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October 13, 2015 5:34 pm

A Personal Memory of Eitam Henkin, and a Warning for the World

avatar by Pini Dunner

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Rabbi Eitam and Naama Henkin were shot dead in their car by Palestinian terrorists. Photo: Israel Foreign Ministry.

Rabbi Eitam and Naama Henkin were shot dead in their car by Palestinian terrorists. Photo: Israel Foreign Ministry.

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.

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  • Rebecca nissel

    Dear Rabbi Dunner,

    Your article writes the truth and having a personal relationship with the Henkins, may theirs souls rest in peace, makes your words even more powerful. Even though you never met them, through his writings and talking to him he became your friend.
    At times like right now, Jews all over world should form UNITY, but as you write correctly, a large group of our brothers and sisters have no clue of what’s right and wrong and march to the dangerous tune of the Left.
    My dear father, may he rest in peace, used to say,
    “because we are in the headlines almost every day of the week, the people who hate us so much, think there must be a billion Jews lurking around every corner, waiting to conquer the world!
    These hateful killers succeeded in murdering my parents, be careful my dear daughter it should not happen again!”

    What to do in a crisis like this, we can write and express our deepest feelings, and thank you Rabbi Dunner for this meaningful article.

    And let’s continue to pray for that heavenly shield , which will protect our people in Israel and all over the world.

    • Pini Dunner

      Beautiful words, Rivka – thank you for sharing them.

  • Sam Omekara

    May the memory of Eitam and Naamah Henkin be blessed. Remember this is the month of Av. The spiritual dimension of current events in Israel and Jerusalem needs to be understood. The world is on edge. The world powers and their media are living out their places in the divine tapestry and woe unto them that will bear the wrath of the Almighty. Jerusalem remains the stumbling stone for those that will arise against her.
    History is coming to a head. Different solutions will be propounded to usher in peace they even don’t believe in. Jewish casualties of morbid hatred of the conspirators will continue to mount. Let us not give in to fear and despair. Jews will survive into eternity. For Jews remain light unto the nations. They will take hold of the hemline of the Jew requesting to be taught of the God of Israel.
    The murderers will not go unpunished. The blood of the innocent testifies against them and their cohorts.

  • You are so very right, Mr Dunner. Scripture tells us that this will happen & the G-d of Israel knows (& will not abandon His chosen people).

  • Tone Lechtzier

    Shalom, Amen, we’re on the same page. Or… we’ve got to get it right with Hashem and each other, en mass. Collectively, we could be living in the Garden of Eden.

    Blessings ~ toda ~ Tone

  • Janet

    Notice the word for thievery-Hamas!

  • ART

    Beautiful and heart rending article. Israel must continue to defend itself with or without the consent of the world. At best, if Jews survive the world will allow them to be a dispersed, disarmed minority dependent on the “good will” of their overseers . World opinion be damned Abbas/pa/plo/fatah/hamas et al MUST be destroyed

  • nine 0’clock

    It is indeed tragic, I couldn’t agree with you more. What do you say to step-children who sympathize with the Palestinians? I am at my wits end, any ideas?

    • Pini Dunner

      Respond with love and affection – don’t push your kids away. We need a next generation. Show your kids the beauty of Judaism, the warmth of Shabbat. Tell them how wonderful Eretz Yisrael is, the living soul of the Jewish people. Study Torah with your kids, and introduce your kids to God. Tell them that God loves them and wants a relationship. If children understand the importance and beauty of a Jewish identity, they will understand the Jews’ deep and eternal attachment to the Land of Israel, and why we need to be there. And add this to what you tell them: nothing would make the majority of Jews happier than if the Muslim world would accept that this particular little corner of the world, insignificant in size, but hugely significant in its meaning to us, could be left for us to live in securely and without threat of violence. That is all we want. We won’t throw them out of anywhere, or restrict them. They can be in Israel too, together with us, as long as they don’t threaten us – as the prophet Isaiah says: ‘For My house shall be called a House of Prayer for all the nations’ (Isaiah 56:7)

  • I am grievously pained by the loss of innocent Hebrew (Jewish) lives in Israel. What do we do? The Torah has answers, but political correctness precludes us from applying Torah.

    I just wish that these sad and unfortunate incidents will make us to draw closer to Torah, and apply its recommendations, no matter how ‘bitter’ we may think that they are.