Notes on Life and Death in a MosquePosted: August 12, 2014
A friend of mine sent me an article from Breitbart (here). I’d like to quote two paragraphs:
[A unit] of [Israeli] soldiers — which had gone into a mosque looking for weapons, explosives, and rockets — encountered a female suicide bomber who was about to detonate the belt she wore, which would have resulted in the deaths of the soldiers. One of the soldiers instinctively recited the opening words of the holiest Jewish prayer “Shema Yisrael”. The female suicide bomber hesitated and began trembling, giving the soldiers a chance to grab her and disable the device.
The soldiers then took her prisoner and turned her over to a counter-intelligence unit. Their investigation uncovered that the female suicide bomber’s mother was a Jew who had married a Palestinian in Israel and, after the wedding, was smuggled against her will into Gaza. There she lived a life filled with abuse and humiliation, and was basically a captive. In addition to the female suicide bomber, there were two smaller children as well. An armored force went in and rescued the two small children.
On first reading, I understood it to mean the Israeli soldier spoke the opening words of the prayer “Shema Yisrael” in an effort to appeal to the suicide bomber’s humanity, to weaken her resolve, invoking the universal fear of death, fear of “the final judgement”, a fear so primal that it transcends any one religion. A humbling and insightful way to disarm a human bomb.
Because the phrase “instinctively recited” is ambiguous, my first reading was wrong. I missed the real meaning.
On second reading, I understand it wasn’t a quick-thinking tactical maneuver. It was the Israeli soldier’s “I am about to die” moment. Confronting unavoidable death, speaking for himself and his fellow soldiers, he was kissing his ass goodbye. Not unlike a Christian’s invocation of “The Lord’s Prayer“, in a moment of mortal panic. The soldier wasn’t tying to weaken his attacker. He was preparing to die.
The Israeli soldier’s words had the unexpected effect of weakening the suicide bomber’s resolve. Who, unknown to him, was the daughter of a Jewish mother. And a victim herself. She understood this prayer, and trembled upon hearing it.
Which makes this passage even more chilling. And beautiful.
Is my second reading correct?
I’m interested in what other readers think.
Since I am unfamiliar with this prayer, and Jewish tradition in general, I looked it up. And it is indeed a beautiful one.
The following represents the opening words of Shema:
Sh’ma Yis’ra’eil Adonai Eloheinu Adonai echad.
Hear, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.
Barukh sheim k’vod malkhuto l’olam va’ed.
Blessed be the Name of His glorious kingdom for ever and ever.
V’ahav’ta eit Adonai Elohekha b’khol l’vav’kha uv’khol naf’sh’kha uv’khol m’odekha.
And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might…