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Pray for peace in Jerusalem

Ferenc Raj, Rabbi
Monday March 25, 2002



“Never criticize a person until you've walked a mile in his moccasins.” 

This often-quoted Native American proverb has echoed loudly in my mind since my return from the CCAR (Central Conference of American Rabbis) Convention in Jerusalem earlier this month. 

It was a beautiful warm day and the sun shone brightly on this majestic city. Many of the rabbis took advantage of a break in activities to dash out for lunch in the cafes and restaurants in the areas surrounding the hotel. As we walked, a colleague Paul and I were reflecting on the interesting panel discussion we had just attended during which Rabbi Ron Kronish, Director of the ICCI Educational Center, Bishop Munib Youman, the Palestinian Lutheran Bishop of Jerusalem and Dr. Mouhammed Hourani an Israeli Arab Scholar, had all participated. The Caffit cafe, a cozy little establishment, was full of people, among them quite a few of our colleagues from America.  

All of us talked with great enthusiasm about the ICCI program which emphasizes “Chinuch l’du-kiyyum b’shalom” Education for peaceful co-existence. Paul and I left to do some quick shopping before the next session.  

As we were walking, just a few minutes later, we heard sirens and saw many police and security vehicles speeding in the opposite direction. A Palestinian would-be suicide bomber had just been intercepted in the very café that Paul and I had just left. Thanks to the bravery of a waiter Shlomi Harel who, risking his own life, quickly pulled out a wire from the bomb thus preventing the bomb from being detonated. Again in my life I was just a heartbeat away from death. But I still didn’t get it! 

Two days later, just after the Sabbath, innocent people who spent the evening at the Moment Cafe were not so fortunate. Eleven were killed and 44 injured in the explosion. The next day I felt I must go and pay tribute to the people who were murdered. I spent two hours at the site listening to people who knew the victims.Friends came and posted an obituary for Uri Felix, a 25-year-old young man who was full of life, hope and dreams. He and his fiancee Danit Dagan, who was also killed in the terrorist attack, were supposed to be married on May 15th. Instead they were buried.  

Others touched the ground to somehow connect with their loved ones while pious Jews searched for body parts to be buried.  

To this day I am plagued by the images, the words, the tears, the silence. Now I understood. 

Sadly, just a few hours after the attack, as the funerals took place, there was a celebration in Ramallah, encouraged by Palestinian clergy who glorify death and destruction, laud mass murderers as heroes and promise them entry into paradise. A Jerusalem Post editorial stated: “You might see Israelis parading for peace, but you won’t find them parading in praise of attacks on innocent civilians.” 

As I settled in at home, I read the many articles, editorials and letters about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in the papers that had accumulated during my absence. I was struck by the fact that many an author relied on imagination and second-hand knowledge. 

My first hand experience helped me to really understand that terrorism must be rooted out wherever it exists.  

The world cannot afford another 9/11, not here, not in the Middle East, not anywhere. 


Ferenc Raj, Rabbi