After the horrendous week that just passed, the culmination of a horrendous month (the Hebrew month of Cheshvan) for Israel, it’s hard to find something positive to write about. However there are always a few bright spots if one looks hard enough.
In a bittersweet gesture of solidarity, busloads of haredim (ultra-Orthodox) from Har Nof travelled up to the Galilee to attend the funeral of the slain Druze policeman Zidan Saif, where in a very unusual interfaith gesture, the Rabbi of the Har Nof shul eulogized Saif:
Mourners, including friends, relatives and ultra-Orthodox Jews who traveled from Jerusalem, and Israeli and religious figures, recalled a “hero” who had taken a bullet to save his partner’s life, and said officials needed to do more to end the wave of violence in Jerusalem.
Mordechai Rubin, the rabbi of the Har Nof Bnei Torah synagogue where Saif, a traffic policeman, gave his life, eulogized him. “We came from Jerusalem, from the place of the massacre… simply to be with you and to cry with you,” he declared. “Zidan showed courage. He was the first at the battle. He stood like a wall, with his body, with his head, in order to save the souls of those in the synagogue. The loss of Zidan is our loss as well as that of the Druze community and we feel, especially at times like this, a kinship with the Druze community. The devotion and the determination of Zidan should be an example to us all — to the Druze and to the Jews.”
Druze leader Mouafiq Tarif delivered a eulogy for the slain officer, calling for an end to “incitement and extremism.”
A statement circulated within the ultra-Orthodox community earlier in the day called on the public to attend Saif’s family.
“We are organizing a group of Haredim to attend the funeral of the Druze policeman who died last night of his wounds,” the statement read. “We ask the Haredi community to come to the funeral of the policeman who died protecting our praying brothers — let’s show our gratitude, and sanctify God’s name.”
Ariella Shternbach, the organizer of the initiative, said that the costs of the buses to the funeral were covered by donors.
“I saw the picture of Saif with his small daughter, and I was moved by the thought that he sacrificed his life for the Jewish people. Haredim, who were most affected by this attack, must come and pay their last respects,” she added.
May Zidan Saif’s family be comforted amongst the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem. May they find strength through his heroism and self-sacrifice. Israel has lost a true hero.
In a similar message of tolerance, the leaders of all main religious communities met in Har Nof to express their solidarity the day after the massacre:
Clergy representing Christians, Jews and Muslims met Wednesday near the Jerusalem synagogue where five people died in a grisly Palestinian terrorist attack to plead for tolerance amid spiking regional tensions.
The group stood in a sun-dappled courtyard outside the synagogue where two Palestinian cousins armed with meat cleavers, knives and a pistol killed four worshipers and a policeman Tuesday. After a brief gun battle, security forces shot the assailants dead.
Absent from the meeting were Muslim authorities from Jerusalem and senior Israeli rabbis. Israel’s Chief Rabbi David Lau had urged Muslim colleagues to condemn the attack on Tuesday, and to meet with him at the synagogue, but he said they were not responding to his calls.
Sheikh Muhammad Kiwan, chairman of the Council of Muslim Leaders in Israel, and former MK Rabbi Michael Melchior called on believers of all faiths to work towards quelling violence and promoting peace.
…With Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theofilis III of Jerusalem and Latin Patriarch Fuad Twal in attendance, Sheikh Samir Assi, the imam of the Al-Jazaar mosque in the northern Israeli city of Acre, also condemned the Palestinians’ attack on the synagogue.
“We came to this place to take a stand toward this criminal act, which involves an assault against the sanctity of the house of God, and against the unarmed worshipers,” Assi said.
Melchior said religious leaders must provide an example to young believers in order to convince them to turn away from extremist views. “We must end this bloodshed,” he said. “But the unanimous condemnation of the attack by religious leaders of all stripes is very uplifting; it shows young individuals that there is another way.”
Kiwan contended that tensions in Jerusalem spiked as a result of “provocations in the al-Aqsa Mosque,” and said security forces must stop extremism on all sides. “An attack at a place of worship is unacceptable,” he added.
Earlier, ultra-Orthodox representatives sat alongside Muslim, Druze, Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican leaders at the scene of Tuesday’s deadly attack.
Despite the fact that there are still false accusations about Jewish provocations on the Temple Mount, and although there is still a long way to go to return a semblance of quiet to Jerusalem, these kinds of interfaith meetings are a step in the right direction. Kol hakavod to the initiators and to all those who took part in the meeting.
On the same theme, there is a very moving piece in Israel Hayom by the father of a wounded Druze soldier expresses his community’s solidarity with Israel:
We, the Druze, are part of the people of Israel. I have never felt a difference between me, my relatives and my friends and the Jewish people. We are one family, always have been and always will be.
Four months ago, after my son Rasan was wounded in battle in Shujaiyya, I stayed by his side at Soroka Medical Center, and I was amazed. At times, it seemed as if the whole country was there to visit and embrace him. Hundreds of people came — government ministers, Knesset members, senior military officers, soldiers and even a little girl, who gave him a goodie bag with apples, nuts and candy inside.
The blood pact between Druze and Jews in the land of Israel began in the 1930s, and it will never be broken. When Haganah forces arrived in Shfaram, my late father Hussein joined them. During the War of Independence, he and 30 other local Druze enlisted in the Israel Defense Forces and took part in the liberation of the Galilee.
In the 1950s, my father was one of the five sheikhs who signed the agreement making military service compulsory for the Druze. In 1957, I lost my brother Salim during his military service. Today, I am the proud father of three IDF officers. They have never felt different from anyone else and have always walked with their heads held high — as I taught them to do.
May the loyalty and dedication of the Israeli Druze community serve as a model for the Israeli Arab and Muslim communities, and may the Jewish and Druze communities continue working to strengthen each other. I wish this could carry over to our relations with the Muslims but I wonder if we will ever see the same solidarity in our lifetimes.