American Jews: Stop Politicizing The Pittsburgh Massacre. Sincerely, Your Israeli Brother by the Forward

American Jews: Stop Politicizing The Pittsburgh Massacre. Sincerely, Your Israeli Brother

Image by Getty Images

On Saturday, a man entered a synagogue in Pittsburgh and murdered 11 Jews. It was a horrific, heinous crime. Sadly, rather than bringing Jews closer together, it seems to be only dividing us apart.

In the past, after terror attacks in Israel, I have looked at my Instagram feed just after a terror attack in Israel and I resent my American brothers and sister when they post pictures of their cute kids while some family here in Israel has been shattered.

“How cold. How detached,” I think to myself.

Opinion | American Jews: Stop Politicizing The Pittsburgh Massacre. Sincerely, Your Israeli Brother

Now, strangely, I find myself on the other side.

My American family is suffering, but since it is so far away, and since the images are not flooding my news cycle, I am slightly detached. And I lament that. Even with the technology that brings us closer, that distance is still a real distance.

I will be more forgiving in the future, but, I pray, I won’t need to be.

Maybe its also the nature of the horror that has caused detachment. From Israel, the alleged gunman, Robert Bowers, looks like a nut — some kind of American psycho with lots of guns and cultish delusions of Jewish world domination.

I don’t mean to minimize or excuse his heinous crime. But it was an individual one, a lone actor. He probably belonged in a mental hospital with good (Jewish) doctors and padded walls.

The Jewish nation is not at war with Robert Bowers.

This also makes it hard for us Israelis to understand what our American brothers and sisters are going through. Our terrorists are motivated by national hatred rather than conspiracy theories.

To see things our way, imagine a scenario where Bowers was a respected teacher who taught his young students to kill Jews systematically. Imagine that his society backed his teachings, and that his government paid for weapons and weapons training. Imagine if he knew that after his death, his family would be cared for.

That is how many of us in Israel think about the Jihadist terror that we face from the Palestinian Authority, from Hamas, from Hezbollah, and others.

We are at war with a systemized, mechanized, effort to kill Jews and destroy Israel. A world of Robert Bowerses.

Sometimes it feels like our American brothers and sisters don’t get what we’re facing here in Israel. Maybe this tragic moment will bring us closer in understanding what dangers we both face.

That is my hope, and why I remained determined not to allow the moment to be politicized — despite the immense pressure to participate.

From Israel, America looks like one big reality TV show, one featuring a society caught up in some kind of mad inner psychological battle. It’s as though Americans don’t know that they have the privilege to live in a great country with wonderful freedoms and opportunities.

Americans seem both ungrateful for what they have and at the same time addicted to needless fights. It seems like everything coming out of America these days is about the Left or the Right, about MSNBC or Fox News. And it’s always, always, about finding someone to blame: Trump killed those Jews; guns killed those Jews; incivility killed those Jews.

Such was the case when our Minister of Education and Minister of Diaspora affairs went to Pittsburg where some American Jews, in a hyper-judgemental ultra-polarized mode, claimed they did not want him there because he supports the settlements.

Indeed, Bennett heads the leading nationalist party. But he is also a democratically elected minister in the government of Israel. His portfolio includes keeping our brothers and sisters around the world close to Israel.

So forget the man for a minute; is there no respect for the office which he occupies? The State of Israel, not Bennett, was coming to the Diaspora to grieve and show support.

Can we not set aside the arguments to come together? Should not the value of unity defeat the value of winning a political point in this moment?

Moreover, if you do look at Bennett the man, he was an officer in one of Israel’s most elite special forces units. This man led clandestine missions to strike at the enemy and save Jewish lives.

Ask yourself: When was the last time you stayed up for 48 hours straight in dangerous enemy territory, trained and prepared to strike a hardened enemy of the Jewish people? Have you ever physically stopped a Robert Bowers from committing a heinous murder? Naftali Bennett has. Doesn’t he deserve our respect enough to welcome him in this moment of crisis?

Opinion | American Jews: Stop Politicizing The Pittsburgh Massacre. Sincerely, Your Israeli Brother

Many good people died in Pittsburg. Many good Jews were murdered in horrific fashion. And I bet that if we could ask them how they would like us to commemorate their death, they would say, come together, sisters and brothers, over our tragedy. Let’s not disappoint them.

If ever we are to bridge the left-right rift and the Diaspora-Israel divide, this is the moment.

Yishai Fleisher is the International Spokesman of the Jewish Community of Hebron.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.

American Jews: Stop Politicizing The Pittsburgh Massacre. Sincerely, Your Israeli Brother

Your Comments

The Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. All readers can browse the comments, and all Forward subscribers can add to the conversation. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Forward requires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not and will be deleted. Egregious commenters or repeat offenders will be banned from commenting. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and the Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Recommend this article

American Jews: Stop Politicizing The Pittsburgh Massacre. Sincerely, Your Israeli Brother

Thank you!

This article has been sent!