Monday, July 25, 2011

The Jews in the Basement

by Stella Paul

The coming week marks five years since the murder of Pamela Waechter. Who? If the name doesn't ring a bell, here's a brief reminder: She was shot in the head by Naveed Afzal Haq, as she tried to crawl down a flight of stairs and escape, after Haq shot her in the chest.

Still not jogging your memory? How about this: Waechter was the 58-year-old director of the annual campaign of the Jewish Federation of Seattle. Sometime around 4 PM, on July 28, 2006, Naveed Afzal Haq grabbed a 14-year-old girl and thrust a gun in her back. He used her to gain entry to the Federation, and then rampaged through the building, shooting six women -- Layla Bush, Christina Rexroad, Cheryl Stumbo, Dayna Klein (who was five months pregnant), Carol Goldman, and, fatally, Pamela Waechter. Tammy Kaiser jumped from a second-story window to escape, and was hospitalized with injuries.

What was Haq's motive? Well, here's an interesting clue: As he stormed through the halls, shooting and killing, he shouted, "I'm a Muslim-American! I'm angry at Israel!"

Quite a dramatic story, no? And yet it's not a story anybody wants to tell. Grab the average leftist on the street -- or, certainly, on campus -- and ask him about Rachel Corrie, the anti-Israel activist accidentally run over by an Israeli bulldozer. I bet he knows Corrie's story by heart; after all, our cultural grandees never stop pushing it as a "teaching moment" about Israeli brutality.

Likewise, gay activists turned the murder of Matthew Shepard into a universal "teaching moment" about America's homophobia and crimes against gays, and the urgent need for sensitivity training in schools.

But American Jews have found no "teaching moment" in the murder of Pamela Waechter, and the shooting of six women at work, performing the administrative tasks of the Jewish community. The tragedy of Waechter, a Lutheran who converted upon marriage and devoted her life to Judaism, remains a private heartbreak for those who loved her.

And yet, the images of the Seattle women under attack are so unbearable that the question must be shrieked from the rooftops: Where are the men?

Where are the Jewish men, who ought to be rushing to protect their wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters? Where are the Jewish men who lead the community, as Jewish women come under increasing assault, right here in America, from Islamic fanatics?

Where are the Jewish men who will stand up for the memory of Victoria Hen, a stunningly beautiful 25-year-old ticket agent, murdered at the El Al counter in Los Angeles airport on July 4, 2002? Her killer, Egyptian national Hesham Mohamed Hadayet, shot her, then opened fire on 90 people waiting in line for a Tel Aviv flight, fatally wounding Yaakov Aminov. When police searched Mohamed Hadayet's apartment after the attack, they found a sign taped to his door saying, "Read the Koran." Victoria's parents had planned a surprise party for the next day, at which her boyfriend would have formally asked for her hand in marriage.

Of course, you've probably never heard the name "Victoria Hen." Like Pamela Waechter, she's invisible in the Jewish community and everywhere else, an embarrassing victim whose death, if truly examined, would demand a courageous response.

And the Jewish men are very busy, you see, cowering in the basement. In 1903, the great poet, Chaim Nachman Bialik, was sent to report on the Kishinev massacre of Jews in Russia. Bialik was shocked by what he learned of the men's passivity, as their women were raped and murdered before their eyes. He wrote a searing poem, "The City of Slaughter," excoriating the men hiding in the cellar, who silently watched their loved ones' destruction:

In that dark corner, and behind that cask
Crouched husbands, bridegrooms, brothers, peering from the cracks,
Watching the sacred bodies struggling underneath
The bestial breath,
Stifled in filth, and swallowing their blood!

Given the nature of our times, David Solway and Daniel Gordis have both written important essays on the relevance of Bialik's poem, which I urge you to read. For once again, here in America, too many Jewish men are crouching "in that dark corner," while Jewish women are attacked.

But oh, how their minds are busy! Political fantasies are spinning wildly in their heads. They're dreaming about "constructive engagement" and "dialogue with The Other" and "reframing the narrative." And should you rush in to defend Jewish women, they will finally leap into the fray -- to attack you!

You don't care about the peace process! You don't respect The Other! You want to impose your values on different cultures! You don't understand why they, trembling behind the casks, are so morally superior to hate-filled, brutish you!

Thus, in that corner, we find Rabbi Richard Jacobs, the new leader of the Reform Movement, beckoning his followers to crouch behind him. He gives the signal and millions of eyes look away, as a three-month-old baby girl, Hadas Fogel, is butchered in her crib, while her mother, Ruth, her father, Udi, and her young brothers, Yoav and Elad, bleed to death in the next rooms.

Rabbi Jacobs sighs, and writes another check to J Street, which lobbies Congress to not protest the Fogel murders.

In that corner, wave hello to Rabbi Marc Schneier, flush with money from Hollywood and the Hamptons. He's busy pushing his "interfaith dialogue" racket, The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding. Rabbi Schneier consults the caterer for his next gala affair, as Berkeley student Jessica Felber cries out under violent assault by the leader of Students for Justice in Palestine, and Hampshire College student Lihi Benisty suffers physical blows, death threats, and daily catcalls of "Zionist pig."

Rabbi Schneier decides on the apricot roasted chicken, then turns to the camera to sternly lecture us on why Jews must fight "Islamophobia."

And in that corner over there, why it's the grand old man of the Jewish establishment, Abe Foxman of the ADL! In Malmo, Sweden, 86-year-old Judith Popinski, an Auschwitz survivor, shudders and says, "I never thought I would see this hate again in my lifetime, not in Sweden anyway," as Jews flee violence from Muslim immigrants. Foxman puffs himself up behind the cask, and demands that Jews give money to help Muslims build mosques in America.

Ten years after 9/11, five years after the murder of Pamela Waechter, it's past time for Jewish men to get out of the basement. The first step: start telling the truth.

Stella Paul


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

1 comment:

Juniper in the Desert said...

I am re-blogging this! ;(( I live in England and I never heard about it, I am so angry!!

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