by Daniel Gordis
November 19, 2014
There are terror attacks, and there are pogroms. The attack at a Jerusalem synagogue this week that killed four rabbis was a pogrom. It was an attack motivated not by politics but by religious hatred; it was directed not at Israelis but at Jews. The killers were armed with hatchets and guns instead of suicide belts, and they came not to kill Jews but to butcher them. The images are horrific: a prayer shawl in a pool of blood; a prayer book turned crimson, from which one of the victims had been worshiping as he was killed; and more haunting, the hand of a dead man, still wearing his phylacteries, soaking in his own blood. Witnesses said a worshiper’s arm, also wrapped in a leather prayer strap, had been hacked off its torso.
To Jews schooled in Jewish history, these images are not new; they are the images of a destiny from which Israel had been intended to redeem the Jews. Consider this description of the Kishinev Pogrom in 1903:
[One young boy], blinded in one eye from youth, begged for his life with the offer of sixty rubles; taking this money, the leader of the crowd … gouged out [his] other eye, saying “You will never again look upon a Christian child.” Nails were driven through heads; bodies, hacked in half; bellies split open and filled with feathers. Women and girls were raped, and some had their breasts cut off.
Jews knew that sort of hatred could not be combated with reason. Violence of that sort was not motivated by economics, by contested territory or even by history. It was, they understood, malignant Jew-hatred at its core, driven by a millenniums-old sickness from which Europe would never recover…..