“And you wish to sing praises?”



“Picnic at Manassas” (Richard Miller)




To the extent that they’re simply watching, I don’t blame them.  I would watch, as well.  I also look at car wrecks on the freeway.  In fact, on two or three occasions, I’ve sat atop Mount Bental in the Golan Heights, looking down on the United Nations checkpoint and the abandoned Arab village of al-Qunaytra and watching as plumes of smoke were rising to the sky from various points in the hell that is now Syria.  There’s a horrified fascination to it.


If, on the other hand, these Israelis were really enjoying the sight of Gaza being destroyed and Palestinians being killed, that needs to be condemned.  It represents a depraved indifference to human life.


On 21 July 1861, at the First Battle of Bull Run during the American Civil War — known among Confederates as the First Battle of Manassas — men (including senators and congressmen), women, and children brought picnic baskets and opera glasses in order to enjoy the spectacle.  I simply cannot understand such an attitude.   But they were soon shocked by the carnage and by the defeat and disorganized retreat of the Union forces.  What had been expected to be an easy Northern victory demonstrated very clearly that the war would not be over soon.


There can be no excuse whatever, though, for this.  Nor for this:


“1 Shot, 2 Kills”
An image of a pregnant Palestinian woman in the crosshairs


There is a Jewish midrash (Talmud Tractate Megillah 10b) regarding the proper attitude and reaction when enemies have fallen:


“As the Egyptians started to drown in the Red Sea, the heavenly hosts began to sing praises, but God silenced the angels, saying, ‘The works of my hands are drowning in the sea, and you wish to sing praises?”


I’ve never understood the tailgate parties and keggers that are sometimes held outside prisons when a murderer is executed.  And I say that as someone who, if not precisely a fan of capital punishment, isn’t a particular opponent of it, either.  Even at their most justified, such events are (or should be) solemn and sober, and occasions for grief.


One of my favorite passages in all of scripture is Moses 7:24-37, in the Pearl of Great Price:


And there came generation upon generation; and Enoch was high and lifted up, even in the bosom of the Father, and of the Son of Man; and behold, the power of Satan was upon all the face of the earth.

And he saw angels descending out of heaven; and he heard a loud voice saying: Wo, wo be unto the inhabitants of the earth.

And he beheld Satan; and he had a great chain in his hand, and it veiled the whole face of the earth with darkness; and he looked up and laughed, and his angels rejoiced.

And Enoch beheld angels descending out of heaven, bearing testimony of the Father and Son; and the Holy Ghost fell on many, and they were caught up by the powers of heaven into Zion.

And it came to pass that the God of heaven looked upon theresidue of the people, and he wept; and Enoch bore record of it, saying: How is it that the heavens weep, and shed forth their tears as the rain upon the mountains?

And Enoch said unto the Lord: How is it that thou canst weep, seeing thou art holy, and from all eternity to all eternity?

And were it possible that man could number the particles of the earth, yea, millions of earths like this, it would not be a beginning to the number of thy creations; and thy curtains are stretched out still; and yet thou art there, and thy bosom is there; and also thou art just; thou art merciful and kind forever;

And thou hast taken Zion to thine own bosom, from all thy creations, from all eternity to all eternity; and naught but peace,justice, and truth is the habitation of thy throne; and mercy shall go before thy face and have no end; how is it thou canst weep?

The Lord said unto Enoch: Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency;

And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father; but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood;

And the fire of mine indignation is kindled against them; and in my hot displeasure will I send in the floods upon them, for my fierce anger is kindled against them.

Behold, I am God; Man of Holiness is my name; Man of Counsel is my name; and Endless and Eternal is my name, also.

Wherefore, I can stretch forth mine hands and hold all the creations which I have made; and mine eye can pierce them also, and among all the workmanship of mine hands there has not been so great wickedness as among thy brethren.

But behold, their sins shall be upon the heads of their fathers; Satan shall be their father, and misery shall be their doom; and the whole heavens shall weep over them, even all the workmanship of mine hands; wherefore should not the heavens weep, seeing these shall suffer?



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