Parts of the Moslem world are currently experiencing a morbid fascination with death – their own and that of others. There is no long-term strategy to the terror that grips Western society and all of us here in the State of Israel. Stabbing a soldier or running down a policeman or pedestrian with an automobile has no strategic value and, in reality, accomplishes nothing for the cause of the perpetrator.
Killing one-hundred-twenty-nine innocent people in Paris in no way induces France to be more lenient and accepting of any Moslem caliphate. In fact, as we are witness, it does just the opposite, only hardening French opposition to the idea of a caliphate and to the acceptance of more Moslems into France itself.
The same thing is undoubtedly true here in Israel. The murder of innocent Jews, by people who are well aware by now that they will probably die in committing that act of murder, has no strategic value and gains nothing substantial for the Palestinian cause. Yet, logic plays no part in any of this.
Constant religious incitement, demonizing the “other,” promising eternal reward and purely religious hatred all play into this current wave of terror. Why should children who are barely teenagers attempt to kill people whom they do not know and who have never directly harmed them? This is all part of this mental and spiritual fascination with death.
The killers are not soldiers who are trained for war and killing. In the famous words of Gen. Patton in World War II, “the object of war is not to die for your country, it is to make the enemy die for his country.” But that type of logical thinking wanes in the face of this utter attraction to death and its expected rewards.
Part of the task of religion is to teach a person how to live a meaningful life coupled with an understanding that there is a spark of eternity within all of us that will exist after our physical demise. The Torah is a book of life, and living remains the supreme value in Jewish thought and law.
Though the Jewish people have a long history of martyrdom, it is the productivity and holiness of good living that remains the focus of all of the commandments and values that constitute traditional Jewish life. We all recognize that death is inevitable and must always be reckoned with, but it certainly is not something desirable – a goal to be pursued and treasured.
The fascination of Jewish life is with living. This is the emphasis that is present in all of the books of the Bible and is the core value in Jewish tradition. From this stems the Jewish attitude towards family, procreation and generations. Though we are well aware of the past and in fact are bidden to study it and know it, our attraction is always with the future.
The Talmud puts it succinctly and positively: “Tomorrow the Temple will be built.” We are absorbed with how and when that will occur but it is the appeal of life in progress, with its concept of redemption and hope that drives the Jewish society here in Israel and the world over to persevere and eventually to triumph.
I have no idea how to eradicate this cult of death, which seems to permeate so many of our enemies. It is caused by incitement against anyone who does not believe as they believe and justifies the most brutal and heinous acts of murder of innocents. The fact that it is somehow malevolently intertwined with distorted religious beliefs only makes the problem greater. If, as is clear from the events of the past few weeks, that the murderers are not afraid of death and are in fact captivated and accepting of it in almost joyful belief, then our weapons to defeat them are truly impotent.
It is difficult to defeat an enemy whose young people are willing to sacrifice their lives because of perceived religious beliefs, the belief that somehow death is more noble than life and murder is somehow a solution to the world's problems.
The fact that almost no moderate voices are heard in the Moslem world today to oppose this type of mindset is very disturbing and frightening. Only when human beings actually get down to the task of making something of their lives, of living for goals and with a vision of generations yet unborn, can we hope that somehow this fascination with death will be transformed into an appreciation of life and the realities that exist and govern us.