Schadenfreude. It’s a fascinating word. It means “a feeling of enjoyment that comes from seeing or hearing about the troubles of other people.” If that sounds quite mean, consider an example.
Imagine a person treats you poorly, perhaps cutting your car off on the road. Should that person subsequently run over a nail and get a flat, perhaps you would experience some joy as you drive past them, witnessing their misfortune. That’s schadenfreude.
The word derives from the German “Schaden” (harm) and “Freude” (joy). Many people think that it is no surprise that the Germans would coin such an expression.
Jews on the other hand, have a related – but inverted – feeling that they experience: a sense of sorrow when they witness sympathy or kindness for others, when they receive none of those sentiments in the same situation. That’s alemtzev.
Consider the murder of a priest in a church in France on July 26, 2016. The United Nations released a powerful statement condemning the murder:
“The High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser strongly condemns the barbarous murder of Rev. Jacques Hamel during a Mass today at the Eglise Saint-Etienne in the city of Rouen in France.
The brutal crime which also involved taking hostages is shocking by all means taking place within a church, a sacred place of worship where people of faith seek peace and comfort and share the values of compassion and tolerance. These are the core values that all faiths embrace.
These barbaric and criminal acts perpetrated by terrorists aim to spread fear and rejection, subsequently leading to fueling hatred and further igniting the cycle of violence and hate crimes. The High Representative extends his deepest sympathies to the family and loved one of Rev. Jacques Hamel and to the people and Government of France.”
A normal, strong and appropriate statement issued by the world body when a single elderly priest had his throat slit in a church.
But how did the UN react when FOUR rabbis were hacked to death with an axe in a synagogue in Israel in November 2014? Read the statement:
“The Secretary-General strongly condemns today’s attack on a synagogue in West Jerusalem which claimed four lives and injured several persons. He extends his condolences to the families of the victims and wishes the injured a speedy recovery.
Beyond today’s reprehensible incident, clashes between Palestinian youths and Israeli security forces continue on a near daily basis in many parts of East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The Secretary-General condemns all acts of violence against civilians. Attacks against religious sites in Jerusalem and the West Bank point to an additional dangerous dimension to the conflict which reverberates far beyond the region.
The Secretary-General calls for political leadership and courage on both sides to take actions to address the very tense situation in Jerusalem. All sides must avoid using provocative rhetoric which only encourages extremist elements. In this regard, the Secretary-General welcomes President Abbas’ condemnation of today’s attack.
The steadily worsening situation on the ground only reinforces the imperative for leaders on both sides to make the difficult decisions that will promote stability and ensure long-term security for both Israelis and Palestinians.”
The UN couldn’t spare more than two sentences on the murders of rabbis before turning to blame Israel for the underlying situation. What’s more consider:
- The murder happened in Jerusalem, not “West Jerusalem”
- It was called an “attack,” not a “barbarous murder” or “brutal crime” as labeled in France
- It occurred in a “synagogue,” but not “a sacred place of worship” with “values of compassion and tolerance”
- The four rabbis were not mentioned by name, nor was the name of the synagogue as it was for the priest in France. Were these people or just part of the faceless “occupying power” according to the UN?
- The murderers were not called “terrorists” as they were in France. Somehow, the entire brutal attack on innocent civilians was turned by the UN into a battle between “Palestinian youths and Israeli security forces”
Jews around the world were appalled by the killing of the priest. Hearing the story reminded them of daily terror Israelis face by fanatical Palestinian Arabs. Listening to how the priest had to kneel before his throat was slit, recalled the incident of the Wall Street Journalist reporter Daniel Pearl who was told to describe his Jewish faith before Islamic terrorists beheaded him in 2002.
The tragedies leave lasting wounds and ongoing sadness beyond the heinous act. Jews not only see a world where the innocents are slaughtered; they repeatedly receive a fraction of the compassion and care that their companions in the foxhole receive.
Alemtzev is a concoction of two Hebrew words: “heet’alem” which means “ignored/ passed over”, and “e’tzev” which means “sadness.” Such is the situation for world Jewry today. A profound sadness for the suffering of innocents. A profound loneliness that the world barely cares.
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