Throughout Jewish history, enemies have burned and destroyed our books. People who know Jews and who understand the Jewish religion and even more, the Jewish psychology, understand that we are a people who revere books and the written word. Indeed, as one commentator on Judaism once wrote, while we are banned from worshipping anything bar G-d, the closest we ever come to this is our deep love and adoration of the Torah.
So it was with a sense of historical deja vu that I read today’s headlines about Arabs attacking a yeshiva in Samaria yesterday, and torching dozens of books including a Torah and also volumes from the Talmud. The attack was pure spite – the arsonists ignored everything else there and attacked only the books. Clearly, some of our Arab cousins do understand the Jewish love of words and books – and struck us where they knew it would wound.
Rabbi Elishama Cohen, head of the yeshiva, said: “It was a horrible sight to see dozen of holy books of the Talmud and Bible burned almost completely.”
And he added:
“The Arabs did this very thoroughly and carefully. We succeeded in saving the remains of some of the burned books and several pages where the letters still are recognizable, the same pages we learned the past several days.”
Rabbi Cohen said that instead of the spirit of the yeshiva students being broken, their numbers will increase next year as a reaction to desecration. Samaria Regional Council chairman Gershon Mesika called on the police to search and arrest the perpetrators. Police said they have begun an investigation.
Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon commented:
“Whoever has not yet understood with whom we are dealing should look at the pictures of the burnt holy books. If Jews had burned dozens of Muslim books, the whole world would be shaking.”
Yule Edelstein, Minister of Information and Diaspora Affairs, said. “To my sorrow, this grave incident is a result of classic anti-Semitism and a reminder of the dark days of the past. It is sad to think that if there were permanent homes and official security, we would not be witness to this grave incident.”