Although we left the United States thirty years ago we haven’t forgotten Thanksgiving. However, since the fourth Thursday in November is a regular workday in Israel we have our turkey and stuffing as a Shabbat meal on a Friday night sometime near the real Thanksgiving. We always do it with close family friends and this year we managed to schedule it immediately after the American holiday.
This time we had special guests, our friends’ married daughter and her family. They’d enjoyed our turkey dinners in the past, but this time they didn’t want to be with us. Rather, they longed for a quiet Shabbat in their own beds with their toddler and three-week-old baby. Due to the fires raging in the vicinity of their home, though, they opted to flee to Shilo and hope that there would be no fires here.
As I lit Shabbat candles that Friday night I prayed that the acts of arson across Israel would end and there would be no more conflagrations. Little did I know that later that evening three flames would be lit in a nearby village. About a fifteen minute drive from here, Neve Tzuf went up in flames when many of the residents were already sleeping. Thankfully, they were all able to escape and there were just a few minor injuries. However, over a dozen homes were totally destroyed and twenty-five seriously damaged.
Now the villagers in Neve Tzuf, like Israelis all over the country who had their lives go up in flames, are beginning to rebuild, aided by caring and gifts from those of us blessed to have our homes still standing. Even though, most of the rest of the world has already forgotten about this new act of terror, we have not.
Sixteen months ago there was another fire in a different village also about a fifteen minute drive from Shilo. This time it was an Arab village. A firebomb was thrown into a private home and it burst into flames. A toddler with his parents were seriously injured and all succumbed to their wounds leaving behind his orphaned brother.
It was immediately decided by the media that this atrocious crime had been committed by a kippah-clad Jew. As of today, no one has been able to find proof to convict anyone. Still, the world seemed to hold any Jew wearing a kippah, along with his wife, mother, sisters, and daughters as guilty. We were instructed to do serious soul-searching so that such a crime could never happen again.
Then and again now, I reject such insinuations. I played no part in the Duma arson. Meanwhile, it isn’t just a theory that many of our fires this past week were acts of Arab arson. Some of the terrorists were caught in the act and others were identified on security cameras. Why isn’t our Arab population being called on to do their own soul-searching?
I know the answer. It’s because the world holds the Jewish people to a higher level of behavior. They may want to deny our connection to Jerusalem. They may boycott us. They may ignore us being murdered. Deep down, though, even though they may not admit it, they know that G-d chose us to receive the Torah. It’s that Torah that keeps the world from being totally degenerate. And it’s that Torah which will, sooner or later, bring the Messiah.
Then we’ll have the biggest thanksgiving meal anyone can imagine.