Heart of the Matter

Heart of the Matter photo 2

A heartfelt look by Aaron B. Cohen at the great arc of life through the prism of its details.

Heart of the Matter

May the memory of the victims of Toulouse be a blessing, and a reminder

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There are many traumas in the world, but Toulouse is our trauma. Not that our humanity is different from that of any other victims or mourners. Not that our hearts turn to stone at the news of other innocent lives cut short. Not that our souls are mute and indifferent to the grieving of others.

We are not indifferent; we are aware. Yet we are different, we are reminded, as we feel the pain of old wounds ripped open yet again. 

The March 19 murders at the Ozar Hatorah school in Toulouse, France of Rabbi Yonatan Sandler, his six-year-old son Aryeh and his three-year-old son Gavriel, and of eight-year-old Miriam Monsonego, the daughter of the school's principal, serve as terrible reminders. These deaths are recent eruptions of the ancient volcano of anti-Jewish hatred.

We know the cycle all too well: hot and noxious forces churn deep within society; the pressure builds as grotesque ideas swirl and seek to find their vent; then the mad rush of venom floods the landscape of our consciousness in fire as the innocents are consumed.

Never again seems never to be. The evil perpetrators always have their excuse-one blood libel or another; vengeance for one "crime" of the innocent or another. Usually Jewish existence is the affront. Our crime is our belief; our crime is our lack of the "correct" belief; our crime is our self-defense; our crime is our sovereignty; our crime is our very being.

Whether our innocents die at the hands of religious or political fanatics, the same truth haunts us through the ages: volcanos of fanaticism dot the landscape of "normal" societies.

Unlike actual volcanos, these mountains of hatred, with their plumes of prejudice, are not unstoppable forces of nature. Indeed they are tolerated, they are nurtured, are permitted to simmer and to bubble in societies that entertain lies and gross exaggerations. Israel is an apartheid state; Israel murders Palestinian children for sport; Jews are the source of evil in the world.

The tropes change over the centuries. We had hoped that with the last gasp of the previous century, the old hatred had run its course, that the volcanos had gasped their last, or at least had been confined to places where they could be deterred. But even in "normal" societies the pressure still mounts beneath the surface, until-as in Toulouse-our innocents are consumed yet again.

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