“Rabbi, I have a question,” he says to his principal, Rabbi Heshy Glass, who is standing with him. “Doesn’t it say you can’t die while you’re learning Torah?”
Glass tells him the story of the Mishnaic sage Rabbi Akiva, who was taken by the Romans while he studied. Like these boys, he tells Begin, he was a Jewish hero, remembered for the ages.
Glass doesn’t try to make sense of the tragedy, just to continue the conversation about what is so troubling to Begin and other boys at YULA, many of whom plan to study in Israeli yeshivas when they graduate.
“You hear about tragedies in Israel, but it hits so close to home because this is us next year. Next year we’re going to yeshiva,” said Chaim Gamzo, a 17-year-old senior. “These guys had their whole lives ahead of them—like me. I hope to go to yeshiva, to go to college, to have a normal successful life, but they didn’t have the opportunity to do that.”
âJudaism is about Torah and the transmission of Torah. The essence of Judaism is Torah, and its transfar from one generation to the next, âMedor le’dor.â And that’s what Mercaz HaRav does, all day and all night, year in and year out.
âThe attack on the students of Yeshiva Mercaz Harav had absolutely nothing to do with politics. The terrorist was not acting because of national grievances, it was not a dispute about territoryâas if that would excuse such an atrocityâfor it wouldn’t.
âNo, the terrorist was attacking Judaism.
âBy murdering these eight pure students the terrorist was trying to eradicate the core of Judaism: Torah and the transmission of Torah.
âIn addition, the rockets that fly from Gaza into S’derot may appear as if they are connected to a dispute about land, but that’s a lie.
âThe rockets are also an attack on Judaism. The rockets are an attack on Jews in Israel and on Jews in every corner of the world.
âThe battle that Israel wages against the Muslim jihadists is not a local conflict, but just one front in a world-wide jihad.
âMake no doubt about it, this war is a genocidal attack against all Jews.
âThe goal of the Islamic jihadists is to eradicate Judaism from the face of the earth.
âAnd that’s why the eight Torah students were chosen for slaughter.
âIf you don’t understand this simple calculus, then you have no understanding of the true nature of the enemy.â
Tied to the Mercaz Harav attack, I have a short piece in tomorrow’s Jewish Journal, online now, about a protest against the Jewish state that was held outside the Israeli consulate in L.A. while officials inside mourned the deaths that occurred only the day before. The protest was organized by the Muslim Student Union at UC Irvine in response to the IDF’s entry into Gaza the weekend before, which left 100 Palestinians dead, and among the speakers was Amir Abdel Malik Ali, who referred to Zionists as “the new Nazis.”