March 16, 2011

They were a family of eight: a husband and wife, Udi and Ruth Fogel, and their six children, Tamar, 12, Yoav, 11, Roi, 8, Elad, 4, Yishai, 2, and Hadas, 3 months. They lived in the West Bank town of Itamar, located in the Samarian Mountains near the Palestinian city of Nablus.

Today, they are a family of three. Sometime last Friday night, Palestinian terrorists broke into their home and stabbed to death Udi, Ruth, Yoav, Elad, and Hadas. The three other children miraculously survived the brutal attack. A neighbor told of walking into the home: "The daughter went into one of the rooms, and saw the horror before I did…I entered and saw that another boy survived, a two-year-old. He was lying next to his bleeding parents, shaking them with his hands and trying to get them to wake them up, while crying."

The horror of this scene defies description. And the evil in the minds of those who perpetrated it is beyond comprehension to anyone with a shred of decency and compassion. As of this writing, the killers have not been caught. The Al-Aksa Martyr's Brigade terrorist group, affiliated with the Palestinian Authority's political party, Fatah, claimed responsibility, but officials are still investigating these claims. Shortly after the attack, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak issued a stern promise that "the iron fist of the IDF and the Shin Bet [Israel's secret service] will quickly land on the murderers."

While the mood in Hamas-controlled Gaza following the attacks was celebratory, the Palestinian Authority (P.A.) was quick to distance itself from the violence. P.A. president Abbas called the attack "immoral" and "inhuman," adding, "Any person who has a sense of humanity would be pained and driven to tears by such sights."

Israeli prime minister Netanyahu acknowledged Abbas' remarks, but pressed him further. "I demand that the Palestinian Authority stop the incitement that is conducted on a daily basis in their schools, mosques, and the media under their control," he said in a statement Saturday. "The time has come to stop this double-talk in which the Palestinian Authority outwardly talks peace, and allows — and sometimes leads — incitement at home."

The Prime Minister is right, and examples of this are numerous. Just last week, a youth organization sponsored by Fatah, the P.A.'s political party, named an upcoming sporting event for Wafa Idris, the first female Palestinian suicide bomber. On two occasions P.A.-funded "summer camps" have been named after the notorious terrorist Dalal Mughrabi, leader of a 1978 terror attack that killed 37 Israelis on a public bus. Vicious anti-Israel, anti-Jewish incitement — including programs directed at children — takes place daily in the P.A.-sponsored media and schools.

Those who entered the Fogel's home on Friday night to perpetrate their evil acts are the product of a culture deeply rooted in the demonization of Israel and Jews. Palestinian leadership has allowed, and even encouraged, that culture of death to grow and flourish. If Mahmoud Abbas and others truly find these murders "immoral" and "inhuman," they can begin to attack that culture at its root. Until they do, all their denunciations of terrorist violence will be little more than empty words.

Today, I ask you to pray for comfort and strength for three orphaned children — Tamar, Roi, Yishai — whose lives have been so cruelly and horribly interrupted by this evil act. Pray that the killers of the Fogel family will be found and brought to justice. Let us remember the names of Udi, Ruth, Yoav, Elad, and Hadas, and be all the more grateful for our God who, instead of inciting violence, promises peace. Join me in praying for the day when God will bless His people and His Holy Land with that most precious gift.

With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein