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A Wedding and Three Funerals

We don’t need their permission, and we aren’t going to ask for it. We aren’t going to let these moral midgets claim the role of moral yardstick against which we must measure our behavior.  We, who gave the Bible to the world, spit on them and their pretensions.

I was at a wedding last night, a beautiful affair by the sea celebrating the longed-for marriage of our dear friends’ eldest son with his lovely bride.  The vows were said under a chuppah, just as the sun set over the blue ocean’s gentle waves behind them.

Another Jewish family beginning, I thought in joy as I watched the beaming bride and groom and their happy families.

We sat down by tables set with fresh, delicious food, my dear friend Esther Wachsman sitting down next to me, leaving room for her husband Yehuda.  She had just put a spoonful or two of food on her plate, when her cell phone rang.  She picked it up, her face undergoing a visible change.

Abruptly, she stood up, pushing her chair back from the table.  “I have to go,” she said.  “Yehuda isn’t feeling well.”

We all commiserated.  “What’s wrong?” I whispered.

She leaned over, putting her mouth next to my ear:  “They’ve found the bodies. The boys are all dead.”

My head spun, bringing me back twenty years to when we had waited outside the Wachsman home  the Friday night following the kidnapping of Nachshon.  How we watched the generals make their way into the home, and how, from the porch next door, I heard the keening of  my dear friend for her son who had taken a ride home and had never arrived.

Soon after, the bride and groom returned, and the room erupted in music.  I lifted myself out of my chair and went to the dance floor.  Holding hands with friends and neighbors, we made joyful circles around the bride.

The news had spread like wildfire. My friend Mirel held my hand.  “This is the only answer.  The best answer,” she  told me. And I nodded in agreement.

“The entire world is a narrow bridge,” we sang, “and the main thing is not to fear; not to fear at all.”

We sang and danced, late into the night, as the sea broke against the shore with inexorable rhythm,  its beauty unmarred by the ugliness of the acts of human beings who are little more than human animals, beings who kill children because they think they can gain some benefit from it.

As our Chief Rabbi David Lau said, Gil-Ad Shaer, Naftali Fraenkel, and Eyal Yifrah “join the chain of martyrs who have been murdered throughout the painful history of the Jewish people.”

The list keeps growing because of the blindness and  complicity of people who think they are civilized, and yet find all kinds of ways to forgive barbarism and brutality, blaming the victims. All of them are responsible for the deaths of our Jewish children, every single one  – Jew or Gentile. Like the New York Times present bureau chief  Jodi Rodoren, who made the despicable comparison between the death of  belligerent, rock throwing Palestinians and the kidnapping of Jewish teenagers waiting quietly for a ride home after exams. All those who make excuses for terrorists, support them, demand leniency for them, and hope to stop them by giving in to their demands, are responsible. All the politicians, and policy makers, and corrupt officials who have something to gain by siding with evil.

Our only comfort is that only a generation ago, it was not three young Jewish boys who were rounded up and murdered with the help of such people, but millions. Now the Jewish people are blessed with their own land, their own army, air force and a unique unity that allows them to mourn as one every, single Jewish life taken by their enemies, and to demand and exact justice for each death whether or not the European Union, or the President of the United States, or the Arab League think our dead deserve justice, and whether or not useful idiot journalists like Rudoren and their lying, corrupt, nearly bankrupt newspapers approve.

We don’t need their permission, and we aren’t going to ask for it. We aren’t going to let these moral midgets claim the role of moral yardstick against which we must measure our behavior. We, who gave the Bible to the world, spit on them and their pretensions.

But we do not fool ourselves.  While justice and, yes, revenge are necessary, they will bring no comfort in the loss of our boys, just as there will never be any comfort for the loss of Nachshon Wachsman.  But just as our prayers for Nachshon did not bring him back to us, they, like the prayers for our three boys, were not wasted. They brought our people closer, and gave us unity and strength. And they were surely heard in heaven.  God will have the final say.  Of this, I have no doubt.

“Thou has destined all the lawless of the earth to vanish like dross, therefore, I have come to love thy testimonies… This is my comfort in my affliction, that thy promise has preserved me in life.”  Psalm 119: 50.

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8 comments on “A Wedding and Three Funerals”

  1. Barbara Thau

    On the day that the production of this debasing opera was announced. I went to my computer and wrote to Leslie Gelb (a self hating Jew) and told him how obnoxious his opera sounded. I also told him that I would never consider seeing this anti-semitic opera.


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  3. Lin Pyles

    Namoni, This was in my email box this morning along with your email. Makes me so sick to my stomach. It is out right scary.

    The ‘Klinghoffer’ opera and the American Jewish establishment

    This opera is an abomination and an offense not only to Jews but to all Americans and all decent people who oppose terrorism and racism.

    By Isi Leibler

    June 30, 2014

    The debate over the New York Metropolitan Opera’s performance of The Death of Klinghoffer raises serious questions about the functioning of American Jewish leadership.

    Over the past 40 years one of the most positive features of American Jewish leadership has been its uninhibited self-confidence, assertiveness and willingness to raise its voice with courage and dignity on behalf of Israel and Jewish causes. American Jewish leaders prided themselves on having rejected shtadlanut – reliance on silent diplomacy in lieu of public action. Alas, there are now grounds for concern that this is changing, maybe as a consequence of the adverse pressures emanating from the Obama administration.

    How else can one ascribe the pitifully subdued response to the Met’s decision to perform an opera that not merely incorporates vicious anti-Israeli diatribes but which is blatantly anti-Semitic and seeks to romanticize and provide rationalization for the cold-blooded murder of a disabled person solely because he was Jewish. And this is an institution that is disproportionately funded by Jews, in the city with the greatest concentration of Jews in the Diaspora.

    Leon Klinghoffer was a 69-year-old wheelchair- bound American Jew who, in 1985, with his wife and 11 friends, celebrated his 36th wedding anniversary on the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro, that was hijacked by Palestinian terrorists. Klinghoffer was taken aside, shot and dumped overboard in his wheelchair.

    The opera based on these events was composed by John Adams and the librettist was Alice Goodman, a convert from Judaism who is now a priest in the Anglican Church.

    The opera was intentionally titled the “death” – not murder – of Klinghoffer, and purported to present “both sides of the equation.” The Met’s general manager, Peter Gelb, said that Adams sought “to understand the hijackers and their motivations, and to look for humanity in the terrorists, as well as in the victims” and enable the “audience to wrestle with the almost unanswerable questions that arise from this seemingly endless conflict and pattern of abhorrent violent acts.” In other words: present the murderers and their victims as morally equivalent.

    Indeed, Adams was open about his belief that “in this country, there is almost no option for the other side, no space for the Palestinian point of view.”

    The opening scene honors terrorists. With a backdrop of graffiti on a wall proclaiming “Warsaw 1943, Bethlehem 2005,” Jews wearing kippot and headscarves enter the stage and plant trees on what is conveyed to the audience as plundered Arab territory.

    The Palestinian chorus sings, “My father’s house was razed in 1948 when the Israelis passed over our street.” The Palestinians sing, “We are soldiers fighting a war. We are not criminals and we are not vandals but men of ideals.”

    Aside from the rabid anti-Semitism/anti-Israelism encapsulated by the brutal murder of an American Jew, the principal terrorist says, “Wherever poor men are gathered, they can find Jews getting fat. You know how to cheat the simple, exploit the virgin, pollute where you have exploited, defame those you cheated, and break your own law with idolatry.” At one stage, the terrorist leader snarls at Klinghoffer, “America is one big Jew.” What is the relationship between a crippled American Jew and Palestinian terrorists’ grievances against Israel? After seeing the opera, Klinghoffer’s daughters, Ilsa and Lisa, were “outraged at the exploitation of our parents and the cold-blooded murder of our father.” They claimed that the opera “perverts the terrorist murder of our father and attempts to romanticize, rationalize, legitimize and explain it.”

    How can any decent human being justify the performance of an opera that romanticizes the case for the perpetrators of such a hideous hate crime? It is beyond belief that such a production can be performed in 2014 in “civilized” New York without major protest. The anti-Semitic outbursts it contains could well qualify for insertion in Der Sturmer, the Nazi Jew-baiting publication.

    Could one visualize the New York Metropolitan Opera presenting a performance that, in the name of artistic freedom, humanizes or rationalizes the bigotry of white supremacists or homophobes? Or an opera in which African-Americans are lynched alongside a validation and humanization of the Ku Klux Klan perpetrators? Or even, perhaps, an opera recounting Kristallnacht while rationalizing the anti-Semitic frenzy of the Nazis? It is inconceivable that any other ethnic or religious group would be subject to such treatment. But alas, when it comes to Israel or the Jews, even in the US today anything is permissible.

    The opera premiered in Brussels in 1991 and in various locations in the US. It was canceled after 9/11 in Boston but in 2014 the Metropolitan Opera scheduled a major global launch. In addition to the performances in New York and over 70 US theaters, the plan was to globally simulcast the production to 2,000 theaters in 66 countries – a potential audience of millions.

    Amazingly, the leading American Jewish organizations failed to protest. Were it not for the vigorous remonstration of the Zionist Organization of America, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), the Simon Wiesenthal Center and other smaller bodies and individuals, it seems nobody would have cared.

    Indeed, prominent Jewish “liberals” even praised the opera. Rabbi Gary Bretton-Granatoor, vice president for philanthropy of the global Reform Jewry movement, stated that “trying to portray both sides and show that they are not monsters but human beings who did awful things to advance their cause, shows it was a horrific event. If by producing this, these questions are raised again, is that a bad thing? Discussions need to be had.”

    God help us when we are burdened with Jews purporting to be spiritual leaders who can utter such obscenities about Jew-killers.

    The Anti-Defamation League became “engaged” but stressed that it did not resort to protests. Ultimately, it triumphantly claimed to have achieved a “compromise”: The program would incorporate a statement expressing the indignation of the Klinghoffer daughters for the manner in which the opera exploited the memory of their father, and it was agreed that the simultaneous productions would not proceed, on the grounds that the opera contained “sensitive” content which could exacerbate anti-Semitism, especially in Europe.

    The ADL proudly reiterated that it had not interfered with artistic freedom or called for the performances to be canceled, but was pleased that the Met had reviewed the position and decided “of its own accord” not to extend the performance to a potentially global audience.

    This is unfathomable. Why did the ADL not call for the cancellation of performances in New York? If an anti-Semitic opera glorifying murderers is inappropriate for wider audiences, why should it be performed in New York? For the Jewish establishment, and expressly an organization like the ADL, to feel inhibited about condemning such a performance because it “interferes with artistic freedom” is to descend to the lowest level of pseudo-liberal political correctness. How can one reconcile entertainment with justifying outright murder and hate crimes?

    This opera is an abomination and an offense not only to Jews but to all Americans and all decent people who oppose terrorism and racism. It has no bearing on the rights or wrongs of the Arab-Israeli conflict or alleged grievances of Palestinians, which can be debated in other venues.

    If Jewish leaders feel inhibited about raising their voices on such issues, they are betraying their mandate and moving backward to the “trembling Israelite” role that American Jews assumed in the 1930s.

    The writer’s website can be viewed at . He may be contacted at

  4. Jeanette Oren

    You must have heard my rage. Thank you for articulating it so well. I sent this to the New York Times yesterday, even before the heartbreaking news (of course they won’t print it):

    Dear Editors of the New York Times,
    Please stop trying so hard to show “equanimity” in stories about Israeli and Palestinian mothers. Sometimes there is no equanimity. There are innocent teenagers hitching a ride from school, and there are murderers.

    Thank you, Naomi, for your books and essays.

  5. Mirel

    Naomi, once again, another wonderful article.

    We cry as one with those who mourn, and we rejoice as one with those who celebrate. But it is at times like these that I really understand the blessing “may you rejoice with a happy heart.”

    May we indeed meet at many more happy occasions, and may we be able to celebrate them all with happy hearts.

    נצח ישראל לא ישקר.


  6. Abe Himelstein

    My Dear Naomi,
    What ever you write, there is always a message. Our Torah is strong and powerful. We as a member of klal Yisroel, morn the loss of the 3 teen agers. Israel has the strength to avenge this loss, no matter what the rest of the world thinks. I applaud your effort in expressing your words & your feelings. Kol Tuv v chazak Abe Himelstein

  7. Fanny

    You have articulated the rage that I feel for the senseless killing of these three innocent boys and for all of our children that have perished at the hands of vermin that call themselves civilized. We were also at a wedding on Sunday night for our Rabbi’s son. We did not hear of this atrocity until the next day… so our celebration still held hope for these boys and the evening was not marred with a terrible truth that awaited all of us. Interestingly enough, the Rabbi spoke beautifully on Shabbat about the missing boys and encouraged us to follow our Jewish tradition of celebrating our joyful moments no matter what happens and to do so with a full heart. I join you in celebrating life for it is our only weapon against evil. I believe that despite the urge for revenge we must struggle to maintain our humanity in the face of our rage.

  8. Cathy Godwin

    Thank you for a beautiful and inspiring vision of how to respond to the murders. As our hearts break, we must allow ourselves joy as well, and the understanding of what is really happening.

    I heard a weird comment by the Hamas spokesperson, that I maybe agree with. Something like: The Koran says, when our time comes to die, we die, only then. Hashem does have ways that make no sense to us.

    Losing these boys has united the country, and much of the world to the fact that terrorism is not solving anything. We have to be firm, we have to be tough, we have to fight back. Those aren’t Jewish traits, but it is up to the Jews, up to Israel, to save ourselves and make sure our country continues.

    Thank you for writing, for your blog, for being a voice of reason and reality.

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