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The Philadelphia Jewish Voice

The Delaware Valley's Progressive Alternative

Volume 1 - Number 2 - August 2005

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U. S. Political News and Opinion/Editorials

London Attacked

As this issue goes to press, London is still recovering from horrific attacks on its citizens riding the London Underground and London buses. 

Several writers offer their reflections on this tragedy:


The Mistakes of August 2004

July 9, 2005 - Shabbat Chukat - At synagogue, the rabbi contrasted a tragic car accident which befell a member of the community with the horrific bombings in London. On one hand, the rabbi felt it necessary to discuss the mistakes which contributed to the car accident. The accident, while sad and tragic, was the result of those mistakes, whereas he said that in the bombings in London we did not make any mistake, for they were the results of pure evil.

I agree with the rabbi that those who perpetrate such horrific attacks on innocent lives are indeed evil. However, our Jewish tradition teaches us that no one can claim to lead a life without mistakes; indeed, in Parshat Chukat, Moshe Rabeinu twice struck the rock he had been commanded to speak to, and as a result he was not allowed to enter the Promised Land.

Even though I agree that the terrorists bear the full responsibility for the dozens of dead and hundreds of injured, I believe that mistakes were made that may have contributed to the likelihood of success of these attacks. England's mistake was a careless strategic blunder, but America's was worse.It was a calculated Machiavellian political ploy.

England's Blunder

On August 4, 2004, President Bush and John Kerry spoke in Davenport at simultaneous rallies only a few blocks from each other in the battleground state of Iowa. The Secret Service commandeered the greater part of the 160 police officers [1] of this town of 98,359, and, as a result, three banks were robbed that day. [2]

Similarly, in England, Fife's Chief Constable Peter Wilson bragged that 9000 Scottish, English and Welsh constabularies were going to be joined by 1000 officers of the London metropolitan. "You are going to see more police officers than you have ever seen before in your puff." Well maybe you would see more police officers in Fife, Scotland, but apparently you wouldn't see quite as many in the London Underground.

Bush's Ploy

Shortly after the Davenport rally, Bush, desperate to show progress on the war on terror, put pressure on Homeland Defense Secretary Tom Ridge. He announced that they had identified the bomb-making terrorist Abu Eisa al-Hindi (code name "Bilal") in London. [3]

The English were rightly indignant because they had been hoping to get their hands on the entire terrorist ring before tipping their hand. They were forced to conduct impromptu raids on the afternoon of August 8. In Willesden, London, they barged into a barberís shop with machine guns and ordered the staff to lie on the floor while they dragged out one of the customers. At the same time in Blackburn, Lancashire, afternoon shoppers looked on in amazement as police chased a Mercedes at high speed before cornering it and seizing two men. [4]

The London police now believe the attacks carried out in the London Underground were the work of the remnants of that same terrorist cell

The London police would have rather observed the terrorist cell and executed a surgical pre-dawn strike. Like a hastily performed lumpectomy, leaving behind any part of the terrorist cell untouched is an invitation for that cancerous growth to regroup, spread and attack again at a later point.

Perhaps the deaths today were a result of these blunders. It is ironic that Bush may have won re-election as a result of having shown "progress" in the war on terror.

Dr. Daniel Elliott Loeb, Publisher
The Philadelphia Jewish Voice

Shalom New North London:

8th July 2005†

The following was sent to us following the bombings in London. It was delivered by the rabbi of a British congregation.
† 
Dear Community, 
† 
We will include special prayers in our services tomorrow for all the people who have been bereaved, wounded, shocked and pained as a result of the bomb attacks on London. It is also essential to express gratitude for the calm, coordinated and resilient manner in which so many services in London, and London's people, have responded. 
† 
A key and over-riding value taught by the Torah is 'You shall choose life'. This doesn't mean 'Live at any price,' though in most circumstances, as is well known, all the commandments may be set aside, excepting murder, idolatry, adultery and incest, in order to save life. 
† 
'Choose life' requires us to follow the teaching of the Torah and to act at all times in ways which are life-enhancing, considerate, just, compassionate and, indeed, tender. After all, we want to be treated in that way. Surely, moments of irritation aside, we want to treat those around us in such a manner as well. Don't we know what it is to be human? I think that's why yesterday someone who came Ďround here asked me, quite unexpectedly, 'Do you mind if I hold one of your animals?' † 
Seeing lacerated faces, knowing that people are lying in tube trains dead or horribly injured, is such a terrible inversion of what should be. Even to witness it fills one with grief. 
† 
There are no values behind such acts of desecration: 'Once violence is emancipated from any sense of purpose', writes Wolfgang Sofsky in his book on the subject, 'Nothing but destruction and cruelty is left.' 
† 
That's why we must abide all the more passionately by the Torah's teaching and choose life. In our own lives, in our community, in our attitude to all the human, environmental and political struggles around us, we must guided by choosing life, love, justice and compassion. 

Shabbat Shalom 
 Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg

Thoughts on London

Dear Friends,

When the news of the London bombings reached us at the Elat Chayyim retreat center, the summer program directors asked me to lead/express the concerns and feelings of the community.

After lunch, I first shared what news we had.†Then we sat in silence for three minutes. Three because in Hebrew the word for a chain of time, a chain of community, a chain of being is shalshelet, a word rooted in the word for three. Yesterday, today, tomorrow -- all wound together in our hearts.

And then I shared three concerns that had arisen for me:

1. Grief. Not only for the dead, the wounded, and their beloveds, but also grief that once again those who bear the Image of God had shattered the Image of God. Grief that death had come not because the spiral of all life goes through that doorway, but that the Image of God had turned, as it were, against itself.

In the Kaddish prayer that Jews use to celebrate God even at a time of mourning, one passage says that no matter what consolation we express, it cannot say fully what would be truthful about God. Why consolation? What consolations would God need that we cannot provide? I think that when bearers of Godís Image kill bearers of Godís Image, God is inconsolable.

2. Justice. Surely the killers must be brought to justice. And for that to happen, it must be done in the way the Torah teaches when it says, "Tzedek tzedek tirdof," "Justice, justice shall you pursue."

Why justice twice?, the ancient rabbis asked. They answered, To remind us that we must achieve just results by using just means. This is not merely a matter of moral advice. It is a matter of practical result. Use unjust means, and the path you walk will not take you to a just destination. † 
When God threatened to destroy a city for the sins of some who lived there, Abraham challenged him: If there were only a bare ten righteous people in the city, should they be killed for othersí sins? Should not the Judge of all the earth do Justice? And God agreed. Let us not avenge the deaths in London by killing the innocents of some other city.

3.††Comfort. It was especially poignant that we opened our hearts to this disaster just after eating. For in Hebrew the word for bread, lechem, is connected with the word for war, milchama. The prefix m means away from. Take bread and other forms of nourishment away from people, and war is what you get. Deprive people of food, of honor, of respect, of love, of compassion, of spiritual nurture, and in despair and raging hunger they turn to war.

So we must not let ourselves think that grieving, or seeking justice, is enough as a response to the London killings. We must commit ourselves to growing a world where there is bread, love, respect, for everyone.

Yes, even in such a world there will be a few whose private warpings will send them into paroxysms of violence. But they will not find support for their fury, they will not be able to wreak havoc on a city.

We ended by reciting and chanting in a yearning, pleading mode the last sentence of the Mournersí Kaddish:

"You Who make harmony in the highest, deepest reaches of the universe, teach us to make peace among ourselves, with all the God-wrestling folk, with our cousins the children of Ishmael, and with all who dwell upon the planet."

Shalom, salaam, peace --
Rabbi Arthur Waskow

Rabbi Arthur Waskow, director of The Shalom Center voices a new prophetic agenda in Jewish, multi-religious, and American life. To receive a weekly on-line bulletin, click here.

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