Pop quiz: what do Ori Ansbacher, Gal Keidan and Rabbi Achiad Ettinger have in common? They are the first three victims of Palestinian terror in 2019. What else do these three have in common? Their deaths have been ignored by most Canadian Jews – and yes, that means you.
Everyone loves to politicize and exaggerate the Israel-Diaspora rift these days. I learned at the General Assembly of United Jewish Communities that for many American Jewish leaders, “Israel-Diaspora relations” is code for “why Israel sucks and how I blame Israel for my kids’ distancing themselves from Judaism.”
I find reports of the rift greatly exaggerated – see the hundreds of thousands of Birthright participants who are building a new living bridge day by day, trip by trip, friendship by friendship. I find the one-sided finger-pointing unacceptable. But when it comes to most Jews’ utter ignorance regarding these tragedies, I don’t put the blame on Israelis, or Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, or the Kotel, or the Palestinian question. I blame us.
Ansbacher was a 19-year-old poet and volunteer who took a short walk into the woods near the Ein Yael Nature Reserve in Jerusalem on Feb. 7 – and never came home. She was raped and murdered by a Palestinian who admitted his desire to kill a Jew and become a “martyr.” According to the truth-tellers at Palestinian Media Watch, who translate Palestinian TV, PATV ran a celebratory video, singing, “We have given them (the Israelis) a taste of grief … a bone in the throat of the Zionists.” Nice.
Another 19-year-old, Gal Keidan, a baby-faced sergeant doing his duty guarding the Ariel Junction, was stabbed and killed on March 17. Rabbi Ettinger, a 47-year-old father of 12 kids ranging in age from one to 22, reacted. Drawing his gun, Rabbi Ettinger drove toward the terrorist, who had Keidan’s rifle in hand. That act drew the terrorist’s attention from an older woman he was about to shoot – and he instead shot Rabbi Ettinger, who died of his wounds the next day.
In 2001, 2002 and 2003, when such dastardly deeds occurred, many of us in Canada responded. We cried out the names of the victims in anguish. We adopted their families. We showered them with love – and, yes, with money, too. (Imagine being a widow with so many mouths to feed.)
Today, I mostly hear the sounds of silence. It’s time to change that – now.
Let’s use the upcoming Passover holiday to remember all the victims of terror since last Pesach and figure out how, as families and as individuals, we can adopt them.
Ansbacher’s friends and family have helped us along. After her brutal murder, her friends refused to be cowed. They have asked people to continuing wandering the woods and post photos of those hikes, under the banner, “To be a free people in our country – spreading Ori’s light.” Ansbacher’s mother, Noa, has asked everyone “to do one small thing to add light to the world … one act of kindness” (“Ori” means “my light.”)
On March 17, Rabbi Ettinger did a huge act of kindness and paid a big price for it. Two weeks later, the woman whose life he saved was lucky enough to attend her grandson’s circumcision – thanks to Rabbi Ettinger. The grateful family named the baby after Rabbi Ettinger and honoured one of his sons at the bris.
That’s what we do – we take the negative and generate more light, more acts of kindness, more community ties. We celebrate life as they celebrate death. Yet the “we” is in question: is it just Israelis, or their fellow Jews in Canada, and elsewhere, too?