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A rabbi's open letter to the Woolwich suspects
Last uploaded : Monday 26th Aug 2013 at 13:56
Contributed by : Rabbi Alexandra Wright


Usually we publish guest essays in the 'Guest Opinions' section but we felt this eloquent letter should be at the top of this week's front page. We published this in May but are featuring it now as the Jewish New Year dawns.
Carol Gould, Editor
Thursday 23 May 2013

An open letter to those who killed a young man in south-east London on Wednesday afternoon:
I don't know your names and so have no way of addressing you. Perhaps that is just as well, because it is our names that stamp us with our uniqueness and sense of self. What are you? What is your life? What is your power? What did you imagine you were doing when you took hold of those deadly blades to attack an innocent, young man, about whom you knew nothing, for whom you felt nothing but hatred - no pity, no kinship, no imagination - that here was a life that had value to himself or those who loved him? Did you think about his mother and father, about his siblings and friends? Did you know anything about him - his beliefs and values, his hobbies and interests, his successes and disappointments? What did he represent for you? A young man with purpose, with self-respect, with a sense of responsibility for the family and society that had nurtured him?

I would like to believe that you are crazed; that where you really belong is in a place for people who are deeply disturbed and sick, that there is some imbalance in your mind. And perhaps that is true. For what man is it that can justify his actions to a camera in the moments after he has run down another human being and attacked him so brutally that there is no longer any breath left in him?

I fear that you knew only too well what you were about. Where did you learn your rhetoric? "We swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you. The only reasons we have done this is because Muslims are dying every day. This British soldier is an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. We must fight them... "

If you did this in the name of Islam and the Islamic God - Allah - then you have committed a heinous sin against the same God worshipped by Jews, Christians and other believers. If you did this in the name of your Muslim brothers and sisters, then you are guilty of a grotesque and treacherous crime against your own co-religionists. You have endangered those whom you say are like you.

You have stirred up in the hearts of ordinary men and women, the lightly sleeping fear of the 'other'. You have destabilised the fragile ideal of a world in which we regard each other as created in the image of God. Do you know what that means? Do you understand the implications of standing next to another man or woman at the bus stop or on the platform of a station, or outside an army barracks in Woolwich, of acknowledging that this individual, this singular, unique person is not like you; he or she is not the same as you, but is different, other. And that 'otherness', a defiance against being the 'same' as you or me, that face of difference and unique personality - summons, not our hatred, but our love, compassion, pity and tenderness.

In your hatred and blindness you have destroyed this precious human being and in so doing, you have annihilated yourself and effaced your name from the earth.

You have no name, no life, no power, no legacy. But the life of the man whom you killed and whose name, perhaps, tomorrow will come to light after his relatives have been informed - it is he whose name will remain as a precious reminder of the infinite responsibility we hold towards each other.

Shabbat Shalom,
Alexandra Wright

http://www.ljs.org/a-place-of-prayer/thought-of-the-week/1174/ .


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