Just over a month ago, Jews all over the world commemorated that terrible night of October 8, 1938, when the Nazis burned down synagogues in Germany and Austria. On Kristallnacht, the macabre journey began, from burning of Torah scrolls to the burning of human beings.
I do not know if the Jewish settlers who set fire to the mosque in Yasuf had Kristallnacht on their minds when they committed this atrocity. Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, on the other hand, did relate to it. While visiting the charred site, he denounced the act in the strongest language, saying that he “came to the site of fire to extinguish fire”.
Other rabbis also went to Kafr Yasuf with new Korans, to replace the burnt ones. I hope every rabbi, this Shabbat, will discuss with their congregation the lessons of this vile act of arson, done by Jews. Aren’t we quick to raise hell when something of the sort is done to us?
Apart from the obvious immorality and criminality of this act, the people who have committed it were recklessly — or worse, intentionally — leading Israel into the worst kind of catastrophe: a holy war (jihad) with the Muslim world.
Let us borrow a page from the history books. One of the most famous epics of war is The Charge of the Light Brigade in the Battle of Balaklava (1854), made immortal by Tennyson’s poem. Everybody can cite the famous lines, Theirs not to make reply / Theirs not to reason why / Theirs but to do and die. Yet how many people today know why the Crimean War broke out?
Of course, there were political motives involved, but what actually sparked the explosion was a bitter dispute between Latin and Greek Orthodox priests about the administration of the holy places of Turkish-ruled Jerusalem.
When the war ended in 1856, half a million soldiers lay dead.
While political issues can hopefully be settled around the negotiation table, religious disputes are very difficult to solve. On top of the awesome challenges of settlements, refugees etc, at the core of the conflict today are the claims of both Israeli Jews and Palestinian Muslims to Temple Mount.
The people who set fire to the mosque do not want any of this to be settled. They pray for a bloody holy war, believing that our G-d is stronger than Allah.
Their vicious act, however, might produce the opposite result. The majority of Israelis, who are already wondering if the settlements haven’t turned from an asset to a liability, might want to dissociate themselves from those fanatics, who are trying to pull Israel into the abyss.