Saturday, March 2, 2013

What killed the killer?

A mysterious ending    Murder? It couldn’t be. But there it was, front-page news. All of us had known the murderer and his caregiver, his father, for many years. Both were big men; the father sickly; he wasn’t very mobile. His son would come into our store while his Dad waited in their car. I don’t think the son had the mental acuity to do much more than that.

No one seemed to know how or why he killed his father. The son was absolutely dependent on his Dad. Over and over, I tried to make sense of the father’s death.
I couldn’t. Nor could I picture the son in a prison. How could he relate to such an environment?

As I readied myself for class the next day, I knew I needed a distraction. Fortunately, one came to me on the Net from my brother-in-law’s cousin in Canada. She sent a snappy four-minute video of Israeli youngsters dancing their way through Tel Aviv. There were no words; just gleeful dancers of all ages celebrating life in Israel.

In a word, it was cool; it would serve as a perfect introduction to that part of Israeli culture. I decided I’d show it to my class the next day. And I did.

Although my class seemed to like its joyful simplicity, I didn’t linger. Instead, I talked about cultural priorities, those characteristics that determine whether a group of people is likely to be pugilistic or peaceful. To that end, I discussed Islam’s worldview and its expansionist nature.

Carefully, I explained Islam’s division of the world into either Dar al Islam (the world of Muslims) or Dar al Harb (the world of war comprised of non believers).  All of Dar al Islam shares the vision of a perfect world as being when all of Dar al Harb becomes part of Dar al Islam. Toward that end, those who are physically able participate in jihad. Should any Muslim warrior lose their life while attempting to kill a non-believer, they are, according to Koranic sura 9:111, guaranteed to go immediately to paradise.

Figuring that might seem too farfetched, I allowed the class to view a Pierre Rehov video, Suicide Killers, about Hamas operatives in Gaza. Rehov interviewed terrorists in training as well as those in Israeli prisons who had been caught because they hadn’t been able to self-detonate. Each one mentioned that what they were doing was Allah’s will. As a result, each of them stated, paradise awaited them.

Many spoke with pride about their mothers who praised them for wanting to be martyrs. My class was intensely quiet; the contrast to what they’d viewed earlier was painfully obvious, especially when one trainee explained that he had three children, five and younger, and a wife and nice home. However, he was ready to be a shahid (a martyr) for the sake of Allah. When he mentioned that he would carry out his suicide mission even if it meant destroying a nursery filled with children in Tel Aviv, I thought I heard some of my students gasp.

We’d begun the class by watching happy dancers in Tel Aviv. Our focus had shifted sharply.

“See you next Friday,” I said as I dismissed class. My students were still subdued as they left.

Having seen that video many times before, I was less so, almost inured. What I didn’t expect was the couple I saw as I returned to my store.

“We need clothes for him to take to the funeral home,” I heard one of them say.

The woman turned to me. She appeared stunned but resigned, as if the forces that control our lives had ganged up on two people I had come to know well.

“He had a heart attack in jail, and he died,” she told me. She spoke in a way that made me think she’d experienced disbelief similar to mine.

I wasn’t sure how to respond when, as she was leaving, she said she was thankful both the father the son had killed and the son, now at the funeral home, were at peace.

I could only nod as I thought that, as far as finding inner peace, too many are attracted to very perilous paths.

                                                                 B. Koplen 3/3/13

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