by Sarit Catz
OZAR HATORAH JEWISH SCHOOL — 8 A.M.
It’s the busy morning school drop-off period. Cars and vans fill the street. The sidewalks bustle with activity. A man rides up to the Ozar HaTorah Jewish School in Toulouse, France, on a Yamaha scooter, wearing a black helmet that covers his face. He dismounts the bike, takes out an automatic 9mm and opens fire on the crowd. A man and two little boys crumple to the pavement, now covered in blood.
When his gun jams, the gunman takes out a .45 caliber pistol and continues shooting. Frightened parents and children scatter in all directions. Blood spatters. The gunman chases a little girl into the school, grabs her by the hair, and shoots her in the head at point-blank range. The gunman gets back on his bike, and disappears into the crowded maze of streets.
Unfortunately, this is not a scene from a movie. This morning, as I write this, 30-year-old Rabbi Yonatan Sandler, his 6-year-old son Aryeh, and his 3-year-old son, Gabriel, along with seven-year-old Miriam Monsonego, are being laid to rest in Israel.
This horrific event is an example of the violent anti-Semitism that has plagued our people for thousands of years. With Pesach approaching, I cannot help but be reminded of the passage in the Haggadah, B’chol dor va-dor omdim aleinu l’chaloteinu — in every generation they stand against us to destroy us.
According to scholars, the Passover Haggadah was written in the third or fourth century: before the blood libels, before the ghettos, before the many expulsions, before the Crusades, before the Inquisition, before the pogroms, before the Tzars, before the Holocaust, before the Communist purges, before the invading Arab armies, before the waves of terrorist attacks… before Toulouse.
But now, things are different. Because of Israel, Jews are different. Yes, now our dead can be buried in the soil of their national homeland, Israel. But that soil not only absorbs our departed, it also nourishes the new-found strength of our people. Israel is the wellspring of our ancient Jewish identity. But it is also the source of our modern character.
Israel’s contributions in the medical and technological spheres have changed the lives of many of the people who live on this planet. Israel’s first responders to natural disasters in Haiti and Japan and around the globe are incredible. Israel’s developments in agriculture and its enthusiasm to share agricultural support with third world nations is truly something to be proud of.
Israel leads the world in civilian research-and-development spending per capita. Israel ranks second behind the U.S. in the number of companies listed on the Nasdaq. Israel, with only seven million people, attracts as much venture capital as France and Germany combined. Between 1980 and 2000, Egyptians registered 77 patents in the U.S. Saudis registered 171. Israelis registered 7,652.
Sharing Israel’s contributions with others is a good advocacy tool. It is estimated that 70 percent of people in the U.S. do not know about Israel and can be swayed for or against the Jewish State. Sharing the impressive successes of this tiny country is known to help people become more interested and supportive of Israel.
To this end, we invite you to see a real movie: A good movie with a happy ending. Please attend a special showing of the film Israel Inside at the N.J. Jewish Film Festival this Sunday, March 25, at 3:15 pm, at the Cooperman JCC in West Orange.
We also encourage you to attend and listen to Israeli Consulate for Public Affairs Gil Lainer, who will speak at 4 p.m. after the screening. It is important that we support his very important efforts.
Israel Inside is beautifully filmed and produced by Jerusalem Online University, the creators of the Step Up For Israel movie/mini course that the Community Relations Committee of MetroWest and Central NJ has implemented this year in partnership with more than 40 synagogues in our area. The purpose of the Step Up For Israel initiative is to educate and teach advocacy techniques to the community-at-large and inspire you to speak out in support of Israel. I believe that this movie will do that as well.