Israel on the 17th of Tammuz: Confronting the Enemy Within

Cross-posted with Tikkun Daily:

Yesterday the Jewish world observed the fast day known as Shiv’ah Asar Be’Tammuz, (the 17th of Tammuz), a communal day of quasi-mourning that commemorates among other things, the breaching of Jerusalem’s walls by the Roman army in 70 CE, prior to the destruction of the Second Temple.

Interestingly enough, the 17th of Tammuz – as well as the upcoming fast day of Tisha B’Av – is not so much a day of anger directed toward our enemies, as much as an occasion for soul searching over the ways our own behavior too often leads to our downfall. According to the Talmud (Yoma 9b), for instance, the fall of the First Temple was due to the idolatry while the destruction of the Second Temple was caused by sinat chinam – the “baseless hatred” of Jew against Jew.

I would submit that this year, the 17th of Tammuz has an all-too-tragic resonance, particularly given the internecine violence currently being waged on Israeli streets. Case in point: this past Saturday in Tel Aviv, in which hundreds of peaceful anti-war protesters were set upon by a violent mob whipped up by popular right-wing Israeli rapper Yoav Eliasi (whose stage name is “The Shadow.”)

According to reports in the Israeli press, Eliasi and his followers angrily confronted and intimidated demonstrators – and when an air raid siren caused the crowd to disperse, they chased them through the streets and attacked them with clubs. During the melee, the sky lit up as a Gazan missile was intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system.

In an extensive post for +972mag, Israeli journalist Haggai Matar reported that one demonstrator had a chair broken over his head and had to be evacuated to hospital. Others were punched, pushed, had eggs thrown at them or were attacked with pepper spray. According to witnesses, police did little to stop the violence and in the end, no arrests were made. (The Shadow later bragged about the support of Israeli police on his Facebook page.)

In what is undoubtedly the most deeply disturbing aspect of this entire affair was the discovery that some of the right-wing thugs who attacked the demonstrators wore T-shirts bearing a popular neo-Nazi symbol. According to a report in Ha’aretz:

As shown on journalist Tal Schneider’s Hebrew-language blog, some of the right-wingers wore T-shirts bearing the slogan “Good night left side.”

Neo-Nazis in Europe wear shirts with this phrase, which accompanies an image of a man attacking a left-wing activist, denoted by a star or anarchy symbol. The online store Final Resistance offers clothing bearing neo-Nazi slogans – popular attire at rock concerts by far-right bands.

If you’re still incredulous, check out this image below, from the Facebook page Occupy Judaism:

In a scathing editorial, Ha’aretz laid the blame on ultra-nationalist Israeli politicians for inciting and encouraging this ominously rising violence and for refusing “to internalize the real danger inherent in the type of violence displayed on Saturday.”  This is, indeed, one of the central messages of the 17th of Tammuz: for all of the concern about our external enemies, we ignore the dangers growing within our own community at our peril.

I can think of no more sobering example than this recent instance of Jews in fascist regalia violently attacking peaceful Jewish anti-war demonstrators while a missile launched out of Gaza literally explodes over their heads.

9 thoughts on “Israel on the 17th of Tammuz: Confronting the Enemy Within

  1. abunaalgodon

    The Gospel of Mark records a story of Jesus healing a boy “possessed by an evil spirit” – likely a boy suffering epilepsy. In the story Jesus is said to heal the boy at which his disciples ask why they had not been able to affect a healing. Jesus reportedly answered that “some evil spirits only come out with prayer and fasting.”

    I take this to mean that sometimes we have so lost our way that only by digging deep into ourselves – prayer and fasting come to mind as a possibility – do we find a way back to our true humanity.This may well be such a time. Cotton

  2. Dan webber

    Again..fueling discord,why pray tell do you overlook the attacks on the Jewish people in Berlin and Paris with clubs and chains. .but go ballistic when some kids,while wrong in wearing some rock band neo nazi liked t shirts attack leftists..what about the leftist pro Palestinians attacking pro israel Jewish students in many college campuses all over this country..or Jews attacked all over France and Sweden needs to be fair,especially in these matters

    1. Rabbi Brant Rosen Post author


      I don’t think it is “fueling discord” to engage in religiously inspired collective soul-searching over the rise of violent, ultra-nationalist sentiment in Israel, particularly when it is being nurtured and incited by elected leaders.

      I agree that the rise of similar, politically motivated ultra-nationalism throughout European countries is equally concerning. I’m sure you wouldn’t want anyone to respond to it the way you have in your comment – namely dismissing it as the result of just “some kids wearing rock band t-shirts.” In many ways the kind of endemic racism we are witnessing in Israel is part of the very same trend we are seeing, alarmingly, throughout Europe.

      (For more on the dismissal of rising Israeli racism, btw, I strongly recommend this recent piece by investigative reporter David Sheen.)

      I also don’t accept your comparison to “leftist pro Palestinians attacking pro israel Jewish students in many college campuses all over this country.” Do you have any real evidence to back up your claim that this is in any way a problem on the scale that we are discussing here?

      1. Dan webber

        After reading mr sheen,and giving this problem some thought,you very well may be right,especially if one counts the price tagging..I wonder if you think that that the constant incitement and hatred by the Arabs who spew the worst kind of anti Semite canards might have some blame here..Israelis are under tremendous pressure, as are the Palestinians ,it really is understandable that there is a rise in extreme actions by all..I understand your dismay,but the Jews in Israel are in a fight for their very survival,is it no wonder that they are human ..they do have the luxury to live in the cloistered north shore of Chicago ..they live in one terrible violent neighborhood..this violence seems to have developed fairly recently,and hopefully can be addressed with far as the violence by Palestinian protesters on college campuses it is well known and the end of it all,your JVP will not bring a settlement ..only division of a frail jewish american.communitytwo or three generation away from extinction …that,my friend is the biggest tragedy of all..Israel will be in a short 50 or 60 years from now the last stand of a 4000 yr old people..who has given the world everything they had ..and received back hatred and death….I am dismayed that with your obvious intellect and Jewish education you can not see any of this…g.d help us all

  3. 2skipper

    As a member of the JRC Congregation I feel as sense of pride in you Brant. Myself ttrough knowing in long term facebook friendships that are ongoing the daily reports from Gaza. My wall has been filled with much tragedy. I feel at a lss of words to understand the anguish many our feeling right know. Since the ground strike I am unable to even talk peace until this strike stops since it is fueling a fire that could blow up even more with the amount of Civilian deaths. If all invoved cannot even begin the process of negotiation then my hope fpr someday there to be peace seems even further away. I hope one day with many who believe that children can live in a world where they matter a new sense of hope and peace will prevail. Until then all we can do is put the needs of the victims forefront to stop the Insanity that seems to ahve taken charge..

  4. Pingback: Gaza: A Lament « Rabbibrian's Blog

  5. Pingback: » Why the Temple Mont in Jerusalem is so important- via ArchBishop Uwe A.E.Rosenkranz

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