This is worth a reprint. Comments by me are not necessary.
I have some questions for my Christian listeners. When you go to church on Sunday, do you ever wonder if a gunman will break into your church and start indiscriminately shooting?
When you’re going to the gym at the YMCA, do you have armed policemen standing outside the door? Do you have to go through security checks to get to a lecture at the Y?
When you drop your children off at religious school, does that school have armed guards and bullet-proof glass?
When you go to services on Christmas and Easter, do you have to increase security, not because of the added number of worshippers, but because of possible terrorist attacks?
And not just Jews in one or two countries. Jews all over the world have had to increase their security over the past few decades, especially since the spring of 2002. That was when Ariel Sharon launched Operation Defensive Shield to stop the daily terror attacks and suicide bombings that had plagued Israel for months.
Let me point out here that although Jews the world over had not targeted Arabs, Muslims, or mosques in retaliation for the suicide bombings of Jewish sites, the moment that Jews began to go after the terrorists, Muslims the world over began targeting Jews. Anti-Semitic attacks—including the bombings of synagogues—rose worldwide, and are still at the highest levels they’ve been in years.
Last week, I attended a solidarity rally for Israel. It was sponsored by the Richmond Jewish Community Federation. The Federation wanted to raise funds to get all civilians—Jewish, Arab, and Druze—out of the range of the Hezbullah rockets falling on northern Israel.
I love going to events where there are large numbers of Jews. I love the people, and the music. I love the Yiddish accents and the Israeli accents and the sprinkling of Hebrew, and the Jewish inflections in everyone’s speech.
But there’s a corner of my mind that always worries that my synagogue, or my Jewish Community Center, or my meeting place—has come onto the radar of the terrorists who think that killing American Jews is making a statement against Israel.
That’s what happened Friday afternoon at the Seattle office of the Jewish Federation. Naveed Afzal Haq, a Muslim who said he was angry at Israel, searched on the Internet for Jewish-related buildings. When he found the Jewish Federation, he packed his two semi-automatic pistols and went looking to kill.
He hid behind a potted plant in the lobby until a thirteen-year-old girl approached the locked door. Then the coward held a gun to her head and forced her to let him into the building with her security code.
“I am a Muslim American, angry at Israel,” he said, and started shooting. He shot six women. One is dead. Three were in critical condition with shots to the stomach.
One of the two who was only lightly wounded was pregnant. She protected the baby in her womb with her arm, and that arm is where the terrorist shot her. Later, she managed to call 911, and persuaded the terrorist to talk to the dispatcher. This is what he told her:
“This is a hostage situation and I wanted these Jews to get out.”
He also said, “These are Jews and I’m tired of getting pushed around and our people getting pushed around by the situation in the Middle East.”
The dispatcher talked him into surrendering. But it was too late for Pat Waechter.
The woman he murdered was a 58-year-old mother of two. She converted to Judaism some 40 years earlier, and devoted much of her life to community service. She spent her life helping others.
None of that mattered to her killer. All that mattered to him is that she was a Jew. She was guilty of a capital crime, and he was her executioner. Her crime? Existence. She was a Jew.
The Jewish philosopher Emil Fackenheim says that Jew hatred has three stages:
You cannot live among us as Jews.This is the hatred we face. This is what we fight. This is why we say, “Never again.” Because we will not sit quietly while the Naveed Afzal Haqs of the world strike at us.
You cannot live among us.
You cannot live.
The FBI and the Seattle police may not be able to call this a terrorist act, but we’re not stupid. We know the score. And in spite of this, the Jewish community of Seattle went to synagogue on Friday night and Saturday morning.
I’ll be going to my local Jewish community events as they come up. People want to kill me because I’m a Jew? So what else is new?