It is one of the best-known moral tenets in Judaism — one should not rejoice at the downfall of one’s enemy.
Each year at Passover, the most widely observed holiday in Judaism, part of the Seder is the spilling of a symbol of joy — wine — to acknowledge what Egypt had to go through for the Israelites to gain their freedom. Remember, this was after 400 years of slavery and inhumane edicts by Pharoah, and yet we are commanded to feel some sorrow for the Egyptians.
As we are told, when the angels celebrated the Israelites’ crossing of the Red Sea and the Egyptians’ inability to follow, God rebuked the angels, asking how they could sing while Her children were drowning in the sea.
If anti-Israel activists on the extreme left are to be believed, though, the Jewish community feels no pain at the deaths of Gazans over the last couple of months, and the activists set out to do something about it, using one of the most important prayers in Judaism — the Mourner’s Kaddish.
Yes, the same Kaddish recited by even the most secular and uninvolved of Jews when close relatives die, was used by these groups to mourn Hamas members who are sworn to kill Jews.
On April 4, in a demonstration outside the Union for Reform Judaism in New York, a group from IfNotNow — the same group that wants Jewish summer camps to teach about the “evils of occupation” — said the Kaddish for Hamas members.
A week later, members of the same organization forced their way into the office of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, demanding the Federation condemn Israel’s actions in Gaza, and again reciting the Kaddish while naming Gazans killed that week.
The most notorious event came on May 16, two days after the May 14 clashes that left 62 Gazans dead. About 50 British Jews gathered outside Parliament to condemn Israel, culminating in the reciting of the names of Gazans who were killed, followed by Kaddish.
The demonstrators received a harsh response in person, magnified many times over on social media, with many bemoaning that British Jewry was tearing itself apart.
If Israel had mistakenly bombed a civilian target in Gaza and killed non-combatants, that’s one thing. Few would object to memorializing innocents. (Of course, Hamas is notorious for using civilian facilities like schools and hospitals as cover for military bases, but that’s another column).
While the Kaddish was what attracted attention, these gatherings weren’t to mourn Gazans, they were to castigate Israel for defending itself, or as the demonstrators called it, committing “outrageous acts of violence,” and to criticize the mainstream Jewish community for insufficient condemnation of Israel’s actions.
The Kaddish wasn’t for Gazans to hear, it was for the rest of the unenlightened Jewish community, which for some reason has the odd notion that Israel has a right to do something about 30,000 people trying to break through a border fence near numerous Israeli communities and follow instructions to “rip (Israeli) hearts out.”
The implication is that anyone acknowledging Israel’s right to self-defense and not being sufficiently outraged is perfectly happy seeing dead Palestinians. Nothing could be further from the truth, and it is a blood libel against the Jewish community.
When Palestinians are killed, are Israelis passing out candy in the streets? Never, yet that is routine in Palestinian towns when Israelis are murdered.
Are Israeli parks, public squares, soccer teams named after those who kill Palestinians? Of course not, but it is just another day in the life for the Palestinian Authority, which pays a generous stipend to those who attack Israelis.
Yes, there is outrage among supporters of Israel at what is happening in Gaza. But the outrage is directed at the Palestinian leadership that steals from and abuses the Palestinian people in their fruitless quest to get rid of Israel, the Hamas leadership that steals cement for rebuilding homes and instead rebuilds terror tunnels, that refuses assistance from Israel and damages its own infrastructure; and a Palestinian Authority that uses funding for basic services as a weapon in its battle for power against Hamas.
And both groups foment the threat of violence that has kept checkpoints and Israeli security measures in place.
Also, unless one relied on the horrible mainstream media coverage of Gaza, it became widely known pretty quickly that almost all of those killed on May 14, and going back several weeks to the start of the “March of Return,” as the “demonstrations” were called, weren’t random civilians, but Hamas operatives, embedded in the civilian crowd that Hamas had bused in and paid to storm the border.
These operatives are people who would have no problem killing every single one of those British or IfNotNow demonstrators, and these idealists in their advanced form of morality explain that away.
One of the British organizers acknowledged that some of the Hamas members might have wanted to kill him, but he told JTA “their political opinions are not the issue.”
When a Palestinian is killed while perpetrating an act of terrorism, it is typical to see a news report of the proud mother, delighted that her son has become a martyr. With that type of reaction, does one really think that she would be touched and have warm fuzzies that a group of Jews did the Jewish memorial prayer in his memory?
Of course, the Kaddish never mentions death or mourning. Instead, it is a declaration of enduring faith in God during an individual’s time of deepest grief and despair. It also mentions the establishment of God’s kingdom “speedily” with the entire House of Israel. How does one even utter those words over someone who wants to see Israel completely destroyed and the death of Jews, as the Hamas charter calls for?
The Kaddish ends with two lines praying for peace “for us and all of Israel.” Organizers of the May 16 British demonstration referred to the end of the Kaddish as “a plea for universal peace,” which is not, of course, how the Kaddish has always been, nor is it the desire of Hamas.
Some groups have added the phrase “for all who dwell on Earth” in addition to, or in some cases in replacement of, “Israel” in the final sentence of the Kaddish. Admittedly, a lot of groups who have made that change aren’t on the fringe and use the phrase as benign universalism.
Mourning Hamas? It is good to be open minded, but to quote an old saying, “not so open that your brains fall out.”