June 14, 2016
Dear Friend of Israel
Shavuot, the Jewish holiday we celebrated for the last two days (Pentecost, in English, is one of the three biblical pilgrim festivals), is normally a festive time. Work is prohibited for observant Jews, and it can be refreshing to “unplug” from the world as we avoid our usual sources of information and entertainment.
But the joy I normally feel at this time of year turned to shock, and then sorrow and anger when the holiday ended and I found out about the horrific attack on a nightclub in Orlando, Florida that killed 50 people and injured scores more. The scale of this attack makes it the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.
The likely motivation of the murderer was radical Islam. Law enforcement officials were quoted as saying that during the attack the perpetrator, Omar Mateen, called 911 to pledge his allegiance to the ISIS terrorist group. This looks like yet another “lone wolf” attack that was motivated by radical Islamist ideology but not necessarily ordered by a terrorist leader. We’ve become all too familiar with attacks like this, carried out by those who murder in service of a perverse ideology that promises them untold riches in the life to come, but instead leaves only untold sorrow, pain, and broken lives in the here and now.
Faced with such a horrific event, we struggle with how to respond. I believe our first response must be prayer and compassion for those directly affected by the atrocity. The pain of those who have lost a loved one to terror in Orlando – or Tel Aviv, or Brussels, or San Bernardino, or Jerusalem, or Toulouse, or Boston, or anywhere else in the world that terror has left its legacy of suffering – is beyond our ability to imagine. The Bible promises that God “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds”; let us seek to be agents of that healing,
We must also respond with resolve, and we must speak with one voice. As Jews and Christians we should be just as quick to defend the principle of individual rights, a principle based on our shared Judeo-Christian heritage, as others are to attack it. We must be as quick to reject violence in defense of some misbegotten idea of faith as others are to resort to it. And we must redouble our efforts to fight terror wherever and whenever it occurs.
Ultimately, the fight against the hateful ideology and intolerance of radical Islam is the fight of all free men and women; Israelis, who have been fighting this battle for so many years, know this as well as anyone. It is the fight of all who champion order and the rule of law over chaos, of all who believe personal liberty must prevail over oppression, of all who choose life over death. The Islamists’ war against one of us is war against all of us, regardless of our political, personal, or national divisions.
Please pray today for the people of Orlando, and for all whose lives have been devastated by terror. And pray for the day when God will bless His world with the gift of shalom, peace.
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President