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  Naomi Ragen

Naomi Ragen
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The Ghost of Hannah Mendes Jephte's Daughter Sotah (A Woman Under Suspicion) The Sacrifice of Tamar

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The Handwriting on the Wall

One recent Friday night, someone spray-painted the words "Death to Dosim "(slang for observant Jews) on the outside wall of my synagogue in Ramot, Jerusalem. They wrote it in Hebrew, in four-foot high black letters, opposite the entrance to Nachshon Hall, named in honor of Nachshon Waxman, the soldier kidnapped and murdered by Hamas terrorists only three years ago.

"Stupid kids" my own teenagers shrugged when they saw the graffiti.

Probably. But I keep thinking about the hand that wrote those words and who it might have belonged to. Was it someone who knew that Nachshon’s parents would be sure to read it as they entered the synagogue that Shabbat morning? Did they realize that that Shabbat, in Nachshon Hall, we would be celebrating the bar mitzvah of Dov Kalmanovich’s son, the same Dov Kalmanovich who was one of the intifada’s first victims, whose entire face was burned away by an enemy who wished him dead because he was a Jew and an Israeli?

What could have brought another Jew and an Israeli, growing up in his own country, to deface a Jewish house of worship and to wish its occupants dead?

I thought about it. Perhaps it was someone who had seen ultra-Orthodox Jews throwing stones at cars traveling on nearby Bar Ilan road one Sabbath. Perhaps it was someone who’d watched bearded, black-suited Jews on TV ignoring the siren for Israel’s fallen during Memorial Day, or who had read endless newspaper articles about how the ultra- Orthodox were receiving army exemptions, subsidized rentals, preferred mortgages, and educational stipends despite the fact that they burn the flag of the country in which they live and spit in the faces of those whose pockets they empty with such cynical arrogance, for that is the picture our television and newspapers paint, based unfortunately on the awful reality.

I, of course, and my family, as well as the Waxman family, and the Kalmanovich family, are not guilty of any of those crimes. We serve in the army with pride. We support the State with our taxes and pay our bank mortgages, and our children’s unsubsidized college tuition. We deplore the disgusting manipulations of corrupt, self-serving "religious" politicians who callously use our G-d and His holy Torah, to siphon off funds desperately needed for the unemployed, the handicapped, social and educational programs, handing them over to those perpetuating a parasitical lifestyle that is as far from Torah values as it is possible to imagine.

But how could the "stupid kid" who wrote those hateful words know that? After all, we don’t raise our voices in protest when religious extremists achieve yet another victory against the State and its well being. We don’t say out loud what many of us believe, that the greatest tragedy for the Jewish people in the land of Israel is the fact that there is an intermingling of synagogue and state. We don’t say loud enough: "One nation, one draft" and those who won’t serve, and won’t work, and won’t pay taxes, can leave and try their luck siphoning off funds from the welfare offices in Williamsburg. We don’t object that the National Religious Party is out there with all the rest, its hand outstretched to get its share, its political agenda geared to its own narrow constituency's interests, and the Torah, and G-d, and justice and the public good be damned.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that the idiot who wrote those hateful words should be looked at with a forgiving eye. If he’s an adult I would tell him to understand that he has now joined a unique group which includes Hitler and his brownshirts, Chimelnetzki,and others of that ilk. If he’s still a child, then I turn to his parents and blame them for raising a Jewish child in the land of Israel without a single Jewish value that would prevent him from desecrating all that is most precious to us as a people.

And to all the so-called self-appointed "guardians of our faith" who think that their arrogant disdain for the great majority of the people of Israel can go on forever, I would say read the handwriting on the wall, for in great part, it is the fruit of your labor. And to all those Jews who speak at home of "Dosim" as one disgusting entity that includes every Jew keeping faith with his heritage, I would say –here, look at what you’ve done, created a little homegrown anti-Semite. And for myself, and others like me, who deplore the excesses of the religious right but do nothing publicly to prevent them, I say, we can no longer avoid seeing the handwriting on the wall, for it’s our wall they’re writing on.



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Copyright 1999 Naomi Ragen
Last modified: February 04, 1999