In Search of a Noah

Yesterday, half a world apart from one another, two incidents struck at the hearts of most human beings.

In the first, a man drove his car into a group of people waiting at a light rail station in Jerusalem.  Eight people were injured and, most horribly, a three month old baby was killed.  It wasn’t an accident.  It’s pretty clear that it was an intentional act.

Then, in Ottawa, a gunman opened fire on a war memorial and in the national parliament building, killing a reserve soldier who standing guard at the memorial.

Sadly, the link between these two violent acts is that the perpetrators were both Muslim.  Now, I want to be careful here.  It would be easy to point to horrible acts by two Jews and jump to conclusions about Jews.  One could do the same thing in response to two violent acts by two Christians.  It is not my intention to lump all Muslims together simply because of what two men did yesterday on opposite sides of the globe.

Instead, I want to compare the responses of their fellow Muslims.

In Canada, the most prominent Muslim groups condemned the actions of Michael Zehaf-Bibeau – a recent convert to Islam.   They recognized that the unprovoked taking of an innocent life cannot be condoned a mainstream religion.  They acknowledged that there are people who misuse and misinterpret religion to further their own political goals.

In the West Bank, however, we saw the exact opposite reaction.  The Fatah Party (this is the political party of Mahmoud Abbas) of Silwan – the hometown of the driver Abdel Rahman Al-Shaludi – put up posters celebrating “the heroic martyr Abdel Rahman Al-Shaludi, who executed the Jerusalem operation which led to the running over of settlers in the occupied city of Jerusalem.”  This message was also on their Facebook page.

In this week’s Torah portion, we are introduced to Noah – the man who built the ark.  He is described in the Torah as being “tzadik tamim hayah b’dorotav – a righteous man, blameless in his generation.” Some commentators try to say that this is a backhanded compliment.  Noah was only righteous compared to the people of his generation.  However, I see it as a challenge.  Like Noah, we have to do our best to be righteous in OUR generation, in the world we live in.

I keep waiting to see that from Israel’s alleged peace partners.  Now the truth is that I really didn’t expect any Palestinian leader to condemn this deed.  (Though really, would it be so hard to say that a man running over a three-month-old child is abhorrent?!)  However, it is sickening to hear people celebrate this horrendous act.

Just a few days ago, an Israeli driver hit a Palestinian girl and killed her.  It’s quite possible that Al-Shaludi was trying to avenge that death.  However, I didn’t hear anyone call that Israeli driver a hero.  Instead, he drove to the closest Jewish settlement, contacted the police and turned himself in.  He chose not to stop at the site of the accident because he feared for his life if he did.

Perhaps, someday, we’ll see a different reaction from Palestinian leaders.  Until then, I don’t see how a peace agreement can be reached.




About Rabbi Avi Friedman

I am the rabbi of Congregation Ohr Shalom - SJCC, a progressive Conservative and traditional congregation. I am also husband to Jodi as well as father to Gabi, Jonah, Jessica and Ilana. I have been a part of the Summit community since 2005.
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