Itamar: A Lonely Island

There are lots of things on my list but only one thing on my mind: Five members of one family -- a father, mother and three young children -- had just finished their Shabbat dinner and by the next morning were found slaughtered in a blood bath in their own home, including their 3-month-old baby.

No, this is not a gruesome picture from the Khmelnytsky Uprising, a Cossack rebellion in Ukraine of the mid 17th century. Nor are we digging up old images from the destruction of the 2nd Temple. It’s March 11, 2011. Israel. Established in 1984 and named after the youngest son of Aaron the high priest of biblical times, Itamar, literally meaning “a palm tree island,” is located south of Sh’chem or Nablus in the heart of Samaria. Over 160 families, a little more than 1000 people live in this Orthodox Jewish community. The location had been chosen because of the large reserve of state lands. Under the terms of the Oslo Accords of 1993 between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, Itamar was designated Area "C," under full Israeli civil and security control.


Ruth Fogel, 35, her husband Udi, 36, and their children Yoav, 11, Elad, 4 and Hadas, 3 months (z''l).

No doubt, Itamar is a controversial place. This is not the first attack on its residents. And yet, I must admit that what is so painful to me is not the attack, horrific as it is. Over the last two millennia plus we have seen that before. Then what, you might wonder. “Extreme right wing supporters are demonstrating in various locations…” began the news broadcaster on the following Sunday, naming intersections throughout Israel. And I couldn’t help wondering: Does one have to be a right winger in order to cry out when a 3-month-old baby is knifed and slaughtered in her sleep? Before the funeral was even scheduled, we were already pointing fingers, making generalizations, accusations and shaking any relations or responsibility: “well, look here, true, it’s a heinous crime, but hey, who told these people to go live there in the middle of nowhere, right in the heart of the occupied territory?...You know, those orthodox settlers, they are all such’s so upsetting, no wonder it brings on such a reaction!...” Really?!?

Once upon a time and not long ago, we, the Jewish people hoped – and asked – that the world would stand with us when something happened to any of us, no matter when and where; Now we can barely stand with each other or even stand each other. That is the biggest tragedy of our time. We always had enemies and we might always have some; that’s nothing compared with what we do to each other. We listen and dialog with all, but rarely with each other, and while we criticize “the wall,” we build higher and higher dividers between us and ourselves. Every time anything happens, it’s not about the event. It’s but an opportunity: will we use it to repair the rift or deepen it? We are a small family. We can argue. We can disagree. We can find ourselves on all sides of an issue, but let us not allow the issues to rip us apart so much so that in times of mourning, we can’t be together.

- by Michal Kohane, Israel Center Director

Categories: Israel


March 17, 2011


The Federation