I was troubled to read that at last month’s funeral for the Jewish teacher and children killed in Toulouse, France, that speaker after speaker vowed that the blood of the victims will be avenged. That statement sounds eerily like “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,” which might seem to permit reciprocal justice. It troubles me, because I wonder if people will take vengeance into their own hands.
We have just recounted the Exodus story over Passover, in which HaShem rather than the Israelites avenged “the blood of the victims.” HaShem unleashed the 10 plagues on the Egyptians, while the Israelites moved on. This Exodus is the moral high road, the right path for wronged people broadly. The Israelites, as far as we know, got their revenge by doing better: they built their society, developed, evolved. The rest, as my Baba would say, “You leave to the Boss.”
Judaism’s golden rule is to treat others as you wish to be treated. Many of us used the occasion of Passover to dwell on and advocate for social justice here and worldwide. As in ancient Egypt, the answer is to develop a fair, equitable, and just society. How might we respond constructively to these killings? First, by continuing dialogue: among Jews, between Jews and non-Jews including Muslims, between Israelis and Palestinians. Resume peace negotiations between the Israeli and Palestinian governments. Discuss dismantling the Jewish settlements in the West Bank, which now house more than 300,000 Jewish Israelis. Leave any vengeance to external forces, a higher power, whatever you believe. Let us respond completely oppositely: by treating one another as we want to be treated, by living as we believe everyone should live.
* * *
Yom Hazikaron, 5772
We honour the members of the Israel Defence Forces who at too early an age gave their lives in defence of the State of Israel. We also honour victims of terror, including the members of the Fogel family of Itamar and the victims in Toulouse, France. We should also remember the 11 Canadian Machal volunteers who gave their lives in the 1948 War of Independence. Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion said that the “greatest contribution the Jewish Diaspora ever made to Israel was in providing the Machal volunteers.” The following list of volunteers was compiled by the late Machal pilot and historian Eddy Kaplansky.
• George (Buzz) Beurling, of Verdun, Que., Canada’s top World War II fighter pilot, was killed near Rome on May 20, 1948, in the crash of an airplane being readied for its ferry flight to Israel. He was buried in the Haifa Military Cemetery, non-Jewish section.
• Harvey Cohen and Ed Lugech, first cousins from Toronto, served in the Palmach Yiftach Brigade and participated in the battles of Nebi Yusha and Malkiyeh. They were missing and believed waylaid by Arab irregulars near Sarafand in June 1948.
• Reuben Schiff, of Toronto, served on the Aliyah Bet ship Paducah and was killed July 11, 1948, near Abu j’Ab while looking for his shipmate and Palmach comrade Lou Ball.
• Sidney Rubinoff, of Toronto, served with Palmach in battles of Nebi Yusha, Malkiyeh, Operation Danny, and the capture of Lydda and Ramleh. Wounded at Latrun on July 17, 1948, he died on the way to hospital.
• Sidney Leisure, of Toronto, served in 7th Brigade, 72nd Battalion, and was killed Sept. 7, 1948, during Operation Hiram in the battle for Tamra hill in the Galilee.
• Leonard Fitchett, of Vancouver, an ex-RCAF pilot, served in 103 Squadron. Downed in his Beaufighter by anti-aircraft fire on Oct. 20, 1948, while attacking Egyptian-held Iraq el Sueidan police fortress, he was buried in the Haifa Military Cemetery, non-Jewish section.
• Wilfred Canter (pilot) of Toronto, Willy Fisher (navigator) of Winnipeg and Fred Stevenson (co-pilot) of Vancouver were RCAF veterans who served in 103 Squadron. During a night supply run to Sdom, on Oct. 24, 1948, their C-47 exploded in the air after an engine caught fire. Stevenson was buried in Haifa Military Cemetery in the non-Jewish section.
• Ralph Moster (pilot), of Vancouver, was killed Dec. 7, 1948, with three others when their Grumman Widgeon crashed into the Sea of Galilee during a training flight.