Courtesy of Jerusalem Gay Student Association, photo by Leshem Brosh
“Did you see the drag show?” I asked a friend at last night’s Winter Noise Festival. “Yeah,” he responded, “did you see the racist a**holes?”
Last night, in the hippest corner of Jerusalem’s city center, young Jerusalemites made history. They held the city’s first-ever public and municipally sponsored drag show.
For four years running, the Winter Noise Festival has held public events every Monday night in February, pushing the city’s religious-conservative limits. Last night’s drag show took place amidst well-quaffed street musicians (including a klezmer marching band) and cave-bar dance parties (heavy on beards and vintage outfits), and was advertised discreetly as the “Shushan Run.” The only descriptor of the event on the municipality-sponsored website referred slyly to “the wildest race in the city” — a “race in heels” — for Jerusalem’s queens.
And what fun that “race in heels” was! One queen I interviewed was wearing a miniskirt, fishnets and six-inch platform heels in the chilly Jerusalem night. Imagine running a race in those! Her makeup was caked to her face and I had the thought that gobs of her mascara might soon begin falling from her eyelashes by the sheer force of gravity. Her yellow jacket made her look like a six-foot-six queen bee. Her name was “Mama Off” and she told me that the best thing about the drag show was the protest happening next door.
Mama Off was referring to the angry noises of Benzion Gopstein and his Kahanist cronies in LEAVA, a racist, xenophobic, violent organization just outside the event grounds. Last year I wrote about LEAVA’s protest against another Winter Noise Festival event in which Jews and Arabs joined together in song; their activities have only gotten more angry and violent since then.
But Mama Off was happy about the demonstration. Why? Because “it demonstrates that we’re doing something right — and it shows that racism and homophobia are the same thing.”
Illustration by Lior Zaltzman
“Short clothing = shortened life.”
That’s a message currently winding its way through Jerusalem’s streets, thanks to a new ultra-Orthodox modesty campaign.
The ad, plastered across 20 Egged buses, has been sparking social media protests among secular Israelis who resent being told how to dress. They’re saying that it’s hypocritical of the bus company to agree to run such an ad, while often refusing to run ads by liberal groups that include photos or drawings of women.
But the Haredi advertiser claims there’s nothing for secular Israelis to be upset about. After all, the goal of the ad is “the transcendence of the soul of the Har Nof righteous” — the Orthodox Jews murdered at a Jerusalem synagogue back in November.
What do short hemlines have to do with a terror attack, you might ask? Well, here’s the advertiser’s logic:
“It’s clear that those who were murdered did not receive a punishment they deserved. They were righteous people. They woke up to pray at 6 am. They are public victims, and it happened to them because of us, because of our acts.”
In other words, terror attacks happen because Israeli women flounce around in racy dresses. Sure. Okay. Clearly.
The Jerusalem bus ad reads: Short clothing = shortened life
Jerusalem store owner Amir Schreiber has sold out of pepper spray multiple times / Naomi Zeveloff
Pepper spray has become a hot commodity in Jerusalem as the city’s Jewish citizens are arming themselves in the wake of recent Palestinian attacks — and some innocent Palestinians are getting sprayed.
On Jerusalem Facebook groups, people are asking and advertising for the product, and in the city’s brick and mortar stores, sales of the spray are up. In November, a “make your own pepper spray” cooking class was even advertised on Facebook.
Tal Yona, a 17-year-old Jerusalemite, began selling pepper spray with three friends after the Har Nof attack, when two Palestinians killed four Jewish worshippers at an Orthodox synagogue in the West Jerusalem neighborhood.
Yona knew a friend who was selling the spray, and he asked to get in on the business. “I figured it was a great idea, we would be making money and citizens would be able to protect themselves,” he said.
As I sit at my desk in a modern office building in lower Manhattan, the chants of angry protestors below grow louder. “I — can’t — breathe,” they shout, echoing the haunting final words of Eric Garner, whose death by asphyxiation I saw on video the day it occurred.
It was in that very spot, just over two weeks ago, in front of the same computer screen, that I learned of the horrific massacre in Jerusalem’s Har Nof neighborhood. The same spot where, also on the day of attack, I saw the photographs of men in blood-drenched prayer shawls sprawled across the reddened floor of a synagogue.
And as the shouts grow stronger, I realize just how similar we are. It has become a cliché in this country to note the disintegration of black-Jewish relations, not to mention its causes, and perhaps even more so to lament it. Gone are the days when Jews and black folks suffer the same discrimination, prohibited from entry to the same restaurants and public pools. But the images of recent weeks trigger the most terrifying episodes in our respective histories, reminding us that it is in the imagery of our past that we have often found commonality.
(JTA) — Last week, the students of the Max Rayne Hand In Hand Jerusalem School were running through the hallways during recess, playing soccer in a courtyard and yelling to each other in Hebrew and Arabic.
Last night, they were helping rearrange the school after an arson attack.
Hand in Hand, Jerusalem’s only Jewish-Arab primary and high school, was vandalized and torched Saturday night by Jewish extremists, who wrote slogans like “death to Arabs,” “down with assimilation” and “there is no coexistence with cancer” on the school’s walls. They set fire to two of the school’s first-grade classrooms, gathering schoolbooks and class materials in a pile and burning them. Jerusalem’s municipality responded swiftly, putting out the fire and sending teams to clean up the graffiti and classroom damage.
The school’s students and community are now figuring out how to overcome the attack during a year that — owing to a string of violent attacks in Jerusalem — has already been tougher than usual. This is the second time in about a month that vandals have graffitied “death to Arabs” on the school.
In a JTA profile of the school last week — which its principal called a “greenhouse” for shared Arab-Jewish living — students said that relations between Arab and Jewish students have been especially fraught. Students recalled tense debate in class and said that current events are a constant topic of conversation — but that they nonetheless manage to maintain friendships.
Noa Yammer, the school’s communications coordinator, told JTA that last night’s attack has served to draw the students together in opposition to racism and violence. On the night of the attack, 10th-grade students helped clear out one of their classrooms so first-graders could use it until their room was repaired.
“There’s a double reaction of feeling scared and feeling solidarity with each other,” Yammer told JTA Sunday morning. “The kids were feeling comforted by the presence of all the other kids and the desire to help in any way they can. It’s not an attack on Arabs or Jews, but an attack on the fact that we’re living together.”
Ibrahaim Wassim pays respects to Jewish victims’ families in Jerusalem / Yossi Zamir, Tag Meir Forum
Mirrors covered with drapes, pictures stripped from the walls, and the out-of-style black-and-white modernism of North American Orthodox homes — the shiva (mourning) house of Rabbi Moshe Twersky of Har Nof was overcrowded and warm.
On the men’s side, the mourners were seated on low stools as prescribed by tradition. The condensed sea of black and white undulated in silence, waiting for a male relative to speak before they offered condolences. On the women’s side, Rabbi Twersky’s widow, Miriam — in heavily New York-accented but accurate Hebrew — spoke without pause of her late husband to a group of teary-eyed, similarly black-and-white clad women.
The tragedy and horror of Tuesday’s crime in which two Palestinian men, armed with a diverse weaponry, butchered Jews in the midst of prayer has left all those who follow the Israeli-Palestinian conflict asking: Just how religious is this conflict?
Experts are predicting and op-ed writers are pronouncing that this is a “turning point” in the conflict, shifting its gears into a more religious drive. Israel’s President, Reuven Rivlin, told reporters, “We don’t want to see ourselves as Jews being in a war with Islam — a religious war is a disaster from every perspective.” Ultra-nationalist Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (unfairly) accused P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas of trying to turn the conflict into a religious war. The Israeli mainstream media, too, has raised this possibility. Nahum Barnea, Israel’s premier journalist for Yedioth Aharonoth stated dramatically that, “A thousand fighters will not be able to extinguish a fire with God as the fuse.” Ben Caspit, another prominent Israeli journalist, made the same point: “The true danger…is that the wave of terror will turn into a true religious war.”
But as I approached the Twersky’s shiva house in the rain-soaked evening, I saw an Arab man walking out the door with an entourage. His name was Ibrahaim Wassim, and he had come to pay his respects to the victims’ families. He was the deputy head of the Palestinian-Israeli village in the north called Baka el-Garbiyye. He told me that they had come, a delegation of Arab citizens of Israel, because he didn’t want “the extremists to drag us into this.” Har Nof’s residents, too, had sent busloads of community members to the Druze police officer’s funeral, the fifth victim of last Tuesday’s violence. The last thing Wassim said to me was, “We came in the rain and in difficult conditions because we have the same grandfather who commanded us to live together.”
Israeli emergency services cleans the sidewalk at the scene of the Jerusalem attack / Getty Images
Four ultra-Orthodox Jews at prayer and one Druze policeman, murdered by two Palestinian young men armed with knives, axes and a gun. The heart grieves for the families of the victims and the suffering of the injured.
This past week’s slaughter was the latest development in an escalation of violence in Jerusalem that dates back to the summer, with the kidnapping and murder of three Israel youth in the West Bank, followed by the kidnapping and murder of a Palestinian teen in East Jerusalem. Most of the world ignored the fires burning in East Jerusalem until the flames spread across the Green Line. Two terrorist attacks on the city’s light rail, one attempted assassination of a right-wing activist, several attacks outside Jerusalem, and a horrific synagogue massacre later, the world has woken up to what is turning into a conflagration that threatens to engulf the entire city and beyond.
Following July’s gruesome murder of a Palestinian teenager in East Jerusalem, Israel caught the Israeli culprits and launched legal action against them. This is rule of law. Following this week’s attack, Israel quickly began meting out collective punishment against the families and communities of the Palestinian culprits, including demolishing homes, threatening action against family members, and blocking off neighborhoods. This is not rule of law; this is occupation law, imposed by means that are patently immoral and illegal under international law and under U.S. law (and that should be illegal under Israeli law), and that have proven ineffective and even counter-productive in fighting terrorism.
Some are suggesting that since this week’s heinous attack targeted a synagogue, the crisis in Jerusalem is now transmuting into a religious war. That framing is simplistic. Palestinians in East Jerusalem, unlike their West Bank and Gaza brethren, have always had means and opportunity to attack Israelis; they have done so rarely, and to the extent that such attacks have been rationalized, it has not been in religious terms. Notably, this most recent attack was committed by Palestinians who appear to be associated, at least loosely, not with Hamas but with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), an avowedly secular terrorist organization.
A six-year-old Israeli boy kisses his mother on his first day of school / Getty Images
My daughter’s pre-K is right opposite Jabel Mukaber, where the terrorists who attacked a Jerusalem synagogue yesterday lived. The children were in class watching a video when I picked up my little girl. The pre-K teacher, so poised and in control most days, was visibly shaken. “Don’t take the road by the traffic circle, take the other one, be careful of stone throwers.” I always take the road she is referring to. It’s the quickest way to get from my son’s school to my daughter’s.
“Please roll down the windows, Imma,” my children always ask from the backseat. I always do, and did yesterday, with reluctance. Routine is the only thing that saves us, Israelis often say. Routine, mixed with a bit of denial and a strong dose of naivete is what keeps a lot of us going at a time like this. My son is six and asked what the noise was outside my daughter’s pre-K. Firecrackers or gunshots, I wasn’t sure. Lots of chanting. And when I hurried them off the swings and slides to get into the car, a safe space where I could be in control, we saw tear gas sprayed up into the hills. While my daughter was complaining that we had to leave the park sooner than she wanted, my son persisted: “Imma, what is going on?”
Is this the moment when I have to have The Talk? It’s the Middle Eastern version of “where do babies come from?” that most parents put off, dodge or ignore. In these parts, the question is “where does this fighting come from?” I want my son to feel safe and secure, but I also want him to be informed.
Within hours of today’s terrorist attack on the Kehilat Bnei Torah synagogue in Jerusalem’s Har Nof neighborhood, Israeli singer Amir Benayoun had already written, produced and released a new song about the killing of four Jewish worshipers by Palestinians.
The popular musician, who sings in Hebrew and Arabic, has a history of responding to political events. In 2010, Benayoun released a song called “I’m Your Brother,” in which he accused human rights activists in Israel of being the enemy for criticizing the Israeli state and its army. In 2013, he initiated a first-of-its-kind concert at the Cave of the Patriarch in Hebron. And in February of this year, he wrote a song attacking Obama’s policies on Jerusalem titled “Jerusalem of Hussein,” a play on the famous song “Jerusalem of Gold.”
Today’s new song is titled “Jewish Blood.” You don’t have to speak Hebrew to understand the gist of it — the mournful melody says it all — but you can read the lyrics in English below:
In the wake of the terrorist attack that claimed four lives in Jerusalem’s formerly peaceful Har Nof neighborhood, some are speculating that the bloodbath may have been meant as revenge for the murder of Palestinian teen Mohammed Abu Khdeir by Jewish extremists in July.
The father of Yosef Haim Ben-David, the main suspect in the Abu Khdeir murder, prays in the same complex of synagogues where today’s attack happened, Maariv reports (Hebrew). The report suggests that the killers may have been aiming for Ben-David’s father, or the closest they could get to the inner circle of the Jewish extremist.
The location of the Ben-David home seems to have been well known. Footage of the area was broadcast on Channel 10’s “Hamakor,” in the context of a program focusing on the Abu Khdeir murder, just last week. On social media, some are now pointing fingers at that program’s Raviv Drucker, blaming him for divulging the location and leading the killers to Har Nof.
Drucker has responded, saying that the synagogue where the attack took place was hundreds of meters away. He also wrote a blog post last week about his decision to run the story about the murder at such a tense time, despite receiving many requests not to broadcast it.
The Kehilat Bnei Torah synagogue is just 200 yards from the Ben-David home, according to the Telegraph.
Following the Abu Khdeir murder, the Haredi website Kikar Hashabbat also ran a profile on Ben-David, mentioning that his father serves as the head of the Kollel in Har Nof, as well as a rabbi in the Katamonim neighborhood.
The theory that today’s attack was meant as revenge for the Abu Khdeir murder is still just speculation. But, if true, it might go some ways toward explaining why the killers chose to perpetrate this attack specifically in a synagogue, and in this normally-calm neighborhood in particular.
Shortly after putting forward this theory, Maariv redacted its article, removing any mention of the Channel 10 broadcast and other details, and citing a gag order.
(JTA) — That Jerusalem building approval blow-up between the Netanyahu and Obama governments? Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and pro-Israel media watchdogs like Honest Reporting are pressing the storyline that Peace Now is at fault. Which is kind of like blaming routers for the bad news you posted on the Internet.
Let’s review: On Sept. 24 the Interior Ministry published in Kol Ha’Ir, a free Jerusalem weekly, an “Announcement of a project approval.” It refers to plans to allow the building of 2,355 to 2,561 units in Givat HaMatos, in the area of Jerusalem that Palestinians claim as a future capital. Its key phrase is high up: “Building approvals and permits: A project that is authorized to issue approvals and permits.”
The language is important because, although the plan was approved in 2012, the ad signals the go-ahead for building; its publication makes it harder to reverse the proposal. Sept. 24, as it happens, was also the eve of Rosh Hashanah.
On Oct. 1 — yesterday, and the day Netanyahu met with Obama — Peace Now and Terrestrial Jerusalem noted the announcement’s publication. The building permit became an issue in the talks between Obama and Netanyahu and resulted an an unusually sharp rebuke from the White House.
The first thing I noticed when my shared taxi dropped me off in Jerusalem earlier this month were the flags. In the Beit Hakerem neighborhood where I was staying — a mostly secular Jewish area in southwest Jerusalem — balconies were strung with large Israeli flags and rows of miniature ones. Car antennas were adorned with pennants and ribbons. Even the neighborhood light rail station was donning blue and white, with flags flapping from the lampposts. This latter show of patriotism on public property was new, my host told me, since Operation Protective Edge began.
Jewish Israelis have supported the war with Gaza in overwhelming numbers. A much-cited Israeli Democracy Institute poll from late July said that more than 90% of them believed that the war is “just.” (Since the poll, truce talks have begun, and there was a major pro-peace rally in Tel Aviv a few days ago.)
The wall-to-wall blue and white stood in sharp contrast to colorful New York City, from which I had just arrived. There, the Gaza war was hotly disputed in the streets and in the press. The American Jewish community had largely rallied around Israel, saying the country has a right to defend itself against rocket fire from Hamas. But a small and vocal minority of Jews staged high-profile events to protest Israel’s campaign and the large civilian death toll. My Facebook and Twitter feeds were roiling with the debate. The images of death and wreckage from Gaza were inescapable.
The indictment today of three suspects for the revenge killing of the Palestinian teenager Muhammad Abu Khdeir has put this crime, knocked off the news agenda by the Hamas-Israel violence, back in people’s minds.
As I have watched the reaction over the last 12 days to the news that Khdeir does appear to have lost his life because of Jewish extremism, I am reminded again and again of the day I spent in the West Bank Palestinian village of Yasuf back in 2009.
I remember the charred smell inside the mosque, the signs if damage, the bewilderment of villagers. This was the first “price tag” attack on a place of worship. It shocked and mobilized Jewish Israelis, and the expressions of outrage - while nobody died of sustained injuries - have echoes in the expressions heard after the announcement last Sunday that the suspects in Khdeir ’s murder are Jewish.
There was never another Yasuf. There were attacks on places of worship, but the reaction the first time if happened was never replicated.
Perhaps the shock was a one-off feeling, and while the sadness each time is the same we are more ready to deal with it. But I can’t help thinking that we have become, to a degree, desensitised to attacks on places of worship.
The challenges facing Israelis at this difficult time are many. My hope is that, in the unfortunate but not unlikely event that a similar crime to the abduction-murder takes place, it will be met with the same straight of feeling that this one evoked.
The revenge killing of Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khudair has shaken up even those who normally have little reason to question their preconceived notions about the Israel-Palestinian dispute.
Eli Valley takes an insightful graphic look at one (fictional) American Jew’s crisis of confidence.
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Eli Valley is finishing his first novel. His website is www.evcomics.com, and he tweets @elivalley
Israel is consumed with calls for revenge for the murders of three kidnapped students. But some are pushing back against the cycle of hate./Getty Images
The headlines in Israel this week have been overwhelming. First the bodies of the three kidnapped Israeli teenagers — Naftali Frenkel, Gil-ad Shaer and Eyal Yifrach — were found, buried, eulogized, and mourned by Jews in Israel and around the world. There were calls on both the digital and actual street for vengeance, and for settlement construction in the Knesset, and soon somebody took matters (one could nary say “justice”) into their own hands: The body of an Arab teenager named Mohammad Abu Khdair was found lifeless in the Jerusalem Forest yesterday morning.
The 16-year-old’s death has led to what is arguably the worst violence in East Jerusalem in the last decade, exacerbated tensions in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and has palpably darkened the Jerusalem summer sky.
A glimmer of sun, perhaps, through this week’s haze, came yesterday at an event put together by Tag Meir and its partners, an anti-racism organization that has been the loudest Jewish vocal response to price-tag (“tag mechir”) attacks perpetrated most often by radical settlers who attack Palestinians or their property. The event gathered some 1,000 Israelis in Jerusalem’s Cat Square, not one block away from Zion Square where, the night before, some 47 anti-Arab rioters were arrested by Israeli police before they could turn into a full-blown lynch mob, or worse.
Tamar, an art and theater student in yellow earrings and short bangs, told me that she had come to the Tag Meir event because “Yesterday, I experienced something awful.” She had been sitting on her balcony in the center of town when she heard the shouts “death to the Arabs!”
She went down to the street, only to quickly find herself a human shield, situated between the police, a few Arabs, and the mob. “It opened my eyes,” she said. “They had murder in their eyes… In that moment, I didn’t want to be Jewish.” And so, despite being less than politically engaged by her own admission, Tamar came to the event yesterday. She was looking for a way to express her fear and frustration at the violence that is threatening to sweep this city off its feet. She — and many others — weren’t looking for politics. She was looking for light in the darkness.
Palestinians clash with Israeli police in East Jerusalem after an Arab teen was killed / Getty Images
The Torah sternly commands us to pursue justice (“Justice, justice, shall you pursue”) — but it leaves revenge to God.
That thought should resonate in our ears like a thunderclap after the discovery of a body in the Jerusalem forest. Israeli authorities fear that a Palestinian teenager, Mohammed Abu Khudair, was kidnapped and murdered in a suspected revenge killing for the murders of three Israeli boys, Eyal Yifrach, Naftali Fraenkel, and Gilad Shaar. If their fears are confirmed, this horrifying murder should provide a wake-up call to Israeli society and to all of us feeling anger over the murders of the Jewish teens.
As soon as the boys’ deaths were announced, calls for vengeance rang out in Israel. In just 24 hours, a new Israeli Facebook page, “The Nation of Israel Wants Revenge,” gained over 35,000 likes.
Gender-segregated elevator in Jerusalem / Walla
Apparently, gender-segregated classrooms, playgrounds, buses, sidewalks and healthcare centers aren’t enough. Now Israel has gender-segregated elevators.
Yosef Cohen, the owner of Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox event venue Armonot Chen, has started divvying up elevator space using a nylon mechitza, with stickers inside and outside the elevator directing men to one side and women to the other.
“There are people who want to guard their eyes on the wedding day,” Cohen explained in an interview with Walla news. “If four men and four women enter the elevator, how will they behave? This way there is a mechitza and this solves the problem.”
Phew! Finally, we can rest easy knowing that Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox couples aren’t going to be canoodling — in groups of eight, no less — on their way up to their friends’ wedding ceremonies! I was really worried about that one for a while, you guys.
The crowd enters Jerusalem’s Old City singing racist chants / A. Daniel Roth Photography
As I made my way out of the Muslim Quarter, the dark alleyways suddenly seemed too quiet. Just moments before, crowds of ultranationalist Jewish celebrants had marched through this same space shouting “Death to Arabs.” Children had banged against shuttered Palestinian homes with wooden sticks and Israeli police had stood by as teenagers chanted “Muhammad is dead.” Now, all that remained were eerie remnants of their presence: “Kahane Tzadak” (Kahane was right) stickers plastered over closed Palestinian shops and the ground littered with anti-Muslim flyers. As Israeli police and soldiers began to unblock closures, Palestinian residents of the Muslim Quarter cautiously ventured outside. This is the only time I cried.
Jerusalem Day marks the anniversary of the Israeli conquest of East Jerusalem in 1967. The March of Flags has become an annual tradition in which thousands of ultranationalist Jewish celebrants parade through the city waving Israeli flags. It culminates in a dramatic march through the Muslim Quarter, generally accompanied by racist slogans and incitement to violence. Israeli police arrive in the area earlier in the day, sealing off entry to Palestinian residents “for their own safety.” Those Palestinians who live in the Muslim Quarter are encouraged to close their shops and stay indoors, while any Palestinian counter-protest is quickly dispersed.
Growing up at the Solomon Schechter Day School of Long Island, I have fond memories of Jerusalem Day. We celebrated every year with school-wide assemblies and dances, singing “Sisu et Yerushalayim” (Rejoice in Jerusalem) and “Jerusalem of Gold” with pride. Even in high school, I never knew the political significance of the day or imagined that my joy might be at someone else’s expense. Today, I know better.
(Haaretz) — Jerusalem Day, we’re told, celebrates the reunification of Israel’s eternal capital, symbolizing “the continued historical connection of the Jewish people to Jerusalem.” It’s a moment to remember that, as Prime Minister Netanyahu once said, “Israel without Jerusalem is like a body without a heart.”
So we’re told, and so the vast majority of Jews in Israel and abroad believe. Jerusalem is our heart, our soul – a small, holy spot on the map around which everything else revolves. So we’re told.
Except that it’s a lie. “Jerusalem” – as currently constituted, featured on maps, and represented by Israel’s government – is not eternal. It is not undivided. And it is certainly not holy.
The geographic location to which Jewish hearts have turned for millennia is small, corresponding roughly to today’s Old City; the holy part – the area on which the Israelites were commanded to establish a resting place for the Divine Presence – is more modest still, consisting of the Temple Mount. When we stand before the Western Wall, or orient ourselves toward it in worship, we’re weaving our prayers and longings with those of all Jews, reaching across miles and years and touching the core of that which holds us in community.
Zionism stems from that faith experience, but is not identical to it. Zionism is a modern idea, a nationalist movement which, like all nationalist movements, centers on a shared language, culture, and land. That’s why Uganda was nixed as an alternative – because the Jewish people’s shared land is anchored by our holy city.
Photo credit: Getty Images
This week is prime time for Passover shopping and cleaning. But in Jerusalem, hundreds of people will be engaged in a very different type of preparation for the festival — witnessing the slaughter of a lamb, just like in the olden days.
The Seder has its origins in ancient times, when the Israelites slaughtered, roasted and ate lambs — Paschal lambs.
According to the Torah, the Children of Israel were commanded “in perpetuity” to sacrifice a young lamb or goat on the anniversary of the Exodus. But this sacrifice was to be conducted in the Temple, and was therefore suspended after the Temple’s destruction nearly two millennia ago. With some innovation from rabbis the Seder morphed in to the more domestic affair we know today.
Contemporary Seders, with their many commemorations of the sacrifice, such as the shank bone on the Seder plate, are largely a tribute to the offering. But some Israelis want to go a step further.
In a few hours, in a yeshiva in the neighborhood of Kiryat Moshe, a religious non-profit will give a demonstration of the original Paschal service. Their slaughterer will kill a lamb as a choir sings of praise, and as a state veterinary inspector looks on. He will then sprinkle the blood as-per Biblical instruction. The lamb will be roasted and, as-per the Biblical procedure, everyone in attendance — men and women — will get a portion. The diners will include rabbis from a broad ideological spectrum within Orthodoxy.
“Passover is not about matzo ball soup; it’s about the Passover offering,” Chaim Richman, International Director of the Temple Institute which is running the event, commented to Forward Thinking.
Referring to the reams of rabbinic texts written on the Paschal sacrifice he said that is important, educationally, to give a more vivid insight in to what it looked like. “The logistics is a Jewish art discussed and clarified throughout the generations,” he said.
He said that the slaughter is poignant, as lambs were considered sacred in the ancient world when the sacrifice was instituted. The ceremony is “literally to slaughter all of the idolatry in the entire world and stand up for what we believe in, namely one God,” said Richman.
While the Temple Institute has been known to stray from religious education to politics, in its quest to increase Jewish rights on Temple Mount, it didn’t attempt to hold this even on or near Temple Mount, where it may have increased Jewish-Arab tensions. However, as the Forward has reported,, in previous years right-wing activist has tried to organize a sacrifice there, but was stopped by Israeli authorities.