A Personal Memory of Eitam Henkin, and a Warning for the World
Last November, my friend Menachem Butler sent me a recently published article written by a young scholar from Israel named Eitam Henkin. The subject of the article was Rabbi Joseph Shapotshnick, the protagonist of a book that I have been working on for many years. I reached out to Eitam, and we engaged in a brief exchange of emails. I sent him some of the material I had written about Shapotshnick, and we commented on each other’s research. In his final email – written on December 4 – Eitam informed me of the recent birth of his fourth child.
Two weeks ago, Eitam and his wife Naama were brutally murdered by Arab terrorists while driving with their four children towards their home in Neria. Their murder was utterly senseless, and most likely random – part of a new wave of terrorism being perpetrated against Jews in Israel by Palestinian terrorists. Tragically, the Henkins’ cold-blooded killing has receded into the background as news of so many other similar killings and attempted killings has emerged, dominating our attention, and clogging up our social media.
But the face of the man I corresponded with but whom I never met still haunts me. I can’t get it out of my head. He and I shared a common interest in the eclectic side of Jewish religious history, and I felt an automatic affinity with him. He was younger than me, and now he will never reach my age. He won’t be there to celebrate the bar mitzvahs or weddings of his children. He will never write another article, nor research another topic. He and his wife, both flowers in full bloom, have been ripped from the midst of their families, and prevented from making their full, lifelong contribution to the Jewish people. Their violent death sickens me to my stomach.
But what sickens me more is the reaction of the world, and particularly the left-leaning Jewish world. There is a quote often misattributed to Albert Einstein: “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” In this situation, it is not even “doing” the same thing, it is “saying” the same thing – again and again, like some sort of tantric mantra, almost as if by saying these things they become true. “Israel’s occupation of the West Bank is to blame.” “Those crazy fanatical Jews who insist on Temple Mount rights are provoking these attacks.” “We need a two-state solution so that the root of the hostility against Israel is addressed.” Nonsense!
Has it not dawned on these people that there is no “solution” short of Messianic redemption? There is not a two-state solution, not a one-state solution, not an expulsion solution, not a theocracy solution, not a democracy solution. The uncomfortable status-quo, in spite of its horrible downside, is preferable to every other “solution.”
You cannot make peace with people who see or at least present Jews as the illegitimate invaders and occupiers of “their” territory, unjustly kept in place by the United States. This, of course is a lie – but that doesn’t matter anymore. The Palestinian Arabs have slowly but surely convinced the world to believe it. No wonder no one protests as Jews are randomly stabbed as they go about their daily lives in Israel. Instead Israel is enjoined to act with restraint against these murderers.
How about encouraging Arabs not to leave their homes with kitchen knives to stab Jews for the crime of being Jewish? How about encouraging Arab leaders to insist publicly and convincingly that their people should immediately desist from trying to kill Jews? Of course nobody does that. Because if the narrative is that Jews are guilty of illegal occupation, and guilty of incitement by wanting to visit the Temple Mount, then Jews have it coming to them – and are lucky that only a few of them are getting killed. It is sickening, just utterly sickening.
It is also extremely dangerous, although not for Jews. This week’s Torah portion begins with a strange pasuk [verse] explaining the cause of the devastating flood: “וַתִּשָׁחֵת הָאָרֶץ לִפְנֵי הָאֱלֹהִים וַתִּמָלֵא הָאָרֶץ חָמָס” – “the world was corrupted before God; the world was filled with thievery.” The following two pesukim present thievery as the cause for the flood, not the corruption before God. Defying God by worshiping pagan effigies and engaging in sexual immorality was somehow more tolerable than the fact that the world was full of cheats and thieves. The Talmudic sages depict a society where even those who were appointed to secure justice fostered corruption, robbery, and fraud by legalizing it.
Western civilization has evolved into a society that celebrates God denial and sexual immorality. But until recently, all of that could be excused by the free world’s overall sense of justice and fair play, both domestically and internationally. Wrong was wrong, and right was right, and right was always worth defending against wrong. So, despite the great odds, the West did everything to oppose Soviet Russia, and refused to tolerate any evil, wherever it reared its ugly head.
Sadly, in recent years this fundamental structure has been undermined. The free world’s attitude towards Israel is just a symptom of that change, as is the tolerance for Iran’s nuclear program or Russia’s invasion of Crimea. Democracies that pride themselves as bastions of justice and rectitude inexplicably support and defend lies and corruption. The world needs to turn a corner, and head back to where it once was. If not, the direction we are heading in spells devastation and disaster.