In the wake of a stabbing attack Thursday at the Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade and the firebombing of a Palestinian home, which killed a Palestinian toddler on Friday, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin warned that the flames of hatred are quickly spreading throughout Israel.
Speaking Saturday evening at a Jerusalem rally against the violent and homophobic attacks, the president expressed his hope that the attacks would serve as a “wake-up call” for the entire country.
“An atmosphere has been created here that has allowed leniency towards what is naively called ‘weeds,’” Rivlin stated.
“Every society has extremist fringes, but today we have to ask: what is it in the public atmosphere which allows extremism and extremists to walk in confidence, in broad daylight? What is it that has enabled these weeds to threaten the safety of the entire garden of flowers?” he asked.
“Citizens of Israel, a Jewish and democratic Israel, democratic and Jewish Israel, needs a wake-up call today.”
The stabbing attack at Jerusalem Gay Pride left six people injured. The attack was carried out by Yishai Schlissel, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man who was recently released from an Israeli prison after 10 years for a similar attack at a gay pride event in 2005.
On Friday, 18-month-old Ali Dawabsha was burned to death in his family home in what is believed to be a firebombing attack perpetrated by extreme right-wing Jewish terrorists. The child’s parents and four-year-old brother remain in life-threatening condition in Israeli hospitals.
“These flames, which are consuming all of us, cannot be extinguished with weak condemnations [by politicians]. These flames cannot be extinguished with solidarity rallies. Not even with this rally,” the president said. “These flames cannot be extinguished with posts on Facebook and statements in the media. These flames cannot be extinguished with repression, denial and disregard. Incitement, ridicule, frivolity, laxity and arrogance of the heart cannot extinguish the fire, but only allow it to burn stronger, with fervor, to spread in all directions, and permeate all walks of life.”
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“We must be thorough and clear; from the educational system, to those who enforce the law, through to the leadership of the people and the country. We must put out the flames, the incitement, before they destroy us all. We will not be zealots. We will not be bullies. We will not become an anarchy.”
Reflecting on Israel’s own experiences with violent acts of hatred and terror, Rivlin said: “[I was] ashamed that a country which has known the murder of Shalhevet Pass [killed in 2001 in Hebron by a Palestinian sniper], of the Fogel family [killed in their home in Itamar by two Palestinian attackers in March 2011], of Adele Biton [the toddler who died this year after suffering severe injuries sustained in a Palestinian firebomb attack in 2013], of Eyal, Gil-ad, Naftali [the three Israeli teenagers kidnapped and murdered last summer] and Muhammad Abu Khdeir [the Palestinian teenager kidnapped and burned alive by Jewish extremists in a reprisal attack for the three Israeli teens], there are still those who do not hesitate to ignite the flames, to burn the flesh of a baby, to increase the hatred and terror.”