I took on Colonel Gaddafi - and won

This week’s David-and-Goliath struggle of a small New Jersey town evicting a Middle East dictator from its midst is a considerable victory of ordinary people over tyranny.

We have made our town a terrorist-free zone.

But Proverbs 24:17 cautions: “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles.”

The murdered of Pan Am 103, the maimed of the 1986 Libyan Berlin discothèque bombing and British constable Yvonne Fletcher, gunned down outside Libya’s London embassy in 1984, still cry out for justice.

But purging our neighbourhood of Gaddafi remains significant because it shows that no citizen ever need fear the likes of a tin-pot dictator.

When I was young I loved hearing the story of Rabbi Israel Baal Shemtov who, orphaned as a small child, took to walking the woods alone at night in order to train himself to fear none but God alone.

Likewise, from the time that Thomas Jefferson, at mortal personal risk, proclaimed George III a tyrant, Americans have understood that the only real fear in life is that of cowardice in the face of injustice.

Muslims and Jews are brothers, united by their common ancestry in Abraham.

But in the Bible, Abraham is famous for pitching a tent radically different to the one Colonel Gaddafi proposed to erect in our town.

Whereas the tent of Abraham invites in widows and orphans, Gaddafi’s tent creates widows and orphans. And whereas Abraham’s tent was illumined by the glow of the human heart, Gaddafi’s tent is lit up by the fireball of aeroplanes detonated in the sky.

Abraham pitched a tent of universal brotherhood while Gaddafi pitches a terror tent of shame.

Susan Cohen, whose only child, Theodora, aged 20, died on Pan Am 103, told me: “It hurts so much to see Western leaders running to kiss Gaddafi’s feet.”

But this week, a small New Jersey town told Gaddafi to kiss an entirely different part of their anatomy.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s newest book, The Blessing of Enough, will be published on September 8. He blogs at www.shmuley.com

Last updated: 10:34am, September 3 2009