Member of Parliament Irwin Cotler denounced the western world’s indifference to the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens, and to the Hamas “genocidal anti-Semitism” that sanctioned such a crime, at a community memorial service held by Montreal’s Federation CJA at the Gelber Centre on July 2.
While the entire nation of Israel and Jews around the world were transfixed during the 19 days of the boys’ disappearance and grieved as one people at its tragic end on June 30, it “remained a footnote in western political consciousness,” Cotler said.
An estimated 700 people attended the service, which included remarks by Israeli Consul General Joel Lion, federation and Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) officials, D’Arcy McGee member of the National Assembly David Birnbaum, and an especially emotional lament by Beth Israel Beth Aaron Congregation Rabbi Reuben Poupko.
Both Cotler and Rabbi Poupko contrasted the response of Israelis and Palestinians to the slayings of the yeshiva students and the apparent revenge killing of a Palestinian youth afterward.
“As Israel condemned the murder of the Palestinian boy, Palestinians celebrated the deaths of the Israeli boys,” Cotler said.
Rabbi Poupko praised the courage and dignity of the Israeli mothers as they awaited the fate of their sons with that of one of the accused kidnappers, who said on Israeli TV: “If he truly did it, I’ll be proud of him until my last day.”
Cotler placed the blame on Hamas for “openly calling for the destruction of the State of Israel and the killing of Jews wherever they may be.” The Palestinian Authority is equally guilty of “glorifying terrorist murderers,” he said.
His voice cracking with emotion, Rabbi Poupko pleaded, “Don’t touch our children… Let’s be blunt: while we love life, they revel in death.”
Federation CEO Deborah Corber implored the Jewish community not to give in to rage and hatred, or the impulse to avenge, but to remain united.
“I understand the demand for revenge… but we need to speak in one language. There can be no greater punishment of our enemies than for them to see that nothing can divide us,” she said. “True revenge is transcending the differences among us.”
Similarly, Lion said, “In Judaism, there is no revenge. Only God can avenge a death.
“We have a cruel enemy, but it is not the Palestinian people; it is Hamas, a terrorist organization… An enemy without remorse that will do anything to take us away from our land… It is our land and we are there to stay. Nobody will make us leave our home.”
CIJA Quebec chair Eric Maldoff said it is urgent that world leaders stand up to terrorism and groups like Hamas. Opinion polls show that support for terrorism among Palestinians is among the highest anywhere in the Middle East, he said.
He implored Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to lead his people away from violence and resume negotiations toward a two-state solution.
Referring to the killing of the Palestinian boy in Jerusalem, Maldoff added, “There is no justification for murder.”
Birnbaum conveyed his own condolences and those of Premier Philippe Couillard. Montreal executive committee member Lionel Perez and Mary Deros, an adviser to Mayor Denis Coderre, were also present.
Cantor Yehuda Abittan of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue recited the memorial prayer.
A form letter of condolence was distributed at the memorial service affirming to the boys’ relatives that “your global Jewish family stand[s] shoulder to shoulder with you,” which the federation will transmit.
Later on the evening of July 2, the three boys were memorialized by the Chabad-Lubavitch Organization at its centre in Town of Mount Royal, turning what was originally planned as a celebration of the life of the movement’s Rebbe Menachem Schneerson on the 20th anniversary of his death, into one of sorrow.
Memorials are being held by Jewish communities across Canada, including one held in London, Ont., on July 2.
On July 3, Israeli Ambassador Rafael Barak was scheduled to attend the Jewish Federation of Ottawa’s memorial at Congregation Machzikei Hadas. Prayers for the slain teens were to be offered at the Jewish Community Centre of Vancouver that evening as well.
The Toronto Jewish community was to gather on July 7 at Shaarei Shomayim Congregation.
“We urge all community members to attend this important event as an exceptional display of Jewish unity and as a tribute to the innocent victims of a cruel crime at the hands of these heartless terrorists,” stated UJA Federation of Greater Toronto.