It’s hard to describe how I felt when I heard about the shootings in Toulouse last week.
I have heard and seen a large variety of responses, from a simple shake of the head at the violence in today’s world, to floods of tears of anguish and grief. It sounds strange, but to the Jewish community, when you lose anyone at all, the entire community, worldwide, grieves with you.
It’s a different feeling to other incidents of attack on Jews. Children were killed and ripped from this world in such a cruel way, in front of their school where they should have been safe. Regardless of the politics, even those who sympathise with this gunman’s plan to “avenge Palestine’s children”, this sort of violence is never okay, and there is a pain that cannot be described. And nearly 70 years on, the Shoah (Holocaust) is still so very real and raw and painful for so many of us. There is such a struggle, sometimes internal within communities and their levels of observance, to keep Judaism alive and growing and continuing. We pledge to raise our children in the faith and community, and agonise when we lose any of our own. Our culture is like a family that reaches out across oceans to each other whenever we are in need. And in our prayers we pray for peace and life “all Israel”, which is not the state formed in 1948, but for all Jews everywhere.
When a New Zealander dies tragically, anywhere in the world, we mourn and report. Kiwis everywhere feel the loss and discuss it. When a Scot is killed in Afghanistan, we do the same all over the world, as the Scottish Diaspora is so widespread. And when a Jew dies needlessly, we cry silently, wring our hands together, follow the news closely despairing at continuing violence and pray in shul for maybe someday, a peaceful resolution.
Y’hei sh’lama raba min sh’maya v’chayim aleinu v’al kol y’israel.
(May there be abundant peace from Heaven, and life upon us and all Israel).