Jerusalem in mourning

The relative sense of security that Jerusalemites have felt for the past couple of years was shattered on Thursday night with the murder of 8 teenage yeshiva students who were studying at the Mercaz Harav yeshiva.  You can read basic coverage of the attack here .

Unlike many other past terrorist attacks, this one was no random choice.  Mercaz Harav is an Orthodox yeshiva (men’s school for Torah study) which is the "flagship" institution of the religious Zionist movement — the movement that produces the vast majority of ideologically motivated settlers, and the vast majority of people building illegal settlements.  The terrorist was striking a blow to what might be perceived as a central institution in the whole Zionist settler movement.

This attack brought home to me once again what a small place and what a small community we are in Jerusalem.  In keeping with Jewish religious law, funerals in Jerusalem are always conducted within 24 hours; if a death takes place early enough in the day, the funeral is often the same day.  I can’t imagine how difficult that most be for family members — you barely have time to adjust to the idea of the loss and you’re at the cemetery.  Even though I normally travel is relatively "liberal" circles, I have two friends who were at funerals on Friday — funerals for the 16 year old son of a former colleague for one friend, a 15 year old son of a neighbor for the other.

The terrorist came from Jerusalem — from the Arab neighborhood of Jebl Mukaber.  The JPost has an interesting article about the neighborhood which you can read here .   In the article, and in other things you might read, you will see Jebl Mukaber described as an "East Jerusalem" neighborhood.  Calling Jebl Mukaber an East Jerusalem neighborhood is describing a political reality, not a geographical reality.  Jebl Mukaber is the next neighborhood over from where I live — it is due south of me, not at all east of me.  It is surrounded by Jewish neighborhoods on two sides.  It’s not much more than half a mile from where I live.  It’s a neighborhood I used to fairly regularly run or bike ride through, to make a nice loop.  However, now that I know this murderer came from there, I find myself feeling that I may choose to run somewhere else.  Which I realize is irrational.  I wasn’t afraid to run through Toledo neighborhoods where murders had occurred.  But that’s what terrorism does — it strikes us emotionally, not logically.

The mood in Jerusalem remains somber, both as we mourn for the loss of life of innocent young men, and as we mourn over the reminder that peace remains an elusive goal.

On Friday morning when one of my daughters saw the headline on the paper, she asked "Abba, is the moshiach (Messiah) going to come soon?"

I wish I knew.  But I certainly believe we will need someone with Messianic leadership skills to bring us peace, and that leader is nowhere to be seen in the political scene — not on our side, and not on the Palestinian side.

But, as Rambam said, "though he may tarry…"  we still wait expectantly.

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Barry Leff

Rabbi Barry (Baruch) Leff is a dual Israeli-American business executive, teacher, speaker and writer who divides his time between Israel and the US.

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