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Article on Itamar Tragedy by Rabbi Nechemia

Article on Itamar Tragedy by Rabbi Nechemia



What is wrong with the world?

As the world watches gripped with terror at the awesome events unfolding out of Japan, the devastation of the tsunami, nuclear reactors and the like, other major events are being overlooked.

Not to diminish the importance of these events, GD forbid, but as Jews, the Middle East is an area that holds great importance to us all. I don’t refer the other excitement in the Middle East, all the Arab uprisings etc., rather to a little settlement in Itamar, Israel.


This past Friday night, as many were finishing up their Shabbat Meals and as others prepared for bed, Palestinian terrorist/s, infiltrated this secure settlement and entered the home of the Fogel family and perpetrated the most heinous carnage imaginable. They slit the throats of the mother, father, and three of the 3 of the 6 children (one was at a youth program that evening and is the one who found her family killed, and two were in a bedroom and apparently overlooked by the terrorists). The devastation and destruction so primal and despicable, that apparently the family asked that the photos be shared so the world could see the monstrosity of the event. (Full account from a neighbor.)


This barbaric act of venomous hate shocked the nation of Israel and Jews worldwide, yet so many do not know of the story and the media is just not reporting it? I get that the numbers just don’t match what’s happening in the Pacific, but then why is it that when Israel builds another apartment building or house, the whole world is able to take a break from their collective schedules to lambast Israel for being an enemy to peace? What is wrong with this world? Is the hatred for Israel and its Jews so deep that the slaughter of it’s Jews doesn’t even get a mention, yet the putting together of a home, some cement and bricks in territory that is undisputedly theirs is reason for condemnation and riots?


In his visit, to the Fogel family to pay a Shiva call after the funeral, PM Netanyahu said something (video of that visit) that reminded me of another terrible terrorist attack and the Rebbe’s response at that time. As the grandmother pours her heart out to Netanyahu, he answers “they murder, we build… and we will build.”


* * *


In May of 1956, in the Village of Kfar Chabad, a terrorist attack took place on the unsuspecting Chassidim that lived there. A group of wicked terrorist came from the orchards to the Shul and began to shoot killing 6, a teacher and 5 students. Injuring many others.


The Chassidim a normally happy bunch, that had finally learned to restart a life after the misery of life in Europe were broken and devastated. It had happened again here. In the “new” Jewish land, in Israel, a place that belonged to the Jews, their European fear was back. Here too they were a target.


Immediately they decided to send a letter to the Lubavitcher Rebbe in NY, a telegram which was the way in which they communicated expecting a swift and inspirational reply from the Rebbe. A plan of action, words of encouragement and an explanation for GD’s mighty ways.


Instead all they received was silence. The Rebbe didn’t respond. They waited one day, two days three and still no word from NY. Did the Rebbe GD Forbid too lose his faith? Did the Rebbe have nothing to say to uplift them once again, as he and his predecessors had during times of previous tragedy and calamity?


Finally, four days later a telegram arrived. Everyone assembled to hear what the holy Rebbe had to say. “behemshech habinyan tinacheimu” – By your continuing to build you will be comforted.” This was the Rebbe’s succinct reply.


Short, but powerful and to the point. The Rebbe turned the whole town from a band of broken souls to a bunch of people with a mission and goal.


We get knocked down, but we get up again. The way to get up again is to build. To have a plan for growth, a reason to live again, a raison d’être. Indeed, the next day, in Kfar Chabad, everyone came to help clear debris and create space for what would eventually become the trade school for which, among other things, Kfar Chabad is known for. The light and joy, the fire and fervor was back. The characteristic Simcha and enthusiasm was back. The broken and bruised people arose once again.


Did it answer the big question of why? No. Did it bring the loved ones who were murderously taken back? No. But it did give a sense of purpose a way forward.


* * *


When PM Netanyahu said, “they murder, we build” I was reminded of this event with Kfar Chabad, and their tragedy. I hope that he will keep his word, and not be concerned about what “will the nations say.” Let us build. And with our building we will be comforted.


For a full length account see this article from Yediot Achronot tranlated by