Sorry New York Times, but I was there in Jerusalem, too

2 Comments

Today’s New York Times carries a story on page 8 regarding the funeral of Maysara Abu Hamdiya, a Palestinian terrorist who died  of cancer while in Israeli custody. At this funeral, anti-Israel protests erupted as mourners declared that “we will not allow the Israelis to kill our prisoners”.  The article does not go into any detail as to the nature of the crime that got  Abu Hamdiya imprisoned other than a brief reference to a bombing attempt.  My gifted colleague Rabbi Don Weber reminded a number of us yesterday that our paths once crossed with Abu Hamdiya.  In the spring of 2002 Reform rabbis held their annual convention in Jerusalem.  The turnout was smaller than usual, because this was in the midst of the worst of the wave of café and bus bombings that shook Jerusalem in those terrible days.  People were being killed literally every day, while simply sitting in a café or riding a bus.  Rabbi Weber reminded those of us who went to Jerusalem that year that a group of rabbi colleagues went to a nearby café only to be present when a man dressed in a heavy coat attempted to detonate a bomb strapped to his waist.  The bomb did not go off, and a brave security guard tackled the terrorist.  That would-be murderer was Maysara Abu Hamdiya.  It was for the crime of this attempted murder that he was in an Israeli  prison when he died of cancer.  I am deeply grateful to Rabbi Weber for calling our attention to this article in today’s paper.  (On a personal note, the day after the attempted murders, I joined a large of group of Israelis who deliberately went to that same café to show solidarity and a resolve to live normally in the midst of hell.  I wish I could say I showed the same calm as the Israelis around me but I recall being so nervous that I could barely down my coffee.  So much for the tough kid from Jersey).  Unfortunately, that same week in 2002 there was a wave of café bombings in Jerusalem, only steps from where we were staying, including the now infamous Café Moment massacre, which took place so close to us that a number of us heard the blast and the sirens-and those of us in the hotel were immediately put on lockdown by the hotel management.  The Torah portion of this week, Shemini, teaches that in the wake of the fiery death of his two sons the priest Aaron is silent.  Sorry New York Times, but in the wake of your delicate coverage of the funeral of a despicable man who tried to kill a couple of my colleagues I won’t be.

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2 thoughts on “Sorry New York Times, but I was there in Jerusalem, too

  1. Context matters. To Abu Hamdiya’s friends and supporters, the context of his attempted murder is correct and reasonable. So therefore his death while in custody would be an outrage. The endless cycle of context will unhappily never get us to the peace of all peaces.

  2. Valuable and infuriating (in that it provides an blatant example of media behavior that misinforms public opinion) blog post.

    Interesting comment by Barry Merer, as well. But I disagree with his implied conclusion, that in order to “get to peace” one must bypass focusing on the “cycle of context.” Isn’t a worthwhile society defined by transparency, accountability and justice — in that order? The Boxing Rabbi’s comment mainly addresses the first of those, I think.

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