Now that we have finished with the heights of Shavuot, when God’s presence explodes from Sinai’s peak, we must move on to the Tisha B’Av, the lowest, most parched, most desperate day on the Jewish calendar.
But we shouldn’t have to do it yet.
Tisha B’Av begins on August 4 and marks the day that the Temples in Jerusalem were destroyed and the people sent off into exile. The historic disasters are said to have been brought on by sinat chinam, the sin of baseless hatred directed by Jews at other Jews.
Sinat chinam came to mind on Sunday, as an estimated 35,000 of us marched up Fifth Avenue to celebrate Israel. The sky was blue, the clouds puffy white, the sun teased and the breeze laughed and flirted with us. Almost the entire range of the Jewish community showed up. We all celebrated Israel in our own way, but we all, for once, did it together.
Except for the block-long arid stretch of Naturei Karta, men dressed as chasidim, black overcoats buttoned tight against the 75-degree heat, standing behind banners, chanting, making obscene hand motions at us. Their eyes were either downcast or entirely closed, so that they did not have to sully their retinas with images of us. About half of their signs were virulently anti-Israel. Some showed the word Israel with the universal No sign around it.
The second half of the Naturei Karta contingent carried signs lambasting homosexuality. If it weren’t for their costumes, and the fact that all the protestors were male, it would have been easy to mistake them for members of the Westboro Baptist Church. Their signs revealed the same misspelled obsessions.
(In fact, Ha’aretz later reported that the anti-gay contingent actually was made up of Hispanic day laborers. That answers the question of why they all covered their faces with their signs, but brings up larger ones – who hired them? And why?)
The piece de resistance was the large stuffed giraffe, with other, smaller giraffes attached to its hindquarters. “Today man marries man,” the sign next to it read. “Tomorrow man marries giraffee” (sic).
There might well have been some benefit that the rest of us accrued from the protest. It brought us all together. The Naturei Karta protestors were undeniable buffoons. They made us angry, but it was so stupid – stuffed giraffees? Really? – that they made us laugh.
But senseless hatred is dangerous. Not only does it show the outside world that there are some Jews – and look! Devout ones! – who agree with the worst of the anti-Zionists, thus proving, at least to their own satisfaction, that hating Israel and hating Jews are not the same thing, but it also evokes a kind of unholy and unhealthy rage inside the Jewish world.
The Westboro Baptist Church has brought nothing but pain and evil through its unvarnished malice. The protestors who stood like ravens at the sunlit parade, waiting for death, praying for destruction, are no better.