An awful week which began, late for me post-Shavuot, with news from Orlando limps to a conclusion with news of the murder of Jo Cox MP.
I condemn the loss of life. Regarding Orlando there is something particularly despicable the way gay people were targeted for their sexuality. In Yorkshire the attack on a representative of the democracy we all take so much for granted is an attack on the nature of our society. But this telescoping misses the personal devastation for loved ones, parents, partners and children. I offer prayers of comfort to all who mourn.
I took the opportunity to watch Jo Cox’s maiden speech, given so recently. She observed her constituency was enriched by immigrants, ‘be they Irish Catholics or Muslims from Indian Gujarat or Pakistan,’ and went on to insist that ‘while we celebrate our diversity, we are far more united and have far more in common than that which divides us.’ I was reminded of Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu’s comments in the aftermath of the Orlando attack. Netanyahu remarked on the wickedness of attacking people for their sexuality and went on to say the shooting ‘wasn't merely an attack on the LGBT community. It was an attack on all of us, on our common values of freedom and diversity and choice.’
Particularly if reports of a ‘British First’ inspiration behind the attack on Jo Cox are to be believed, both these attacks seem rooted in an inability to tolerate difference and variety. As Jews, members of a people, who have represented difference, in so many ways, over so many years and in so many societies, we are called upon, yet again, to stand up for the values of diversity. To be a Jew is to believe in the absolute value of human life not despite our differences but precisely because of them. Unstable times tempt us to believe we should retreat into ghettos where we pretend it is possible to surround ourselves only with those who see the world precisely as we do. We all, I am sure, feel this temptation - even if, thankfully, we don’t respond to this temptation murderously. But the temptation needs to be resisted. It is neither holy, nor sustainable nor, in the context of a Jewish history that teaches otherwise, in our own best interests.
May the memories of those who have been murdered be for a blessing,