Tuesday, December 9, 2008

India is over, but such gunmen sure to be back

This was published December 9, 2008 in The New Haven Register and is posted here with the permission of the author.

By Neil Berro

Where will the gunmen strike next?

India is over. The dead have been counted. The Jews have held their memorial services.

In 74 countries, the gunmen have successfully punctured civilized society. We have seen attacks by hijacked airplanes, against people of differing faiths and their houses of worship, attacks on schools, against girls and women who wish to learn, against people in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Most of the gunmen in India may be dead. But their adherents will be back as surely as they were in Madrid, Bali, Turkey, Jerusalem, New York City, London, a Russian school against those of their faith who reject their violence.

The gunmen will talk about Kashmir or Israel or Iraq or Afghanistan or Western cultural influence or unfair conditions in France or insults against Allah or Mohammad or a mullah or objections raised over an Iranian nuclear bomb. There will be those who will cheer them on. Most of us will shake our heads in sadness and horror and hope we don't fall into one of the aggrieved categories that drive these gunmen.

The young rabbi and his wife killed in India were in their late 20s. Perhaps, between them, they had 120 years of life remaining. That's a long time during which they could have raised children and grandchildren and perhaps great-grandchildren. By all accounts, they were healers and comforters. Did the world suddenly have too much of that? Was the recipe for a good chicken soup a secret code?

You never know with gunmen what will trigger them.

What have these gunmen proved again? That they could capture the innocent, torture at will or otherwise destroy any step in the progress of the human race?

We saw India differently. It took so long to unwind. It was there as we kept gazing up from football and turkey and the calming spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday.

You can just see the gunmen's to-do list. Attack the train station. Attack the hotels. Find the Jews.

Anne Frank left her diary. That is why she has emerged above all others as the enduring symbol of human loss in describing the enormity of the Holocaust. Young, sweet, innocent and with her whole life ahead of her, Anne Frank was left to confront the gunmen of her time.

Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal journalist captured and beheaded in Pakistan, left us with the spoken and filmed legacy of his Jewish ancestry despite a career spent in understanding and commitment to others.

Moshe Holtzberg, the 2-year-old orphan of Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg, leaves us with this, "Mommy! Mommy! Where is Mommy?" Moshe owes his life to his nanny, a mother in her own right who acted out of the most profound instincts to save a life.

And where, one might ask, are the mothers of all the world's would-be gunmen? Are they teaching healing or hate? And if they must teach their children to hate, can they at least teach them to confine their actions to those with guns?

Neil Berro of New Haven has worked for Jewish and Israeli causes since 1981. Readers may write him in care of the Register, 40 Sargent Drive, New Haven 06511.

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