Dedicated to Hadas.

When I was 8-9 months pregnant with Bebe, cold-blooded murderers swept into a sleeping family’s Itamar home on Shabbat and slaughtered defenseless parents and harmless children.

One of the victims was Hadas Fogel, a baby just a few months old.

I haven’t stopped thinking of Hadas since then. Once in a while, I’ll look at my own girl and the pain of learning about that horror will creep back. When she reaches another month old, I think of the little infant whose newness, purity, innocence was somehow not enough to stop someone from slaughter.

What a world to bring a baby into.

By the way, I don’t buy the story they’ve fed us on who committed the murders. Far be it from me to pretend to be an expert, but something in my gut tells me there’s something wrong with the way the story has just faded from national memory…

Arabs and Jews, mothers and babies, Amalek and us.

I don’t like getting political because I’ve been there and it’s an energy-sucking lifestyle. But a few events are coming together that make me have to say this.

The Itamar murders were the utmost in terror and hate crime. Killing defenseless people – children – in their sleep is the utmost in cowardly and not a way to achieve  justification or revenge or sympathy for any cause. It’s not a productive, constructive, or human way to let out your anger, frustration, hate. It takes a lot to get to that point of monster status. Maybe read more about it here. There’s a lot I could say, but that’s not my point right now.

My point is this: The calls for bloody revenge; the calls for revenge on animals who could have done this; the calls to keep it up with cyclical violence – also, not going to help. On either side, we’re begging for our children to grow up hateful and vengeful. And with motive. It’s painful to hear Jews calling for bloodshed and violence. Yes, war is a part of life, a civilizational necessity, there’s a whole bunch of political philosophy on that. But there’s also a required state of thinking it through and not being blind, deaf and ignorant.

So when I see today the same folks saying things like, how amazing are we for saving the baby of an Arab mother in late stage labor, whose cord was wrapped around the neck, stuck in a taxi cab that went to Itamar to find help… Yes, it is amazing. Absolutely amazing. In fact, it’s what was commanded of us as Children of Israel. There are other stories like it too. They help when we mankind seem to be getting out of hand. Truly inspiring to know there are humans around us at times like this.

But then, might you want to think twice before getting all vengeful with violence? Maybe there are alternative modes of revenge?

Which brings me to Parshat Zachor which we read this week as Purim approaches.

Speaking of Purim – a holiday where they tried to kill us, once again, and here we are partying it up with kids generations later. Lovely legacy, really. Not that we didn’t take revenge at the time; that last couple chapters of the megillah are a bit hard to read, but like I said, sometimes war is a necessity in nature, right? But if it’s not hard for you to read it – what does that say about you?

Anyway, Zachor. An official mandate from the Torah to deal with our utmost enemies. The really bad guys. The Hitlers, the Hamans. At least, so the interpretation goes; who is Amalek anyway, and do they still exist?

My problem is this: Why do so many people automatically go into kill mode when discussing, ‘wiping out the memory of Amalek from under heaven – do not forget!‘ Why is this interpreted as killing every single member of Amalek, from men to women to children? Why is it automatically assumed to mean killing? Why can’t ‘wiping out memory’ be genocide of hatred as opposed to genocide of people? Why can’t it be a combination of resolutions? Why talk in absolutes?

And, if it is true that it means destroy-kill, where is the human remorse in what we’ve been commanded to do?

Why isn’t there pain in our voices as we discuss it? It’s a bitter pill, meant to taste bad. Does it not make you uncomfortable? Does it not make you squirm? Have we lost our sense of humanness when we get to these topics?

And how is that different from anyone who’d find it in themselves to support a hateful, vengeful, murderous Palestinian killing a sleeping Jewish baby?

It’s not political for me. I’m a mother. I want my babies to be safe… forever. And I want other people’s babies to be safe so mine will stay safe. We’re all human, we’re all trying to survive. Maybe sometimes it would be good to remember that as we come up with ways to make that happen.

Itamar family murder photos: A valid weapon? To what degree?

This is a response to an ongoing conversation I’ve been having/seeing on Facebook, reacting to the sharing of images of the bodies of the Itamar terror-murder victims, including the three children who were stabbed to death (note: neither of those links contain the images).

The issue has been that folks are posting the images of the dead bodies as part of sharing links to the story. I think people are doing it in haste, without thinking through the complexity of what it means to share these photos.

For my own sake, at the very least, I feel I need to clearly state what is going on in my head.

Here is what I’m NOT saying:

  • I’m not saying, don’t spread the news of the Itamar family with everyone you know, especially those outside of Israel who have not heard about it.
  • I’m not saying, don’t share links to news articles and commentary to inform people.
  • I’m not saying, don’t use social media to communicate the horrific tragedy we’ve been facing as a nation since last Shabbat.
  • I’m not saying I don’t understand why the family of the victims released the traumatizing photos of their bloody, murdered bodies – including those of the children stabbed to death.
  • I’m not saying I’m completely 100% anti the photos being released by the Israeli government (responsibly and with all due respect), especially to media outlets and world governments.

Here is what I AM saying:

  • First off, I’m fully aware I don’t have to check Facebook until the photo issue blows over. I’ve been scanning it cautiously, avoiding the images as best I can, so I’m being responsible over my own exposure.
  • While I understand the family’s decision to release the photos on a rationale level, I don’t feel the personal need to look at those images. Reading about the story traumatized me enough – as a Jew, as a resident of Israel, and most of all, as a mother.
  • We are a people who respect death and the dead – it’s written into the core of halachot related to mourning, treatment of bodies and purity. So it’s a bit of an interesting turn of events that the photos were released. And it’s equally interesting what the appropriate handling of that is for us, as individuals. Have we thought about it, as Jews? Have we appreciated this fact at all? Have we thought about how to go about this respectfully?
  • Some are arguing that using social media as a means of protest and hasbara is exactly what we should be doing. Amen. But that isn’t my problem here.
  • Specifically, my issue is using the images as a weapon in a setting where it’s not effective. Recognize that often, social networks are mostly a closed-circuit system for a lot of us. Facebook’s news feed algorithm is set so most of the time, it’s the people you interact with most who will see your shares. And who do you think you interact with most? People in your area, in your workplace, in your real life? Is posting a link to bloody images too little and too simple?
  • And is it the best way to connect with people on this story? Has anyone considered that many folks  unaffiliated with the situation may close themselves off to the story by being exposed in such an alarming way? Shock tactic is not for everyone. I’d hope people are thinking twice about their target audiences as they share these photos en masse.

Continuing on that, there’s more we can do, which basically comes down to targeting your audience.

  • Send the images and commentary to NYTimes editorial, CNN, BBC, etc. Those are places meant to target a lot of people from a lot of different backgrounds. You know, not in your network or even six degrees from it. And in addition, the media outlets themselves need to hear what people on the ground think, too.
  • Send the story to friends, family, colleagues and old college buddies – directly. Start a dialogue one-on-one and hit home with people. Mass distribution on a social network site can only go so far, as mentioned (algorithm, share-flooding, etc).
  • Consider starting the dialogue without graphic and disrespectful photos, and move up to it if you need to. Or after building a base. I’m not sure that alarming people with images of bloody children is always going to be the best way to go; alarm tactics may work on some, but not all. Know your audience.

Again, people making this argument are not at all against sharing this horror with the world, using social media or otherwise. It’s more a matter of maintaining the utmost respect for the dead, respect for the situation, and respect for those of us who need not be repeatedly exposed to it after already dealing with the trauma.


Home and away.

There’s a lot to take in this motzei Shabbat…

Catching up on the reality in Japan after Friday’s earthquake and tsunami disaster, and then reading about the horrific murders of two sleeping parents, two sleeping children and a sleeping newborn here, a few dozen kilometers from home, on Friday night.

Natural disasters make me feel powerless, and terrorist disasters make me feel desperate. Both end up infusing me with a ton of appreciation, after the dust settles.

So that’s going on. All I can handle right now is to feel absolutely grateful for every single minute I have, as I am right now.