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Letter from the Be`eri Directors


This letter was written by Be’eri program directors to Be’eri educators after the the tragic events of this summer. We feel that it is a relevant document for all of our partners.
Dear Friends and Partners,
Israeli society was stunned and shocked at the brutal events of this summer. Jerusalem youngster Shira Banchi was murdered at the Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade in the same week as the Dawabsheh family home was set on fire by arsons in the village of Duma, near the city of Nablus, killing a father, mother and son. Both murders were perpetrated by Jews, in the name of Judaism. These hate crimes undermine three dimensions of our existence.


First, taking a fellow human being’s life. These murderers killed human beings, leaving families and friends bereft. "What have you done? Your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the earth" God questions Cain in Genesis 4:10. We were commanded at Sinai: "Thou shall not kill!" We have learned that "In the image of God He created them."


Second, citizens who take the law into their hands and harm others by force of their ideology, endanger Israel’s existence as a democratic state that provides security to its residents and citizens. If there is no consensus about democratic law, we will not be able to survive in this land. If each owner of a knife or a gun takes the law into his or her own hands, anarchy will prevail, bringing about disaster, such as the destruction of the Second Temple.


Third, the murderers acted on the distorted belief that they were fulfilling a commandment dictated by Halakhah. Our sages said: "The Torah becomes an elixir of life for those who occupy themselves in Torah for its own sake, as it is said, ‘It is a tree of life for them that grasp it.’ Just as Torah can become a deadly poison to those who occupy themselves with Torah not for its own sake.” (Babylonian Talmud Ta’anit 7a). The Torah, which is an elixir of life, has the power to turn into death causing poison. These murderers studied Torah, but did not understand it. They turned it into an elixir of death.


We cannot bring back those who were murdered. However, we can try to mend the immense damage caused to the very tissue of our democratic society and to our lives as Jews in our land. For us, Be’eri program partners, the existence of a Jewish and democratic State of Israel is central to our educational work.  We must continue to explore ever-more thoroughly our identity and place as humans, Jews, and Israelis. We must continue to fight the racism and hatred in our midst. The values that we teach in our schools and communities must present a Jewish, human, and moral alternative to which the distorted concepts that brought about these murders and the recent damaging of mosques and churches.In November, we will mark the twentieth anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, by a Jew, in the name of Judaism.


Surprisingly, this appalling murder was the catalyst for Jewish-Israeli cultural renewal. Many Israelis felt a need to reclaim their right to their Jewish identities, realizing it was irresponsible to leave it to those who see themselves as its only true representative. This renewal stimulated a return to great Jewish books, the emergence of new commentaries, and the establishment of new Batei Midrash, which still exist today. Over the years, we continue to be reminded of the importance of this realization as abominable deeds, in the name of Judaism, compel us to establish a diversified Judaism of justice and righteousness, truth and peace.
"These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth each one with his neighbor; truth, and judgment of peace you shall judge in your cities".  (Zechariah 8:16)


Daniel Elazar
Director, Be’eri Program
Vice President,  Shalom Hartman Institute
Dr. Ariel Picard
Educational Director, Be’eri Program

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