I was sitting in my office tonight, meeting with the director of Mattot-Arim, activist Susie Dym, when the beeper started beeping. I read it, wiped my eyes, and read it again: 20:42 – (8:42 PM) – Magen David Adom Jerusalem reports shooting inside Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav in Jerusalem. Details to follow. The beepers kept streaming, each one bringing terrible news. Shooting for somewhere in the vicinity of ten minutes, the terrorist killed eight students and wounded at least another eleven, three of whom are in critical condition.
Listening now to the radio, the Yeshiva’s director, Rabbi Sasson, spoke of how the yeshiva students all participated in a mass prayer gathering at the Kotel, the Western Wall, earlier today. This evening they were preparing Rosh Hodesh (New Month) festivities, celebrating the beginning of the new month of Adar and the upcoming Purim holiday. Only moments before the beginning of the dancing, the Rabbi said that he heard shooting in the building and immediately realized that a terrorist had infiltrated the yeshiva.
Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav is the spiritual center of Religious Zionism, founded by Israel’s first Chief Rabbi, Rav Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook. His son, Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook led the movement of the Jewish people back to Yesha following the 1967 Six Day War. The Yeshiva’s dean, Rabbi Avraham Shapira, died a few months ago, and his son, Rabbi Ya’akov Shapira replaced him.
I worked at Mercaz HaRav some 15 years ago for about a year. The Yeshiva has a very unique atmosphere, very spiritual, and very Torah-oriented. Many many students fill the huge study hall, day and night, 24 hours a day. Many of the students are IDF officers, serving in elite units. The yeshiva’s students are amongst the most patriotic Jews in Israel, serving their country, their land, their people, their G-d, in body and in spirit. Many of Israel’s most important spiritual leaders are graduates of Mercaz HaRav.
It is very sad to see the pictures, to hear the voices, to feel the pain of young Torah scholars, studying Torah, celebrating the joy of the month of Adar, cut down by a terrorist’s bullets, for no reason other than that they are Jews.
Earlier today I spent a couple of hours with journalists from Finland, questioning me about our presence in Hebron and in Judea and Samaria. I stressed to them that the enemy we are facing are nothing more than wild animals; only animal can perpetrate such horror attacks. Tonight another one of these animals escaped from his cage and, let loose in civilization, attacked, as does a wild lion or tiger.
I continue hearing on the radio reports how the police and security are continuing to prepare for tomorrow’s “Friday prayer on Temple Mount” referring of course, to Arab, Islamic prayer. I do not understand why the Israeli authorities are going to allow these prayers to take place, especially taking into account that according to the latest reports, the terrorist who perpetrated the murder tonight is a resident of Jabal MuKaber, a neighborhood in east Jerusalem. The first thing that should have been announced tonight is that those prayers, on Temple Mount, are canceled. The second announcement should be that any and all ‘peace talks’ with the Arabs are suspended until further notice.
Third, the Knesset should meet in special session and pass a law which will allow immediate suspension of Knesset members who incite the enemy and who celebrate such murderous attacks as we’ve witnessed tonight.
Now we cry together with the yeshiva, with the families of the victims, with Klal Yisrael, But crying is not enough. Israel cannot allow such terror in our eternal capital to be ignored. The enemy must be punished.