What a day–Yom ha-Shoa (Holocaust Memorial Day), May 1st, the Beautification of John Paul II., and the death of Osama bin Laden!
Last night, after a leisurely dinner with some friends following the Yom ha-Shoa ceremony at the local reform synagogue, my FB page greeted me with “Yay! We did it!” “He’s dead!” “Finally!” and similar messages. It seemed as if many of my US-American FB buddies had suddenly joined a cheerleading club. The frenzy was clearly met by what seems to have been going on in DC and elsewhere: people roaming the streets, wrapped in US-American flags, deliriously shouting “USA! USA!” (as if they personally had had anything to do with it)
Immediately, my German upbringing made me squirm: As if the death of an old man in hiding would change anything! Aren’t there many others, only too happy to launch a few mindless attacks on civilians? Perhaps on one of the local churches in Abottabad where bin Laden had been killed? Or a Paris subway? This is not to say that a military response might not be called for at times, but if that’s all that happens, we might as well keep our soldiers at home, and safe. To gloat in this manner, is, well, unseemly. How is this better than the crowds in Teheran wishing death on the Great and the Little Satan? Better than the unforgettable image of the Palestinian man raising his blood-stained hands after the lynching of an Israeli? Better than the pictures from Abu Ghraib and elsewhere?
Two quotes from the Bible came to my mind: “When the wicked perish there is song” (Proverbs 11:10) which clearly seems to be what was going on last night. The other one reminds us: “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles”? (Proverbs 24:17). In other words: the text acknowledges the complicated nature of human feelings, and tells us that we have a choice.
Many of the foreign relatives of those murdered in the Towers did not feel any relief at the news. Instead, they were thrown back to the horrors of that magnificent September morning in 2001. Even I, far removed, kept thinking of that woman, covered in grey dust, who had grabbed my arm and screamed: “They just jumped! They just jumped!” I wonder what she is thinking right now and I wish we would remember the victims, those who died, those who survived, those who loved them. Here, Robert Klitman writes about his sister’s death on 9/11 in the NYT.
So ObL dead. Big deal (though, apparently, it is).
I had planned to write about our local commemoration of the Shoa (Holocaust), and in particular about the involvement of the “colors” from Fort Jackson, my unease to see military in synagogue, but somehow, this seemed more important. Though I will come back to the beatification later.