A Week of Tragedy
It has been a very traumatic week here in Israel. Thursday night’s horrific bus crash hit us all like a knife in our collective heart. The entire chareidi community was deeply shaken by the tragedy. The location of the accident was enough to make every religious Jew in Yerushalayim feel as if he had been there personally. Rav Shefa Mall is a most popular shopping destination for many. It was horrifying to hear about a dreadful accident on familiar turf such as Rechov Shamgar in Yerushalayim.
The sorrowful mood began to set in on Thursday night immediately after the news of the bus crash began to spread. On Friday, when the victims’ names were released, that sorrow deepened. The levayah at Shamgar for Mrs. Shoshana Glustein and her two daughters, seven-year-old Chaya Sarah and two-year-old Chana, was absolutely heartrending. The bereaved husband and father, Rav Dov Glustein, delivered a powerful hesped, and the two grandfathers, Rav Yisroel Glustein of Mir and Rav Yaakov Ehrenfreund of Ofakim, were equally grief-stricken.
Our communal distress was amplified even further when we learned the identity of the wounded victim in the crash, Batsheva bas Sarah Chaya. The young woman is a member of the Beifus family of Rechasim, a granddaughter of the author of the Lekach Tov and Yosef Lekach series. Her husband, Rabbi Chaim Paley, is a son of Rav Hillel Paley, a well-known composer and maggid shiur. The couple has been married for only half a year, and the young woman lost both of her legs and was fighting for her life in the hospital when Shabbos began. On motzoei Shabbos, it was reported that her condition had stabilized and that she is expected to survive. Her father-in-law, Rav Hillel Paley, has asked the community to daven for his daughter-in-law to survive and for his son to have the strength to cope with the disaster that has befallen hem.
What Caused the Bus to Crash?
Of course, everyone has been struggling to understand what precipitated the deadly crash and what caused the bus to begin moving while it was parked. The driver, who was sobbing uncontrollably after the accident, does not appear to have been at fault; he seems to have done everything that could be expected of him, although he apparently made a small error. The driver explained that after he let off a group of passengers, the baggage compartment door malfunctioned and did not close. He therefore decided to park the bus at the beginning of Rechov Shamgar and to remove the remaining passengers and have them board a different bus for the remainder of their journey. After everyone had gotten out, he locked the bus to prevent it from moving, and he left the vehicle to try to fix the baggage compartment door.
When a bus is locked, it is not supposed to move at all. Therefore, when the driver left the bus, he was not doing anything wrong. However, it seems that when he was trying to fix the baggage compartment, he somehow disabled the electrical system on the bus, causing the brakes that he had activated to stop working. As a result, the bus began rolling downhill. In spite of the tragic outcome, there was also an undeniable miracle: When a massive bus rolls down a busy street for dozens of meters and then hits a bus stop at the entrance to a crowded shopping center, one can expect it to cause dozens of fatalities! Even the direction of the bus’s movement defies explanation; as it rolled down the street with the driver running alongside it and screaming for people to get out of the way, it seemed to be about to collide with another bus in front of it, but it inexplicably turned right instead. It was also miraculous that the collision with the bus stop halted the vehicle’s movement; there was no clear reason for the bus stop to prevent the massive vehicle from continuing on its path of destruction.
But in spite of all these miraculous details, the outcome of the crash was profoundly painful. A good deal of the levity and joy of bein hazemanim was crushed by this disaster. It was impossible for any of us to return to our routines after this catastrophe; we all sensed that the midas hadin was in force, and a sense of terror set in. To make matters worse, this wasn’t the only horrific bus crash in recent days. Just a couple of days earlier, another crash occurred in the same area when a bus traveling on Rechov Yirmiyohu (near the United Hatzolah building, at the corner of Rechov Tuval, where the Shaarei Revocha supermarket is located) suddenly veered to the left, crossed over two lanes of traffic heading in the opposite direction, and crashed into a building. Rabbi Pinchos Naftoli Deutsch, a Belzer chossid and local resident who was returning home after shopping for groceries, was killed on the spot.
Amazingly, both Rav Deutsch’s levayah and the funeral processions of the victims of the accident at Rav Shefa passed through the locations of their deaths. And it is also noteworthy that Rav Deutsch davened Maariv every day at the Kosel Hamaaravi—which also featured in the news for unfortunate reasons this week.
Heavenly Chessed Amidst Disaster
But before I discuss the terror attack near the Kosel, let me share some of my sad musings following the two bus accidents. First, we must recognize the unmistakable workings of Divine hashgocha in both of these tragedies. Rav Pinchos Naftoli Deutsch, for instance, was inside a building when he was killed, ostensibly in a place where he should not have been vulnerable to a vehicle crash. But when a decree is sealed in Shomayim, a disaster will take place even in the most unnatural way. There is no reason in the world for a bus standing at a red light to suddenly begin moving, jump across two lanes, and crash into an apartment building—no reason, that is, other than a Heavenly decree.
The tragedy that befell the Glustein family is likewise a sign of hashgocha—painful hashgocha, but hashgocha nonetheless. The family lives in the town of Ofakim in southern Israel, nowhere near Rav Shefa Mall, but it was evidently decreed in Shomayim that the victims would meet their deaths last Thursday, and the entire family traveled to Yerushalayim and found themselves at the bus stop outside the mall precisely when the utterly improbable bus crash took place. Mrs. Glustein’s husband was with them at the mall, but he was not harmed; such was the nature of the gezeirah.
Similarly, the Paley family lives in Rechasim, in a chareidi community in the north. They, too, traveled to Yerushalayim on that fateful day and found themselves at Rav Shefa Mall precisely at the time of this tragedy. The lesson is clear: When Hashem decrees that it is time for someone to meet the malach hamoves, then the person himself will travel to the place where he is destined to encounter it, just as the Gemara relates that a person was once fleeing from the malach hamoves and ran to the very place where it was waiting for him.
I always comment that we refer to this concept in our davening every day, when we declare, “V’hu rachum yechapeir avon v’lo yashchis—And He is merciful; He will atone for sin and will not destroy.” It takes a tremendous amount of Heavenly mercy for us to live calm, placid lives. If Hashem’s attribute of mercy is interrupted even momentarily, for any reason, then He wreaks destruction; it is only because He is merciful that He does not destroy. But there are times when the midas hadin is in force, and it is our responsibility to do everything in our power at those times to replace it with Heavenly mercy.
We must also remember that even within this powerful manifestation of judgment, we also witnessed Hashem’s abundant chessed. Both bus crashes could easily have claimed many more victims; by nature, they should have led to many more fatalities. But in His great kindness, Hashem did not allow the accidents to be nearly as deadly as they could have been.
The Levayeh of Rebbetzin Shoshana Reizel Glustein and Her Daughters
Hundreds gathered at the heartbreaking levayah of Rebbetzin Shoshana Reizel Glustein and her two young daughters, Chaya Sarah, and Chana, all three killed in the devastating bus crash outside Yerushalayim’s Shefa Shuk mall.
The levayah began at the Shamgar funeral home a couple of hundred yards down the road from the scene of the tragedy.
Husband and father of the deceased, Rav Dov Glustein, head of the Nachalas Moshe Kollel in Ofakim, spoke of his wife’s sterling qualities and courageously accepted the din Shomayim upon himself and his family.
“Because it is Tu B’Av, a day when we are not maspid, my words will be short,” he said. “It has always been a great wonder to me how women can go out to work, as this causes many difficulties for their children. My wife was offered many positions and took none of them. Her purpose in life was to devote herself to Klal Yisroel, utilizing her uniquely pleasant personality and her concern for people.”
“In Tziduk Hadin we say, ‘Hashem gave, and Hashem took away,’” Rav Dov continued. “It is easy to understand why we say, ‘Hashem took away.’ But what has ‘Hashem gave’ got to do with tzidduk hadin? The answer is very simple. Every person has a determined time to live here in this world. We all stand here and weep. But deep within, we all know that it was already decreed from Rosh Hashanah how long every person will live. My wife no longer needed to be in this world a second longer than necessary.”
“We received Ima for a determined time; no more time was necessary,” Rav Dov sobbed. “We received Sarah for a set time. No more time was needed. We received Chani for a determined time. No more time was needed. This is our firm emunah. May Hashem comfort us! How? We don’t know. But we trust that He Who brought us to this point, He Who gave us a large extended family from all sides that has helped us so much and continues to help us, will persist in helping us in every way.”
Hespeidim were also delivered by Rav Yisroel Yaakov Pinkus, rov of the Ofakim kehillah; the Mir mashgiach Rav Binyomin Finkel; the grandfather of the niftar, Rav Nosson Yisroel Glustein, rosh yeshiva in Mir and son-in-law of Rav Beinish Finkel; Rebbetzin Glustein’s brother Rav Yechiel Ehrenfreund from Elad; Mir rosh yeshiva Rav Yitzchok Ezrachi; and Binyomin the rebbetzin’s son, a talmid at the Tifrach Yeshiva.
After the hespedim, Rav Glustein and his four sons tore keriah on both sides of their jackets and shirts for their wife/mother and for their daughters/sisters. After the recital of Kaddish, Rebbetzin Glustein and her daughters were laid to rest at Har Hamenuchos.
Hundreds came to menachem aveil at the family’s simple home and were full of praise for the rebbetzin. A security guard at a son’s talmud Torah recalled how the rebbetzin sent him mishloach manos on Purim along with gifts for the teaching staff. The wives of her husbands’ yungeleit recalled that she treated them like princesses.
Her son who is leaving for yeshiva ketana in Elul said the freezer is full of cakes his mother baked for him in advance. His mother was anxious he should feel that she and the whole family were participating avidly in the next stage of his life, he said.
This is who the rebbetzin was.
Yehi zichram boruch.
Hours of Uncertainty Follow Shooting Near the Kosel
This motzoei Shabbos, I went through hours of nerve-wracking anxiety, since my son was visiting the Kosel late at night, precisely at the time that the terror attack occurred. For two hours, we were all nearly panic-stricken, after we had been told that the terror attack occurred in two different locations—at Kever Dovid, where passersby were targeted, and on the road, where the terrorist opened fire on a Number 3 bus carrying passengers home from the Kosel. It was reported soon enough that the shooter who had attacked the bus managed to escape, which meant that anyone in the area was in danger. Meanwhile, everyone was even more preoccupied by the question of what had happened to the shooter at the kever of Dovid Hamelech, who wasn’t even mentioned at all. Was he still on the loose as well? It took a while for the public to be notified that there was actually only one shooter, who had opened fire separately in both locations and then fled to the neighborhood of Silwan on the other side of the road. The police immediately imposed a lockdown on the neighborhood itself and the entire area of the Kosel.
As I mentioned, my son was at the Kosel that evening. He had missed the last bus leaving the Kosel—the bus that was fired upon—and he returned to the Kosel plaza to try to find someone who would offer him a ride home. When I called him, he knew nothing about the terror attack; he informed me that he was standing in the plaza and there was no sign of anything amiss. I was relieved to hear his voice, and I cautioned him to obey the instructions of security personnel. At that time, no one could be certain that the terrorist wasn’t actually heading toward the Kosel itself, and I feared for his safety.
Eight wounded victims were evacuated to the hospital from both attack sites. One of the victims was a woman who is still in critical condition; this woman was expecting, and her baby was delivered in Shaare Zedek and placed in the neonatal ward, where he is likewise in serious condition. A man in his forties who was shot in his neck is also listed as critically wounded. The remaining victims, who were taken either to Shaare Zedek or to Hadassah Har Hatzofim, range in condition from serious to moderate. May Hashem send them a refuah sheleimah.
The shooting took place at 1:30 in the morning. I continued monitoring the news until 3:30, when the last reports indicated that the terrorist had fled to Silwan and the police, backed by the Shabak and the Yamam counterterrorism unit, were conducting a house-to-house search. I went to sleep davening for Hashem to put an end to the dreadful situation, and in the morning the police reported that after a “determined manhunt,” the terrorist had turned himself in.
Two injured brothers meet in Hospital
Elazar Prover from Telzstone and his brother Dovi were returning from the Kosel when the terrorist opened fire outside Kever Dovid Hamelech.
Elazar, 19, was helping a woman in the wheelchair get onto the bus and Dov, 16, was waiting to get on. Both were shot in the shoulder, with bullets entering one side and exiting the other.
Elazar was initially oblivious of his fractured shoulder and as a first responder saved a seriously injured victim with a tourniquet.
Later, while Elazar was undergoing therapy for his shoulder at Shaare Tzedek, Dovi, who had already been released from Har Tzofim Hospital arrived and the two brothers embraced emotionally, overjoyed to be reunited after their ordeal.
A third brother, Yair, said that orthopedists said Duvi had experienced an absolute miracle, for although he was only lightly hurt, had the bullet penetrated a few centimeters deeper he would no longer be among the living.
Yair said it was also a miracle that the terrorist didn’t attack a more crowded bus that passed the bus stop five minutes earlier.
“Then my brothers’ bus arrived, which was much emptier,” Yair said. “This was the bus that was hit and since it was emptier, there were fewer injuries.”
The teens are sons of Rav Yechezkel Prover, mashgiach of Yeshivas Siach Yitzchok and of Be’er Hatalmud.
The Terrorist Reached Shaare Zedek
The circumstances under which the terrorist surrendered to the police are simply astonishing. At 7:00 in the morning, outside Shaare Zedek hospital, the terrorist hailed a taxi in the street and asked to be taken to the Moriah police station in Talpiot. The taxi driver, whose name is Shalom Aleichem, reported that the terrorist seemed quite congenial during the ride. They made small talk, and the terrorist claimed that someone had assaulted him and he was going to the police station to file a complaint. Unbeknownst to the driver, he was still carrying the gun that he had used in the attack several hours earlier, and he was also armed with a knife. When he left the taxi, his weapons were left behind on his seat.
When the taxi driver pulled up next to the police station, the terrorist paid him for the trip and did not ask for change. As soon as the passenger emerged from the vehicle, the police pounced on him and took him into custody. One of the police officers approached the taxi to question the driver, but he quickly realized that the taxi driver was completely oblivious to his passenger’s identity. “You were just saved from death,” the policeman informed him. The driver turned around, spotted the weapons on the back seat, and immediately fainted!
The terrorist, Amir Sidawi, is a 26-year-old resident of Yerushalayim and a citizen of Israel who holds the same blue identity card that is issued to any Israeli, myself included. He has spent time behind bars in the past and was released for “good behavior.” When he carried out this terror attack, he apparently acted on his own. The police believe that he turned himself in due to their quick operation in Silwan, which they claim made it impossible for him to reach any of the places where he might have considered hiding. However, that is probably not the real reason for his surrender. It would be more accurate to say that the terrorist took pity on his family; his parents and siblings were taken into custody within an hour of the attack.
The terrorist’s attack was hailed by Hamas as an act of vengeance against the Israeli “occupation.” But there is something else that I find quite unsettling: This terrorist, armed with a gun, was walking around in the vicinity of Shaare Zedek, the very hospital where his victims had been brought. It is chilling to think that he had every opportunity to harm them again, or to commit further acts of violence against others, in the heart of Yerushalayim.
The Taxi Driver’s Brush with Death
The taxi driver described his encounter with the terrorist as follows: “He got into the taxi and said, ‘Good morning. Can you take me to the police station?’ He told me that he had been assaulted. I knew that there had been a terror attack; after all, I get up early in the morning and listen to the news. But why would I connect my passenger to the attack? He spoke Hebrew very well. He got into my taxi at around 7:20 in the morning, and the drive took eleven minutes. When we arrived, I told him that we were at the police station, and he handed me a 50-shekel bill. I told him that I had been using the meter and that the fare was only 35 shekels, and he said, ‘It doesn’t matter. Take 50.’ I felt that that was a very nice way to begin the day.’
“Moments later, I saw four police cars following me with their sirens blaring. I drove onto the traffic island in order to let them pass, but they surrounded me. I didn’t understand what they wanted, but then the police officer explained to me what had happened, and I saw the gun and knife. ‘Do you understand that this could have ended in your death?’ he asked.
“‘Of course,’ I replied. ‘Thank You, Hashem!’”
The police insist that there was a direct connection between the manhunt in Silwan and the terrorist’s decision to turn himself in. The army, the police, and the Shabak exerted major pressure on his family, especially his mother, and the terrorist apparently became aware of that. When he realized that he was causing enormous harm to his family (we are not fully aware of the Shabak’s methods, especially the unusual measures that are used in the case of a “ticking time bomb,” and I cannot tell you the exact nature of that harm), the terrorist decided to surrender. But while the police are claiming credit for this, the mere fact that he made it to the vicinity of Shaare Zedek does not reflect positively on them. On the other hand, perhaps they cannot be faulted for it, since it is extremely difficult to identify or follow a terrorist who is acting alone.
Even as these horrors were unfolding, we also witnessed enormous Divine kindness. After the terrorist managed to reach the area of Shaare Zedek, which was quite far from the sites of the two shooting attacks, he could easily have slaughtered more innocent Jews, either with his gun or with the knife he was carrying. And the taxi driver who unwittingly drove him to the police station was also in grave danger. The fact that his terror spree did not end in many deaths is unquestionably due to Hashem’s chessed.
And here is another astounding detail that just came to light: When the terrorist was questioned by the police, he was asked why he stopped his shooting spree after firing only three bullets. After all, there were dozens of passengers on the bus; why didn’t he shoot at them as well? He replied, “My weapon jammed.” That was the reason that he was forced to flee. There is no doubt about it: It was an overt miracle!
A Black Month on the Roads
I recently reported that Israel ranks very low among the countries of the world with regard to successfully cutting down fatalities on the roads. The terrible accidents that we have been observing, each more horrific than the next, weigh heavily on all of us in this country; there has hardly been a single accident that couldn’t have been prevented, and statistics show that most of the accidents are a result of human error. And it is no secret that the state tends to relate to this phenomenon with deplorable indifference.
This month, however, the volume of tragedy became unbearable. After 21 fatalities in traffic accidents since the beginning of the month were recorded even before we reached the midpoint of August, the media labeled this month “Black August.” The situation is simply horrific; since the beginning of the year 2022, there have been 223 fatalities in traffic accidents around the country.
This week, I listened to Dr. Moshe Becker, who is considered an expert on road safety and traffic accidents. Becker presented some statistics that are not particularly well-known and that contributed even more to my sense of horror: He explained that there is an inherent error in contrasting the statistics in Israel with the rate of traffic accidents in America or the European countries, since the number of cars per capita in Israel is about half the figure in the other countries. This means that any such comparison is inherently flawed. The low rate of car ownership is enough reason on its own for Israel to be seeing far fewer traffic accidents. And that means that the high rate of accidents in Israel should be even more appalling.
Becker made another point as well: One of the reasons that Israel does not see even more deaths in traffic accidents is the fact that lifesaving medical aid tends to arrive extremely rapidly at the scene of an accident. For that, he credited the various emergency rescue organizations, especially United Hatzolah, which is a chareidi organization.
Another Bein Hazemanim Tragedy
I always enter bein hazemanim with a strong sense of trepidation, since the vacation period often seems to bring tragedies in its wake. In a sense, this might be considered a natural outgrowth of this time of year, since it is a time when tens of thousands set out on hikes and other excursions, which tend to pose more perils than their usual activities. However, a religious Jew knows that there is no such thing as nature, and that there are more profound reasons for any such phenomena. Last week, I mentioned that Rav Gershon Edelstein warned us that during bein hazemanim, when there is much less Torah learning, it is more important than ever to beware of potential dangers. Well, this week there was a tragedy, when a yungerman was seriously wounded after being hit by a car in Moshav Safsufa near Meron. The victim, a pedestrian, was struck on Route 89 near Safsufa, and after receiving medical treatment at the scene of the accident, he was evacuated by helicopter to Rambam Hospital in Haifa. He is still in serious condition and remains sedated and intubated. The public has been asked to daven for Menachem Mendel ben Devorah Raizel.
Here are the professional reports on the incident: A paramedic from Magen David Adom reported, “When we arrived at the scene, we found the victim lying unconscious on the road and suffering from major injuries. We provided emergency treatment that included stopping the bleeding, bandaging his wounds, and stabilizing fractures, and we joined the MDA helicopter that transported him to the hospital while he was sedated and intubated.” Yehuda Rosenblum, a paramedic with United Hatzolah, similarly reported, “The victim was a young pedestrian who was hid by a car and suffered serious injuries to his head and torso. After receiving first aid at the scene, he was evacuated by helicopter to Rambam Hospital in serious condition.” The victim is a 30-year-old resident of Kiryat Sefer and a chassid in the Karlin community.
Botei Medrash Overflowing During Bein Hazemanim
But there is a positive side to bein hazemanim as well. Witnessing the botei medrash throbbing with activity, I cannot help but be overcome by joy. No one is forcing these bochurim and yungeleit to spend hours learning on every day of their vacations, but they are keenly aware of the focus of their lives. To speak from my own personal experience, I can tell you about the Pressburg shul in Givat Shaul, which is a thriving makom Torah even during bein hazemanim. And the atmosphere of the bais medrash pervades even the local streets. Rav Moshe Shmuel Shapiro once commented, “The posuk states, ‘The entire congregation of Yisroel came out from before Moshe.’ This teaches us that we must be able to tell where a person has come from. When a ben Torah goes on vacation during bein hazemanim, it must be evident that he has come from the bais medrash.”
This isn’t to say that anyone disputes the value or necessity of the bein hazemanim break. When a suggestion was made many years ago to abolish bein hazemanim, Rav Shach was firmly opposed to it. And on that note, I recently heard the following story: During the bein hazemanim vacation in the month of Nissan 5762/2002, the Israeli army was busy engaging in Operation Defensive Shield, and a number of rabbonim and roshei yeshivos called on the bnei yeshivos to begin the new zman immediately after Pesach rather than taking the traditional week of vacation. Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel, however, instructed the Mir yeshiva to begin its zman on Rosh Chodesh Iyar as always, explaining that one should not deviate from the sedorim established by the gedolim of earlier generations.
A Shakeup in the Likud
Well, we can’t let a week go by without some political news, and this week in particular has featured many newsworthy developments. Perhaps it would be best for me to begin at the end: This Sunday, Gadi Eizenkot announced his intention to join Benny Gantz’s party, which has already absorbed Gideon Saar and his colleagues as well. Eizenkot is a former IDF chief of staff who was courted by both Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz and refused for a long time to commit to joining either of them. In truth, the more logical decision would probably have been for him to join Yair Lapid, who had offered him the second position on Yesh Atid’s slate. This would have placed Eizenkot in a larger and more established party, where he would have been promised the position of Minister of Defense, much the same as he was promised by Gantz. Eizenkot has a good public image and creates the impression that he will add significantly to any party he chooses to join. But on Sunday, he decided to run together with his old friend Benny Gantz instead.
Lapid, who is eager to include someone with a strong background in national defense in his party, was aggrieved. Interestingly, Eizenkot will be joining the party along with Matan Kahana, the man who is known for spearheading anti-religious reforms under the previous government. It is unclear how the two men are connected, and it is also unclear what Kahana will contribute to the party. I anticipate that these new alliances will ultimately backfire for Benny Gantz.
Another recent event that deserves attention is the primary election within the Likud party. Due to space constraints, I cannot write about it at length, but I can tell you simply that many of the party’s longest-serving members found themselves slipping to much lower positions on the list, while the younger members of the Likud climbed to the top. For instance, Yuli Edelstein, who once reached the topmost position on the Likud slate below Netanyahu himself, ended up somewhere in the twenties. Yisroel Katz, who was once a prominent member of the party and served as foreign minister, likewise performed poorly in the primaries, as did several other former ministers. A number of new names, led by Yariv Levin, were brought to the top instead. And even a cursory examination of the results reveals a very clear pattern: Everyone who remained loyal to Netanyahu advanced within the party ranks, whereas those who spoke against him or even tried to run against him (i.e., Yuli Edelstein), and even those who failed to speak out loudly in his defense, were rejected by the Likud voters. This has led to extensive discussion among the political commentators in Israel, as everyone is struggling to predict whether the outcome of the primaries will improve the Likud’s performance in the general election.
The Labor party also held its primaries, even though the party is tiny and may not even cross the electoral threshold. As it turns out, two of the party’s ministers were ousted altogether by the voters: Omer Bar-Lev, who has been serving as Minister of Public Security and has made numerous embarrassing mistakes, and Nachman Shai, the Minister of Diaspora Affairs. But the Reform rabbi who serves in the Knesset (whose name I refuse to mention) made it to the second place on the list. Bli neder, I will write at greater length about the recent political developments at the earliest possible opportunity.
The Yemenite Children’s Affair Refuses to Fade Away
The Yemenite Children’s Affair is still an open wound for the State of Israel, and I doubt that the country will ever heal from the harm that it caused.
In its earliest days, this country committed heinous crimes against the Yemenite community. The aging families of the children who disappeared have neither forgiven nor forgotten the injustices that were done to them. Last month, the grave of a child named Yosef Melamed, who was allegedly buried in the Nachalas Yitzchok cemetery, was opened. The tombstone bearing his name was removed, and the remains in the grave were taken to the Abu Kabir forensic institute for identification. To this day, Yosef’s family members do not believe that he is dead. They hope that after the DNA analysis is completed, they will finally find out whether Yosef was actually buried in that grave. This was one of nine graves that the court permitted to be exhumed.
Two months ago, another grave was opened, this one purportedly holding the remains of Uriel Chori, who was supposedly buried at the age of one year and two months. This was the first time that a grave was reopened, in accordance with a law passed in 2018 permitting investigation into the fates of the Yemenite children. And this week, for the first time, the grave of a young woman, named Chamama Yonah Karva, was opened. The young lady’s son, Rachamim, had previously been told that his mother was buried under the name Chamama Yosef Umasi. He hopes to determine with certainty whether the occupant of this grave is indeed his mother. Until this time, only the graves of babies or children were exhumed.
Why Should One Jew Hate Another?
Better late than never: I just came across a new survey released in honor of Tisha B’Av, which was dubbed the Hatred and Polarization Index and was published by an institute called Penimah in a publication affiliated with the Likud and the right. Here is one question that was presented to the respondents: “Which of the following groups are you inclined to hate—chareidim, settlers, the national religious community, the traditional sector, chilonim, or Arabs?” The Arabs came out at the top of the list of reviled groups, with 40 percent of the respondents saying that they despise them, while the chareidim came in second at 20 percent. The third most detested group in Israel was the settlers, at 17 percent.
I found myself pondering the following question: Why should anyone feel hatred toward another person? Perhaps a person can be angry with someone who offended him, or envious of someone who is more successful, but what is the point of hatred? It might be understandable for people to despise the Arabs, who seek to slaughter us, although anger and fear would seem to be the more appropriate responses. But why should a secular Israeli hate a chareidi Jew? And for that matter, what would cause any Jew, no matter who he is, to hate a member of the settlement movement?
The survey also found that 26 percent of Israelis are inclined to hate Ashkenazim, 11 percent despise Ethiopians, 33 percent detest immigrants from the former Soviet Union, and 30 percent hate Sephardim.
Lapid’s Photo Obsession
I couldn’t help but try to imagine what I would have found if I had pieced together the shredded remains of the urgent notes passed from Prime Minister Lapid to his closest aide during the recent military crisis. At the height of the tensions and drama, I imagine that Lapid wrote a handful of messages such as the following:
“Tell the photographer to take pictures of me, not Benny Gantz.”
“Can’t you move out of the way already? He is filming me from a bad angle!”
“Don’t let any pictures be publicized without my approval!”
Yair Lapid’s obsession with pictures reminds me of an incident involving the former president of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak. Many years ago, I accompanied Eliyahu Suissa, the Israeli Minister of Infrastructure, on a visit to the Egyptian president’s office, where we observed the majesty of a royal palace firsthand. The president had his official photographer at the meeting, but I decided to take out my own trusty camera and snap a picture or two. Suddenly, the president’s advisors paled and practically pounced on me, ordering me to return the camera to its case. When they saw the president smiling at me, they backed down but warned me only to take pictures from his left side. When we left the meeting, I asked Jibril Rajoub, the Palestinian leader who had accompanied us throughout our visit, to explain their behavior.
“Anyone who takes a picture of the president from the right is in serious trouble,” Rajoub replied.
“But why?” I asked.
“Because he wears a hearing aid in his right ear,” the Palestinian explained.
But while Mubarak at least had a reason for his hysterical reaction to having his picture taken, Lapid has no such excuse. He is simply a megalomaniac.