On March 6, 2008, dozens of teenagers were studying in their school library in Jerusalem. Some were planning a celebration of Purim, the festival initiated in the book of Esther. Suddenly, a 25 year old Arab burst in spraying bullets from an AK-47 machine gun. Seven were killed, between the ages 15 and 19, and a 26 year old. Carrying two spare pistols, he was pursuing more victims with automatic fire before being shot by a student and killed by an off-duty Israel Defense Forces officer who lived close to the seminary. The officer “was not even supposed to be at home Thursday evening. He had traded places with a fellow officer and was bathing his children at the family home, located just a few buildings away from Mercaz Harav Yeshiva, where he himself once studied.” One of the teens killed was an American citizen. The oldest murdered was a rabbinical student who had immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia as part of Operation Moses when he was eight years old.
The gunman, like many of the 208,000 Palestinians who live in east Jerusalem, in the sector of the city Israel captured in the 1967 Six Day War, had an Israeli ID allowing him freedom of movement within Israel. The gunman’s family raised Hamas and Hizballah flags on their mourning tent as the father had been a member of Hamas. In Gaza, Hamas celebrated the murdered Jewish students with parades, gunfire, and candies for kiddies. On the West bank, the Fatah-controlled media praised [the terrorist] Abu Dhaim as a martyr. In Jordan, the uncle of the terrorist said after he was ordered to take down his mourning tent, “We were hoping that people would come to congratulate us on the martyrdom of my nephew…. This is a heroic operation that must be celebrated by everyone here.”
As I was writing this for the blog, Justin said, “But Dad, why put that on our blog? Its not about us.”
I replied, “Remember a few weeks ago when we were at a park playing soccer and basketball with kids from a Yeshiva? I don’t know if it was that school which was attacked or another.”
“Oh,” Justin said solemnly, “Jerusalem seems a lot smaller.”
Yes. At the time, I had had a nice visit with the students’ religious teacher (rabbi). As fellow teachers we shared in the joy and privilege of our calling to excite our students to learn. As fathers, I’m sure we now share tears over this terrible murder of youth. As believers in the God of Israel, we wish no ill toward our enemies, but wait for the justice of the Lord. What is most alarming is our understanding, provided by our shared theology, into the death culture of Islam that rejoices at the murder of children.
Did we play soccer with those kids that were murdered? Maybe not yet.
With Purim getting ready to start at sundown on March 19, 2008, many secular Jews are preparing for a drunken costume party. For the thoughtful, this is time to once again learn from Queen Esther, King Ahasuerus, Mordechai, and Haman. The invisible arm of the Lord still cares for Israel.