The news last night from Nice was truly horrific. A terrorist did not need a gun, nor did he need explosives (although he had both) to allow him to kill over 85 people and wound an even larger number. The dimensions of the Nice attack are hard to imagine. Once again, people were out to enjoy the night, enjoy the fireworks, enjoy the celebration of French Liberty – and now 85 of them are no longer. There are children who will never see adulthood, and adults whose children will never know them. I can go on …
I guess those of us who have studied history should not be surprised. Compared to even one day of World War II, the terrible terror attacks of the last month simply pale in comparison. That is without even taking in account the Holocaust – just accounting for the shear number of battlefield deaths, deaths from bombings and other violence. I guess we somehow believed the world was beyond that. For those of us who grew up in the 60’s the fear of nuclear annihilation was ever present, and yet abstract. It was nothing like seeing a truck mowing down dozens and dozens of people. Of course, to some extent, those of us who live in Israel are used to such terrible events. But, as I have written before, though nothing justifies acts of terror, at we least understand why they do what they do. It seems much harder to understand how a Muslim resident of France can just murder so many people in cold blood; murder so many children.
I see people on Twitter saying the Nice attack just proves we have to fight terror even harder. But what does that mean? What can we do? There are one billion Muslims in the world – and only a very very small percentage of them are potential terrorists. That being said, even a small percentage of 1 billion is a very big number. Unfortunately, there is no supreme authority in the Muslim world who can make it clear that “Thou Shalt Not Kill” is a supreme commandment. So what is the alternative?
The Western World is in for difficult times. The line between the right to be free to say whatever one wishes and/or believe whatever we wishes is colliding with our collective right to live in safety. I fear there will be no choice, but to further impinge on all of our civil rights in order to successfully fight against terror. However, even then, in a world where communication is instant and constant how do you stop hate from seeping in? How do you stop words of incitement from reaching those who are susceptible to it? I wish I had an answer, but I am clueless.
Originally this whole post was going to be all about Rabbi Haskel Lookstein and the unwillingness of the Israel Rabbinate to accept his conversion. I have known Rabbi Lookstein for 46 years, since I was a freshman at Ramaz. When I first met Rabbi Lookstein he was a young rabbi starting to take over the helm from his father who had founded Ramaz, and was the firebrand of the Orthodox community. Over the years, I worked with Rabbi Lookstein on a few projects in the world of Soviet Jewry and Jewish communal affairs (most of which took place almost 30 years ago.) As the principal of my high school; later, as the high school my oldest daughter attended, I always held him in esteem.
To be truthful I was not shocked that the Rabbinic Court in Petah Tikvah did not accept Rabbi Lookstein’s conversion – Not because there was anything questionable about it; and not due to any doubt that Rabbi Lookstein is anything but a fully practicing Orthodox Rabbi. Rather, because Rabbi Lookstein has always been identified with the more progressive elements of the Orthodox community; which is the polar opposite of the stilted, backward, 18th century rabbis who run the Rabbinic Courts in this country.
Needless to say, everyone in the organized Jewish community was outraged. Natan Sharanskly issued a statement, UJA/ Federation did the same. However, it’s really for naught. The political realities of this country are that Netanyahu prefers the ultra-Orthodox over everyone else as his coalition partner. Therefore, Netanyahu will never do anything to upset that apple cart. Even the “firebrand fighter” of the ultra-Orthodox, Yair Lapid has said he will no longer fight them, (after realizing he will never become Prime Minister if they opposes him.) If American Jews truly care about these issues, it is time for them to rethink their relationship with Israel and find ways to pressure this, or future Israeli governments in ways that would truly be effective.
My opinion of Rabbi Lookstein was not enhanced this week by his decision to speak at the Republican National Convention. I understand that he converted Trump’s daughter and Ivanka is a member of his congregation, but …
One last word … The latest investigations surrounding Prime Minister Netanyahu seem to be getting very serious. The situation will become clearer in the coming days.