Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Endless Life/Endless Lies

Earlier this week, one year after the prolonged torture and murder of Ilan Halimi, a young French Jew, at the hands of the self-named Barbarians -- a band of mostly Muslim thugs living in the slummy outskirts of Paris -- the Halimi family had his remains disinterred from a French cemetery, flown from France to Israel and buried at the Givat Shaul cemetery in Jerusalem.
It is not clear to me if this cemetery is the same as Har Hamenuchot, where my paternal grandparents and my father-in-law are buried.

Whether it is or isn't, imagining Har Hamenuchot as Ilan Halimi's final resting place brings me some solace for it is the most noble and awe-inspiring cemetery I can imagine.

After reading the moving account on JTA’s website (see the story at I sat in silence for several minutes, thinking of Ruth Halimi, Ilan’s mother. I thought about her missing her handsome young son every single day, torturing herself with thoughts of how he died, “like a dog,” as Kafka would have put it, wandering naked, bruised, burned and mutilated through the Parisian outskirts, bleeding to death.

I thought about the 23-year-old Ilan Halimi slipping from life, wondering why he had been singled out for such a fate. I thought about the shoddy investigation conducted by the Parisian police who refused to treat this case as racially motivated. I thought about the mostly-Jewish crowd of 1,000 who turned out in the streets of Paris to demand justice for his murder. I thought about the myriad citizens of Paris -- passive, silent -- with Ilan’s blood on their hands.

Ilan Halimi was tormented for 24 days before he was released to die like a wounded animal in the open. Each day must have felt like a year or a lifetime, indeed, the days parallel his life exactly…24 days for 23 years, plus one for good luck, as they say in America.

But there was no good luck for Ilan Halimi. Only the hope that his posthumous homecoming would bring him, his mother and all their loved ones some peace.

May his soul be bound up in endless life.

It would have been nice to end on this poetic note and yet, the perpetuation of endless lies compels me onward.

If it weren't so serious, the surreal story about to unfold could almost be categorized under You Can't Make This Stuff Up.
I read earlier today that Israeli-Italian author Ariel Toaff, a professor at Israel’s Bar Ilan University, is “astounded” by the horrified worldwide reaction to his book on blood libels, Pasque di Sangue (Bloody Passover).

The book, published recently by a private Italian press, reportedly raises the possibility that there is a factual basis to the timeless anti-Semitic canard -- the rumor of Jews using the blood of Gentile children to bake matzot.

Blood libels run through history like a recurring nightmare, spanning centuries and countries, inspiring the deaths of millions of Jews. The recent PBS special on the resurgence of anti-Semitism had a clip from last year’s hit Egyptian mini-series that treated the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as historical fact. Sitting on my living room couch, I watched in disgust and disbelief as a troupe of Egyptian actors played out a scene where a young boy’s throat is slashed by stereotypically hook-nosed Jews. The very next scene features the villainous Jews eating matzah made with that special secret ingredient -- Christian kiddie blood.

This image was broadcast around the world and seen by millions of unquestioning viewers. The series' young female producer defended the show on camera, denying that it was anti-Semitic in any way. She seemed to be affronted that anyone would view it as such.

But screw her and her Jew-hating countrymen. I’m more interested in the pathology of Toaff.

As of today, though Toaff claims to be utterly baffled by the outcry against his book, he has halted its distribution, issued an immediate apology for passages that might be misrepresented, misconstrued and used against Jewish people and offered to donate the proceeds of sales of his newly-edited book to the Anti-Defamation League.

Quite a stunning turn-around.

But here is the most stunning aspect of the story: Who is Ariel Toaff? None other than the son of Elio Toaff, the former Chief Rabbi of Rome.


That is no typo.

It is an expression of the world turned upside down.

I have just read a Daily Telegraph article on the affair ( and pass it onto you. In this particular article, the son of the Chief Rabbi of Rome substantiates the blood libels, saying, in the same breath, that no one should take it out on contemporary Jews because those who actually crucified Christian children were fundamentalists and small in number.
A comparison is even made between these alleged blood-guzzling Jews and Muslim terrorists, that is, the college professor says that one shouldn't conclude that all Muslims are terrorists -- and persecute them -- because a small number of fundamentalists indeed are terrorists.
(Let me suspend my disbelief for a second and get all compassionate. Could this guy have some kind of organic mental disorder, like a brain tumor???? Is there a doctor in the bungalow? Could someone weigh in on this one??)

Even the cursory research I have conducted indicates that Ariel Toaff seems to speak out of both sides of his mouth, stating that the so-called ritual murderers both did and didn’t occur. In this vein, I must link to the following:, which has a good overview of this matter.

And hopping back to the Telegraph article, it states that Elio Toaff has been among those to speak out against his son publicly and vociferously.

In the hierarchy of parental pain, just a few notches beneath the rung occupied by the parents of Ilan Halimi, there is surely a place for parents whose children are murderers – or accessories to the murderers – of their own people.

Elio Toaff now occupies this place.

And the blood of Ilan Halimi, not fictitious Gentile children, has been used to bake the bread of our ongoing affliction.

1 comment:

JRon said...

Hey Shira,

I read Sander's piece on this am...

& naturally progressed, after many months, to your blog. Wonderful words of outraged wisdom. I wonder how long it will take before the controversy jumps into mainstream? Glad to know you're all still wreaking havoc. Monroe misses you. Love, J.