Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Beauty From Within Darkness

This past Friday night the civilized world was shocked and horrified by the despicable and cowardly terrorist murder of the Fogel family while they were sleeping in their home in the Jewish settlement of Itamar. Along with thousands of other bloggers, I wrote my two cents’ worth in what I called Moment of Truth. I felt (and still feel) that across the board, everybody with a role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – from the Palestinians, to the international media, the UN, the governments around the world, the Israeli Left and the Right – all must face their particular role within the conflict, and all must take certain steps to help prevent the situation to further spirally out of control.

While I still hold by that view, I have also come to realize a very serious mistake which I made in that last blog.

When there are attacks such as the one last Friday night, it is virtually impossible for any decent human being to not see the depths of depravity to which people are capable of sinking. When I wrote what I believe should be the responses by groups of people on all sides of the spectrum, I was thinking of them as exactly that - groups of people. I neglected to think in terms of individuals.

But today, I saw something on Facebook (which is one of the most reliable sources of Israeli news) that enabled me to see how mistaken I was in forgetting the individual Israelis.

I have mentioned in other blogs the process that Israelis tend to experience whenever there is a terror attack. When the smoke has cleared, (both literally and figuratively), Israelis collectively feel the loss of every terror victim. We feel the pain, the shock, and the sorrow. If even for just a few days, we all are one with the families who have lost loved ones to the senseless hatred. Those who can do something for the families, do it – from providing food for them while in mourning, to visiting and sitting with them to comfort them, and so on.

This week, one particular individual has displayed one of the most beautiful acts of loving kindness, of giving and of selflessness that I have ever seen.

Rami Levy established a chain of supermarkets in Israel, which now has branches in 13 cities in Israel. Apparently, Mr. Levi has been coming every day to the home where the family is observing the traditional 7-day mourning period, and has personally been bringing food for the family and the visitors there to offer their comfort. When a family member expressed thanks, Mr. Levy said that they will be seeing much more of him – he plans to stock their home with food every week until the youngest of the surviving children (who is 2 years old) has turned 18.

In my previous blog about the attack, I wrote that while many people said that they had no words to express what they felt, I had plenty of words. This time, the words elude me. What words could fully describe the beauty and the power of a very successful entrepreneur like Rami Levy extending a hand in love and support for the Fogel family?

In a blog that I posted last November, I referred to the book “Faith after the Holocaust” by Rabbi Eliezer Berkovitz, z”l (published, 1973). In the book, Rabbi Berkovitz responds to the idea that the Holocaust is the ultimate proof that God does not exist. He writes that for all of the documented stories of man’s un-natural and inexplicable inhumanity to his fellow man, there are also many documented stories (from the Holocaust) of an equally un-natural and inexplicable love for his fellow man, and despite all that was happening, the steadfast refusal of many people to abandon their belief in God.

Rabbi Berkovitz brings examples of people in the death camps who would give what little bit of food they had to somebody else that seemed even more starving than themselves. People who offered hope and encouragement – and love – to others when all around them was hopelessness and death. He argued that there were so many acts of loving-kindness, and of faith, that in the death camps were every bit as unnatural and abnormal as were the acts of depravity and wonton hatred and cruelty.

If the un-natural inhumanity can prove the absence of God, why can't the equally un-natural humanity prove His existence?

Perhaps this is the reminder that we are being given now. Terrorists entered the home of a family, murdered the parents of 6 children, then 3 of the children – an 11 year-old boy, a 4 year-old boy and a 3-month old girl. That there are people who do not see this as a monstrous act of butchery, and that there are people who justify and even celebrate the murder of this family could be construed as a lack of any all powerful supreme being of love.

But then there are people who have committed to being by this family’s side, people like Rami Levy who had never met the Fogel family. This can just as easily be the proof that there is a Supreme Being watching over us, giving us the strength, the love and the resources to continue living our lives on our land.

We essentially have two choices right now: We can focus on the depths to which monster terrorists can sink, or we can focus on the heights to which others are capable of rising.

I know which I choose.


  1. Amazing-I did not know that-I really will try to make the trek every week to Rami Levi now- (seriously). Thanks for posting this.

  2. Very well put. Thanks for posting this!

  3. This man is my idea of a ben adam. He doesn't know the family, but because he is in a position to help them, he does. Beautiful! For those of you who think his business deserves support and don't know where to find it, I offer this paragraph from an article I found on Google: Rami Levy Shivuk Hashikma Group operates the following 17 supermarkets: Haoman, Rav Hen, Achim Israel, Givat Shaul and Ramot in Jerusalem, Modiin Shilat, Maale Adumim, Mevasseret Zion, Binyamin Industrial Zone, Kastina, Betar Illit, Kiryat Haim, Zikhron Yaakov, Pardes Chanah, Poriah Junction, Ayalon and Nesher. The company aims to reach 30 branches by 2011.