“A Shandeh”- Shabbat Inspiration 

on August 21, 2015, by Rabbi Yocheved Mintz, Congregation P’nai Tikvah

There is a Yiddish phrase, “a Shandeh fer di Goyim,” that literally means, a disgrace before the nations; and last month, two incidents in Israel brought horror, shame, and disgust to our people, and were, without doubt, both a Shandeh fer di Goyim and a Shandeh fer di Yiddin!

As Shmuel Rosner, the senior political editor of the Los Angeles Review Journal says:  “Any decent person—any decent supporter of Israel—must respond with horror to the two violent events that occurred in Israel…the brutal murder of an 18-month-old Palestinian toddler, Ali Saad Dawabsheh,  in what appears to have been an attack by Jewish terrorists…[and] the attack on the Gay Pride parade in Jerusalem that resulted in the death of a 16-year-old LGBTQ ally, Shira Banky, and injuries to five  gay Israelis.”[1]

The attack on the Jerusalem Gay Pride participants was horrific, perpetrated by an ultra-Orthodox fanatic named Yishai Schlissel, who had recently been released from ten years in prison for having attacked three people in the Gay Pride parade a decade ago; and the death of the toddler, Ali Saad Dawabsheh – was as senseless as it was heartbreaking.  While receiving little or no further publicity, that particular arson attack on the Dawabsheh family of the village of Duma also recently claimed the life of Ali’s father, and has left her mother and little brother still suffering from their wounds, as well as their loss.

Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu issued a statement, saying “This is a terror attack in every respect,” and added, “The State of Israel deals forcefully with terror, regardless of who the perpetrators are;” and President Reuven Rivlin proclaimed in both Arabic and Hebrew “I feel a sense of shame, and, moreover, a sense of pain—pain that comes from my people there who have chosen the path of terrorism, and have lost their humanity.”  We, who love Israel and are committed to protecting and advancing Israeli democracy, are also abhorred by these most recent attacks and by the hundreds of previous attacks targeting Palestinians and their property, as well as 43 attacks on Christian churches and monasteries and Muslim mosques, (including the arson attack, June 18th, of the sacred Christian site, the historic Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes), all perpetrated, sadly, by Jewish religious extremists.

A year ago, the murder of teenager Muhammad Abu Khdeir, by Jewish terrorists disgusted the world, but nothing seemed to be happening…until recently.   While responses are being made to these highly publicized atrocities, the truth is that Israeli law enforcement authorities have yet to properly confront the root of these attacks and the religious extremists who not only condone them, but encourage them.

Despite the recent spate of publicity, not one indictment had been made until the arson attack that resulted against the sleeping Dawabsheh family, according to the New Israel Fund.  But Israel now seems to be fighting back against terrorism perpetrated by Jews.  Last week, two Israeli brothers were found guilty of in an arson attack on a Jerusalem Jewish-Arab school.  And two Israelis have been arrested and charged in the arson attack of the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and fishes, as was another individual a few days earlier.

We are stunned and bewildered by such crimes happening in a nation that prides itself on its love of peace; thousands of Israelis across the country gathered to protest the crimes, but the question most asked is not how these attacks could take place in Israel, but why more isn’t being done to stop them.  While the assailant in the Gay Pride attack, Yishai Schlissel, might be dismissed in the Haredi/Ultra-Orthodox community as a psychopath, there is some truth to a deep homophobia embedded in Haredi Judaism.  But the Duma assailants are a different story, a part of a “shadowy network of militant settlers,” as the Forward editors put it.

The existence of this network is not new.  Our friend, Anat Hoffman, an Israeli-American lawyer and activist with the Women of the Wall and the Israel Religious Action Center, shared with me her frustration about her challenges with getting actual indictments of the ultra-Orthodox individual who are responsible for inciting the acts of discrimination, bigotry, or outright terrorism.  She, herself, has been trying to get action from the government for attacks over the past six to eight years, but she feels that she has been thwarted by a seeming stranglehold by the ultra-orthodox community, reticent to bring charges against its own.  Anat explained that behind these attacks is a group of zealot ultra-Orthodox rabbis who promote the venom spewed in a book called, Torat HaMelech, The King’s Law, written by Rabbis Yitzchak Shapira and Yosef Elitzur, of the Yitzhar Settlement, and endorsed by Rabbi Dov Lior, Rosh Yeshivah of Schechem and the late Rabbi Yaakov Yosef, son of the late Sephardic Shas leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.  Appealing to the extreme right, Torat HaMelech claims that in certain cases it is permissible to kill Gentiles, even Gentile babies, rationalizing that those babies might grow up to attack righteous Jews.

As horrific as that may seem to us, those who have perpetrated such attacks have done so with impunity…until now.    The statements by Netanyahu and Rivlin and the subsequent indictments filed against the suspects in arson attacks may signify that Israeli authorities may be starting to take the threat posed by the Jewish terrorists seriously.  Anat Hoffman feels that this may, indeed, have been a turning point and is poised to go to court with the eight years of cases she was previously unsuccessful in prosecuting.  Because the Israel Religious Action Center is dedicated to countering discrimination, racism, and bigotry in Israel; how much more-so will it summon its resources and support from people of good will everywhere to counter the zealotry of terrorism perpetrated by Israeli religious extremists, even Rabbis, whose perverted Torah has willingly encouraged the violent attacks that have so horrified us this summer.

Lest anyone should feel that I am lambasting the Orthodox, please remember that I am the granddaughter of the head of the Orthodox rabbinate in Cleveland and grew up knowing only wise and righteous, thoughtful and caring Rabbis.  I may have been naïve in thinking that all Rabbis were like those in my family, but I was not wrong in holding the Rabbinate to a higher standard.  It is for this reason that I say that the ultra-Orthodox religious extremists who are promoting terrorism in Israel, the Rabbis who are distorting the Torah for their own nefarious purposes, and the Rabbis who are protecting them through political means are a Shandah….Shame on them…and what a sadness for our beloved Israel and for Jews everywhere.


[1] L.A. Jewish Journal, Aug 7-13, 2015.  Page 14.