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The world ignores Itamar

Wednesday, 23 March, 2011 - 5:03 pm

By Rabbi Nechemia Schusterman

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

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

On March 18, as many were finishing up their Shabbat meals and as others prepared for bed, a terrorist or terrorists infiltrated this village, entered the home of the Fogel family and perpetrated themost heinous carnage imaginable. They slit the throats of the mother, father and three of the six children (one was at a youth program and found her family killed, and two were in a bedroom and apparently overlooked by the invaders).

This barbaric act of venomous hate shocked the nation of Israel and Jews worldwide, yet so many do not know of the story because much of 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 so deep that theslaughter of Jews barely gets a mention, yet the construction of a home – some cement and bricks in territory that is undisputedly theirs – reason for condemnation and riots?

In his shiva call to the Fogel family, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “They murder, we build. … and we will build.” That reminded me of another terrible attack and the response of  theLubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson.

In May 1956, in the village of Kfar Chabad, terrorists attacked Chassidim. They came from the orchards to the shul and shot six people dead, a teacher and five students. Many others were injured.

The Chassidim – a normally happy bunch who had finally learned to restart life after the misery in Europe – were broken and devastated. 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.

They sent a telegram to the Rebbe in New York, expecting a swift and inspirational reply – a plan of action, words of encouragement and an explanation for G-d’s mighty ways.

They waited one day, two days, three – and still no word from New York. What did the Rebbe have to say to uplift them, as he and his predecessors had done after previous tragedy and calamity?

Four days later a telegram arrived. Everyone assembled to hear whatthe holy Rebbe had to say. “Behemshech habinyan tinacheimu” – “by your continuing to build, you will be comforted.” That was theRebbe’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. Indeed,the next day, in Kfar Chabad, everyone helped clear debris and create space for what would eventually become the trade school for which, among other things, Kfar Chabad is known. The light and joy, the fire and fervor, 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.

I hope that Netanyahu will keep his word and not be concerned about what the other nations say. Let us build. And with our building we will be comforted.

Rabbi Schusterman 

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