Finding Light in the Darkness of Terror: Thoughts from Rabbi Landau

07 Jul 2016
Torah Blog

Last week was not a good week. Three large scale terror attacks took place in the world – Istanbul, Bangladesh and Baghdad. There were also three tragic attacks in Israel in the last week. In the city of Netanya, Israelis were stabbed and wounded. A teen was butchered while sleeping in her bed at home in Kiryat Arbah. A father of ten was shot to death and his wife and daughter were seriously wounded as they were making their way to Hevron.

This terrible carnage and tragedy could reasonably lead one to despair. However, in the midst of this darkness, I found a glimmer of hope. Let me explain.

Last Friday, Miki and Chava Mark were traveling with two of their ten children south of Hevron when a car with terrorists overtook them and opened fire. At least 19 shots were fired, causing the attacked family’s car to flip. Everyone in the car was wounded.

This wasn’t the first time this family has confronted terror. Chava’s nephew, Yonadav Hirschfeld, was killed eight years ago in a terror attack at the Mercaz HaRav yeshiva in Jerusalem. In addition, the Marks supported the Ben Ami family for sixteen years after their father was killed in a drive-by terror attack. The Mark’s son, Shlomi, even eventually married one of the Ben Ami daughters, Yiska. Last Friday, Shlomi lost his father in a nearly-identical way to how Yiska lost her father years ago.

Despite their loss, the Mark family’s humanity has remained intact. When one of Yiska’s friends wrote to console with the words: “murderous, scum-of-the-earth Arabs,” she emphasized the fact that the first people on the scene of the accident, who gave the Mark family first aid and called authorities, were Palestinian Arabs. She wrote: “I think you should write terrorists and not Arabs because not every Arab is a terrorist, and I say this from experience.”

This is coming from a woman whose father and father in-law had been murdered by Arab terrorists. Imagine, a person who grew up without a father due to Arab terror has the capacity to overcome the typical instinct to paint all Arabs with the same brush. Her Facebook post became national news in Israel, shining a light on what it really means to be a Jew. To be able to make Havadalah bein tov l’ra – to distinguish between good and evil, between right and wrong, even in times of great suffering.

This was not the only time when the Mark family demonstrated their disapproval for indiscriminate responses. During Miki’s funeral, when several youths began yelling “revenge” during the procession, Shlomi Mark called on them to stop and leave. They were also silenced by the crowd.

Think about the scene – your father’s murdered body is lying in front of you, your mother is in critical condition in the ICU, your sister has been brought to the funeral on a stretcher, all because of Arab terror and you are NOT screaming for revenge. More than that, you are screaming against revenge! The CROWD is screaming against revenge!

What an amazing legacy Rabbi Miki Mark has left this world, ten children who have been raised with a moral clarity that enables them to appreciate that every human has been created in the image of G-d. And unless proven otherwise each person deserves to be respected.

However, that’s not the end of the story. Who exactly helped the Mark’s and prevented a greater tragedy? It was Dr. Ali Abu Sarach and his brother, who were on their way to pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque when they saw the Mark’s overturned car on Route 60. Dr. Sarach stopped his car and together with his brother managed to extract Chava Mark, calm her son, and care for her daughter, while shouting to soldiers to “urgently call for an ambulance.” Dr. Sarach said that he did not feel like a hero, but he acted as any doctor should act. “I do not care if it is a Palestinian or a settler. My job is to save people’s lives – period”. He said he has not been criticized for treating the settlers: “On the contrary. All my friends told me ‘You acted in a very honorable way.'” Dr. Sarach also sent a personal message to Tehilla: “I send her my condolences and pray for her mother to get back to normal soon.”

Yes last week was a terrible week, but there clearly is hope for a better future.

Rabbi Joel Landau is the rabbi of Congregation Adath Israel of San Francisco, an Orthodox Union synagogue.