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Kishniev in Jerusalem

November 21, 2014 | By: Daniel Gordis

Tikvah faculty member Rabbi Daniel Gordis writes in his Bloomberg View column of the chilling similarities between the famous Kishniev Pogrom and the slaughter of Jews at prayer in Har Nof. In 1903, in what’s now Moldova, dozens of Jews were slaughtered and many more were raped, disfigured, and tortured.

At the Sixth Zionist Congress in 1903, Theodor Herzl, the father of modern political Zionism, evoked Kishinev not as an event, but as a condition. “Kishinev exists wherever … [Jews’] self-respect is injured and their property despoiled because they are Jews. Let us save those who can still be saved!” The Jews, he insisted, needed a state of their own.
 
 
The Jewish State was supposed to put a stop to those images. Yes, a tragic and bloody conflict over land erupted, but Jews — later called Israelis — believed the conflict could be resolved. Israel would sign treaties with its Arab neighbors, sometimes giving up land (as with the Sinai Desert in the case of Egypt) and sometimes not (since Jordan essentially required no meaningful territorial concession). When Palestinian nationalism emerged and then became the world’s darling, left and centrist Israelis remained unfazed. This was a conflict over territory, they reasoned; when the Palestinians were ready to live side by side, Israel would cede more land, and the conflict would be over.
 
But the images of Jewish bodies hacked to death on a blood-soaked synagogue floor are about a hatred too deep to be assuaged by territorial concessions. Those images tell Israelis that although they fled Europe and have built their national home, they are still assailed by the same venomous loathing they had sought to escape.
 

If the horror of a Kishniev can come to Har Nof, Gordis argues, then Zionism has not fully succeeded in its aim. No Israeli leader can let that happen.


More about: Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism  • Zionism