrate their rejection of hatred following the two deadly hate crimes which shocked the country.
Politicians from across the political spectrum quickly denounced ‘Jewish terrorism’. Likud Minister Gilad Erdan captured the mood. “A nation whose children were burned in the Holocaust needs to do a lot of soul-searching if it bred people who burn other human beings,” he said.
Plenty of religious leaders have also made constructive contributions. Rabbi Benny Lau told congregants last Shabbat that “the pursuit of Torah cannot run counter to the values of humanity”. A joint delegation of rabbis and Muslim leaders visited relatives of the Dawabsha family, who are still hospitalised in critical condition. Yet ‘soul searching’ is not enough.
Novelist Etgar Keret lamented the square was relatively empty compared to the rallies of yesteryear. For all the appropriate talk unrepentant and toxic corners of Israeli society remain. They may only number hundreds, but in a small country their voices are audible.
Action must now focus on two fronts. In the short term, the security services must approach the phenomenon of Jewish terror cells with the same professionalism they approach Palestinian terror and make the appropriate arrests.
In the long term, more effort is needed to ensure values of pluralism and tolerance are promoted across all educational systems in Israel.