Thursday, September 02, 2004

The mensch and the maniac


Sanity vs. lunacy, compassion vs. contempt.

Dueling words between a Jew and an Arab generated by the Beersheba genocide bombings distinguish one mindset from the other.

Nissin Vakanin found himself on a guilt trip because another human being died in his place. An Arab woman was elated that her husband sacrificed himself to commit mass murder against Jews.

Vakanin is a mensch who cherishes life. The widow, who was not identified and lives in the West Bank town of Hebron, is a maniac who revels in death.

Their conflicting values – well, Vakanin has values – explain why Jews and Arabs have been killing each other for centuries. Jews love God’s gift of life and a high proportion of Arabs – certainly not all Arabs – can’t stand the idea of people who strive to live life to the fullest being anywhere near them.

The Arabs know full well that Jews are especially vulnerable because they seek to live, and many Arabs see it as their duty to die if it means eliminating Jews and other supposed infidels. How can any reasonable person sympathize with people who think that way?

This is not to justify all policies of the Israeli government, but whether an Ariel Sharon or a Shimon Peres runs Israel they must still contend with these dysfunctional attitudes.

On Tuesday, the 65-year-old Vakanin gave up his front-row seat on the No. 6 bus for a middle-aged woman, and minutes later the bomb exploded. It was one of two buses that were blown up.

“I saw her dead,” Vakanin told The Washington Post. “I saw the body of the guy next to her and it was all ripped up. Then I realized he was the suicide bomber.”

He added, “My conscience is not quiet. I feel guilty that she died and not me.”

The unidentified widow of one of the genocide bombers viewed the event differently. She hailed the bombings as “heroic” and said her husband was “happy in heaven,” according to the Associated Press.

The New York Times reported that in Gaza thousands of Hamas supporters celebrated the deaths of 16 human beings and Hamas distributed a leaflet saying, “If you thought that the martyrdom of our leaders would weaken our missions and discourage us from jihad, then you are dreaming.”

Can anyone imagine losing a loved one for this kind of reason? If they have children, that means they will grow up without a father. And for what?