Tuesday, February 25, 2020 -
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Deterrence . . . and seeds of peace

Early morning last Friday we all shuddered to learn of the savagely brutal murder of young Israeli, Ori Ansbacher. Raped, tortured, murdered and mutilated, left naked in a silent Jerusalem forest.

Our blood ran cold.

So barbaric a murder, it almost echoed biblical proportions of the story of the concubine in the Book of Judges.

It was erev Shabbat, and all I could think was that tonight in Israel, the kabbalat Shabbat, especially the verse that evokes Ori’s name, ki va orech kumi, for your light has come, rise up and shine, will be drenched in tears.

Ori means “my light.”

Ori, whose life of light and kindness and service, became shrouded in piercing darkness.

I couldn’t stop thinking of her final moments.

The moment she was caught off guard. And realized. The moment her blood ran cold. The moment she understood this attacker was a demon of death. The moment she knew her fate was sealed. The moment she became like just another tree in a forest, violently cut down before her time.

Did she scream a scream that shattered the forest’s silence? Or did she scream inwardly-a silent primal scream? Did she beg to be spared?

To think of it is haunting.

What was so striking was the response to the bloodcurdling news.

There were the usual yet never always disturbing stories and photos of Palestinians celebrating, passing around candies and baklava in the streets.

Gratefully, there was group of outspoken Palestinians who condemned this heinous act and even paid condolence calls to the Ori’s family.

Then there were leftist progressives who were simply silent, as though nothing had happened at all.

And there were the raw, primal cries for justice and even revenge. Cries of where are our current Biblical characters who mete out justice and protect the vulnerable in Israel? Where are our Simon and Levi who acted to protect the honor of their sister Dina? Where is Phineas’ spear? Where is David’s shield? Where o where are all the powers that be who would demonstrate an immediate and radical response to so radical and violent an act?

I saw responses from normally lovely, refined, balanced good people that were shocking in their graphic nature.

The palpable desire for justice and also for revenge were so strong.

A young 19-year-old girl, on the cusp of her life. So innocent. So filled with goodness. And not “just” shot to death with a gun. But such a debased, cruel murder. This touched a deep primal nerve.

Gory fantasies were played out. Just one example: “Bring him to the town square. Limb by limb, cut off his arms and legs, while his family is there, handcuffed forced to watch. Then send him back home with his family. A burden for life. Guaranteed this kind of wanton murder won’t become a repeat offense. Only then will they understand Jewish blood is not cheap.”

Besides the instinctual desire to retaliate and mentally create some sense of control over the situation, the Israeli response was motivated by a search for deterrence.

Families are shaking for the safety of their young and vulnerable daughters and sisters.

Not that Israel uses the death penalty, but even when invoking the desire for it, people are wrestling with the understanding that it is not a deterrent. A terrorist who slaughtered a young Jewish girl with his bare hands and a knife, and as a consequence was killed at the hands of Israel would only become a glorified Palestinian celebrity with a town square named for him.

Already, regardless of the punishment that awaits the terrorist, with this one brutal act he has guaranteed life long financial support for his family, with Palestinian Authority’s perverse, incentivized pay for slay program.

Before Ori’s brutal murder she had already in her young life managed to scatter her beautiful seeds, her good deeds.

She was young but she was wise.

As a hobby she wrote poetry.

One poem in particular that has been shared, now being called, Ori’s Poem, includes this line: “Create/For Yourself/A World/Of Peace.” It can be read as a double entendre, as poem about her emotional state but also about the Israeli reality.

This poem is becoming one of Ori’s legacies. She is planting seeds of peace with this poem.

I understand the emotional reactions and fantasies in the face of such horror — to exact justice and revenge against so evil a creature. Emotionally, I get it. What I don’t get is the Israeli hotel-like prison conditions, replete with dental care, the opportunity for university degrees, culinary abundance and more.

At the same time, I am grateful Israel is a society of law and order that acknowledges that full justice can never be meted out by man. That is not our role in society. But finding deterrence — real deterrence — is.

While I obviously don’t endorse the torture scenarios, this brutal murder must become a watershed tragedy that generates policies that will instill fear, causing a potential terrorist to pause and think twice before committing a terrorist act.

Jewish blood has become too cheap these days in Israel. The recent list of beautiful lives cut short is getting longer and longer. A genuine policy of deterrence by the Israeli government must be put in place. Along with, somehow, simultaneously finding a way to grow the seeds of peace that Ori Ansbacher already scattered in her life, and nurture them into a forest of harmony and healing.

Copyright © 2019 by the Intermountain Jewish News

Tehilla R. Goldberg

IJN columnist | View from Central Park

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