Every year when Passover eve arrives, I do my best not to think about that night; to allow the joy of cherished rituals meant to renew our family’s tribal history and faith envelop us in its warm glow as whoever among the kids and grandkids it’s our turn to host partake of the matzoh, bitter herbs, and wine. Often – actually most often – I succeed.
It was almost twenty years ago when I and my husband, sons, new daughter-in-law and in-laws watched our Seder night explode, our lives threatened, our fellow Jews maimed and murdered by a Palestinian Muslim suicide bomber. Only moments before, I remember sitting in the lobby of the Park Hotel in Netanya as grandparents joyously greeted the arrival of their children and grandchildren; and then at a table set with all the ritual objects – the Seder plate, the salt water, the wine bottles. I would spend many years wondering who among those strangers in the lobby lived, and who were among the thirty who died. I wondered too who among the rest of the survivors would ever again be able to celebrate the Passover Seder with joy?
There is a particular obscenity in terror acts that target religious holidays that are a family tradition, a tribal expression of faith and continuity. The beyond-horror of the coordinated Easter Sunday attacks by Muslim suicide bombers in Sri Lanka was not only an act of criminal inhumanity, it was an unholy sacrilege that can never be comprehended or condoned by any person professing a belief in a higher power. And yet, the Muslim world is largely silent, as usual, when these atrocities are committed in the name of their religion. There were no Muslims donning crosses, as New Zealanders adopted hijabs in solidarity with Muslim victims of terror; no mass outcry by imams, or the heads of Islamic states. Even more shockingly, there was a polite, almost restrained outcry from the Western world as well, as if people were more terrified of being condemned themselves for any expression of disgust with Islam over this atrocity against Christians, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton carefully couching their condolences to “Easter worshippers.”
The work to disarm and restrain what should be by now a screaming, bottomless, world-wide fury at decades of religion-based atrocities by Muslim fundamentalists by labeling all such opposition as Islamophobic has been irrationally successful, making it almost impossible to wage an all-out war on the Islam of brutal murderers and rapists, domestic abusers and pedophiles, enslavers and brutalizers of women: the Islam of global intolerance and sacrilegious disrespect of others.
Twenty years ago, we Jews were alone when Islamic terrorists blew up our Seders, our bar mitzvah boys, our brides at the wedding canopy. We weren’t surprised that no one cared. We had experience. And so we took our aloneness and built from it a vigilant backlash, barriers (that the world decried) to keep our people safe, to bar the murderers’ entry.
All the while our friends in France, Germany, England, and the rest of Europe, as well as a good many Americans, were convincing themselves that Islamic terror wasn’t based on the hatred of the “kufir” but simply justified reactions to the “crimes” committed against Palestinians. It couldn’t happen to Europeans or Americans because they loved and supported the Palestinians, lavishing them with billions in euros and dollars to pay for their terror networks; utilizing every world forum to defend them and excoriate their “abusers”- the vile Israeli Jews. This was a political issue, not a religious one, they insisted. A land-based, wealth-motivated outcry from the “oppressed.”
I can’t really blame them. I remember sitting down to Shabbat dinner with good Jews in Gibraltar at the time of the Oslo Accords, and how our very intelligent, kind Jewish host passionately defended the idea that Islamic terror would disappear once Palestinians had good jobs and nice homes. People in the West, who for the most part have themselves long ago lost any religious feeling, simply cannot comprehend what Islamic terror is all about. The fact that people hate you and want you and your kids – even the very little ones, the ones in diapers and tiny baby shoes – dead simply because you refuse to accept that Allah is the one true god and that Mohammed is his prophet.
Because of that willful incomprehension, it has been so slow to dawn on Western minds – if it ever will no matter what is done to them in the name of Islam – that they have hog-tied themselves, making it impossible for them to take the simple steps necessary that would protect their loved ones, their culture, their entire civilization from destruction.
- Round up anyone suspected of Islamic fundamentalist leanings: the preachers, the online followers, the Islamic teachers of terror and their students. Put them away until they can be reeducated, the way Nazis were de-Nazified and Nazism disappeared from the world except for easily recognizable pockets of extremists that are under watch and thus easily contained.
- Shut down all social-media companies that are hosting jihadi content. Period.
- Refuse to trade with countries that tolerate Islamic extremism. Shut down their tourism. Shut down their bank accounts. Make those in violation of this boycott liable to severe monetary and criminal penalties.
- Make the murder of any citizen of any country for religious reasons an act of war, with all that entails, making those that condone it and celebrate it, war criminals.
- Deport back to Islamic homelands anyone caught participating, rejoicing, celebrating, or condoning Islamic terror attacks anywhere in the world. Destroy their homes, bulldoze their businesses, houses of worship, and educational institutions.
Of course, the chances that any of these things will happen in my lifetime is almost nil. The continued acquiescence of the Western world to these atrocities, these blasphemies, in the name of some kind of false overtures to co-existence and peace, is as assured as it is wrong-headed and destructive. And so one despairs of anything that can save the world more atrocities of this kind except the direct intervention of the real God, not the black-hearted invention that jihadis claim to serve and worship.
We were the lucky ones. Almost twenty years ago, spurred on by an inexplicable sense of urgency, I herded my family upstairs to the separate dining hall that was reserved for us and the hotel owner’s family since both of us wanted to conduct our own seder instead of partaking in the communal one downstairs. Even my in-laws, who were still in the downstairs bathrooms, managed to miraculously avoid the consequences of the explosion.
Nevertheless, despite having been physically unharmed, experiencing such a thing not only changes you forever, but changes the world you live in, the religion you practice, the holidays you observe, casting a shadow of sorrow over every act of worship. For jihadis, killing us and our children is just the icing on the cake. Their real goal is to destroy our faith, our rituals, and our own way of serving God. We must not let them succeed.
Reprinted with author’s permission from Naomi Ragen