Sunday, August 2, 2009

In Tel Aviv, baseless hate and murder

Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by a right-wing, religious Jew three months after I made my first visit to Israel in 1995. I was upset but also deeply shocked. I couldn't believe that one Jew would kill another Jew.

Well since then, I've spent a year living in Israel and I'm not as naive about these things. Most acts of violence in Israel are committed by Jews against other Jews. As horrified as I am by the murder last night of two people at a youth center for gay teens in Tel Aviv, I'm not shocked.

I lived in the city for a year and yes, it's a pretty open, progressive place, especially compared with Jerusalem. It doesn't have the holy sites or large Orthodox population - and the accompanying tension. I loved the people and I loved living there.

I realize we don't know yet who perpetrated this act of terror. A lone gunman dressed in black entered the center Saturday night - a popular time for going out in Israel, at the end of the Sabbath - and started shooting.

But Tel Aviv isn't immune from the deep divisions in Israeli society - between religious and secular Jews, between Ashkenazim and Sephardim. As much as I love Israel, I realize that the same intolerance and homophobia and extremism that exists everywhere exists there.

Coincidentally, last week was Tisha B'Av, the date on the Jewish calendar that commemorates the destruction of the first and second temples in Jerusalem. The Talmud teaches that sinat chinam, baseless hatred, led to the destruction of the second temple - and of a Jewish homeland.

My thoughts go out to the injured and the families of the victims. I'm sad that a country I love so much, a city I got to know so well, is once again experiencing the pain of violence fueled by hate.


Vance said...

Oy, just read about the Tel Aviv thing. So terrible and sad. And just came from Vancouver Pride which seemed quite corporate and frivolous but shows that it's still important and quite needed. (then again, the CDN army even had a float which I guess you probably wouldn't see in the states?)

Still, amazing how far we've come but also how far we must still go, especially around the world.

(am I making any sense? it's late and it was a long day in the sun).

Kathy Garmus said...

I'm sorry to say that I'm not shocked by anything anymore. It's very sad, but I think there will always be hatred of one kind or another in this world. I'd like to think we could all come together someday and coexist peacefully, but I think that would be a naive view.

Esther said...

Hey Vance,

Thanks for the comment - of course you make sense. Yeah, I don't think you'd see the U.S. Army in a gay pride float. We're so behind Canada in so many ways.

Esther said...

Thanks for the comment, Kathy. I agree with what you said. I think there will always be crazy, violent people with access to weapons.

I was surprised that it happened in Tel Aviv because despite the fact that everyone's in the Army, there's not nearly as much gun-related violence as there is in the United States.