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Rabbi's Commentary

Courage in the Face of Cowardice

August 30, 2015

Dear Friend of Israel,

A Kalashnikov is an automatic rifle, designed to inflict maximum casualties.

It was one of these lethal weapons that Ayoub El Khazzani, a Moroccan with allegiance to the deadly ideology of radical Islam, brought onto a train en route from Amsterdam to Paris, ostensibly to “rob” people – or so say his lawyers. But his purpose was clear to those on the business end of the AK-47: to kill as many people as possible.

Once he began to attempt to fire, five men immediately took action. Three Americans – two of them U.S. service members – were traveling through Europe for a vacation, and rushed to subdue the killer, one of them sustaining a wound from a box cutter that the killer kept in his pocket. A fourth man, a French-American, was shot in the neck when he tried to wrestle the rifle from the attacker. And a fifth, a 62-year-old British businessman who stood up to help the Americans, said after the traumatic event, “My thought was, ‘OK, I’m probably going to die anyway, so let’s go.’ I’d rather die being active, trying to get him down, than simply sit in the corner and be shot. Either you sit down and you die or you get up and you die.”

In acting, they averted what could have been a massive tragedy, another terrorist attack that gets added to the long list of attacks that we, sadly, have become used to seeing reported on the nightly news.

It’s a pure example of courage in the face of cowardice. The coward, the man with the automatic rifle bent on killing any and all innocent people he could, was confronted with courage. He was confronted with the courage of men who were willing to lay down their own lives to protect others. In the end, courage won.

In the battle against radical Islamism, or against any kind of evil, no one can be neutral. The Bible tells us, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6). No one knows what they would do in such a situation until they are in it. But certainly we can acknowledge these men for what they are – heroes. And the Lord, their God, will go with them.

With prayers for shalom, peace,



Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President