Hebron and the Cost of Shalom

After writing an op-ed article for The New York Times condemning the massacre of Palestinians in a Hebron mosque by an orthodox Jew in late February, I was greeted with catcalls by a few worshipers at the orthodox synagogue at which I often pray. "You’re a self-hating Jew and you have no business praying with us," they shouted outside the synagogue.

What particularly annoyed them was that in the op-ed I had argued that the fanatic who gunned down 40 Palestinians in prayer welcoming the Islamic holiday of Ramadan was a product of a discourse of violence and demeaning of the other that has gained ascendancy in some orthodox circles in the past few decades.

I have some doubts about talking about these issues in the pages of Sojourners. Though I am very critical of Israeli treatment of Palestinians, I believe that many people in the Christian community find it all too easy to criticize the Jews without recognizing the role that Christians played in setting up the fundamental issues in the first place. The Jewish Religious Right is a product of 2,000 years of Jewish persecution, most of it generated by explicitly anti-Semitic statements in the Bible that attempted to give collective responsibility to the Jewish people for the murder of Jesus.

For at least 1,000 years, Jews lived in fear every Easter that drunken and murderous Christian crowds would move from their churches to attack the Jews. It was natural that European ultra-nationalists—from France and Germany to Poland and Russia—when seeking to find an "other" to blame for whatever wasn’t working well in their societies, would pick the group that had been systematically demeaned throughout most of European history.

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Sojourners Magazine May 1994
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