Guards at Jewish Schools, Young Jewish people on alert, and little was said when the Lindt Café siege took place, as to why Australian Jewry went into lockdown.
Avi Lewis of the Times of Israel alerted the world that Jewish schools across Australia sent students home in the wake of the siege hostage crisis where a gunman took multiple people captive.
Just after 2.00am the following morning, Tuesday 16 December Police raided the cafe. the gunman and two of the hostages were killed.
Jewish institutions across the country were “in lockdown” on that Monday, cancelling excursions and maintaining strict security measures, explained Avi Lewis. He went on to say that a secretary from one of Sydney’s largest Jewish day schools told The Times of Israel that pupils were discharged home for the afternoon as a precautionary measure.
She spoke on condition of anonymity as she was not authorised to comment and asked to keep the name of the school under wraps as well over security fears. Likewise in Melbourne, Jewish schools sent their students home, tightening security measures while leaving small cadres of teachers and staff on school grounds.
The Jewish community was “in a level of extreme alert” and viewed the unfolding crisis with caution”, said Vic Alhadeff, CEO of the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies — the umbrella group representing Jewish organisations across NSW.
“We share enormous concern with all Australians in regards to what is taking place” he told The Times of Israel, and added that the Jewish community stands in solidarity with the victims of the cafe attack. “Never before has it happened in Australia that over 30 people have been held hostage at gunpoint,” he said.
Jewish Community Security Group, CSG, instructed selected Jewish institutions to bolster security and deployed additional resources in response to Monday’s incident. Jewish-owned businesses were told to operate normally, albeit with higher awareness and attention.
Australia’s Jewish population numbers over 100,000, almost evenly split between Melbourne and Sydney, with smaller Jewish communities scattered across the country.
The Jewish experience
This has been the Jewish experience for centuries. Whenever such a crisis happens, all to often the Jews become - the culprits, get the blame, are the source of such evil in the community – the Old Testament is replete with such experiences, I hardly need list them.
The Pogroms from England in the 13th century, to those in Europe and Russia throughout the centuries, the story is the same, and perhaps best displayed cinematically with the feature film “Fiddler on the Roof”. It never made any sense other than as a political weapon and finding someone or people-group to blame.
In my DVD library I have the series 'Winds of War' where Professor Aaron Gastraw's advice to Natalie Henry his niece, when at the Coliseum in Rome, considering an offer to board a Turkish rated ship heading to Palestine – that the Jewish peoples have a long history of this. He explained that what she was proposing was illegal, the Jewish survival pattern has been to keep your head down, give the authorities nothing for which they could condemn, and above all, keep quiet, become invisible.”
That wasn't possible when the Nazi's Jewish policies were enforced in Poland where 3 million Jews were murdered (in various ways). It wasn't possible in Eastern Europe and the USSR as the Nazi's spread their invasion tentacles, and then after the war in the USSR itself.
But who spoke up for the frightened Australian Jews on Monday 15 December. What Government police force or Government authority sent out emergency calls to ensure our nation's Jews were safe and secure?
Here's a question
Australia’s Muslim's community's Grand Mufti condemned the Lindt Café siege and visited the site the days after the siege came to an end, Tuesday 16 December. Has anyone challenged Grand Mufti Ibrahim Abu Mohamed - as this was the same person that sent a statement to the Federal Senate in October last year claiming that new anti-terror laws inhibited his religious freedom. Was there any Jewish leader claiming such nonsense.
Paul Kelly writing in The Australian on 20 December wrote in part: “Attempting to ignore the ideology of a gunman obsessed by ideology is a false construct that treats the public as fools...
“...University of NSW strategic expert Alan Dupont tells Inquirer: “The Lindt cafe tragedy in Martin Place is likely to have profound and enduring consequences, hardening public attitudes towards terrorism and reinforcing the perception that government has been too permissive in allowing people like Haron Monis to exploit the tolerance of a lax system which seems to privilege the rights of abusers over those of law-abiding citizens...
“...Dupont tells Inquirer he believes judicial, immigration, social security and bail provisions must all be assessed... Any attempt to remove this tragedy from its ideological and politically extremist context is dishonest and irresponsible... “
Walk beside the Muslim and the Jew
Yes, I concur with the sentiment that swept the nation to walk beside (down the street) any Muslim person who is fearful of any backlash. There was this spontaneous outpourings of support, like the #illridewithyou Twitter tag. The hashtag appears to have come from a Facebook post from Rachael Jacobs who was riding on a train, and noticed a Muslim woman quietly take off her head covering. In her post she said: “I ran after her at the train station. I said ‘put it back on. I'll walk with u’.”
But who was standing up to walk beside the Jewish children going to school, who was standing up to walk beside the Jewish mothers walking their prams with their babies as they shopped?
CNN recently ran a panel where Bridgitte Gabriel exclaimed that the silent majority were irrelevant when the Nazi leadership took power, the silent majority were irrelevant in the USSR when Stalin took power …. listing historical situation one after the other, including 9/11 where the silent majority of American muslins were totally irrelevant when 19 terrorists brought down the Twin Towers and bought America to its knees.
Lindt Café siege was horrific. The ideology wasn't a Jewish one. The ideology wasn't a Christian one. If Australian Muslims claim it's not their ideology, but as Andrew McLeod Visiting Professor at Kings College London says, “we need to welcome in the moderate Muslims so that the ‘us’ versus ‘them’ concentric circle includes all moderates against all extremists. If we fail to do that then we push the moderates into the extremists’ arms. If that happens, we will lose.”
How might this be achieved?
Currently our Government says there are 90 Australian young Muslims have gone to the Middle East to flight with ISIS. The horror of ISIS burning the Jordanian pilot alive last week must be a wake up call for Australia Muslims sympathetic to that politic. So certainly identifying those within their community “brandishing radical ideology” might be a start - this require mum's and dad's, uncle's and aunt's, family friend's – engaging in some serious dobbing-in for their own security and that of the nation. Also let the authorities know of those “wanting to head overseas and flight with ISIS”.
Mastafa Akyol writing in the New York times says the issue lays at the feet of its own leaders: “Wise Muslim religious leaders from the entire world would do Islam a great favor if they preached and reiterated such a nonviolent and nonoppressive stance in the face of insults against Islam. That sort of instruction could also help their more intolerant coreligionists understand that rage is a sign of nothing but immaturity. The power of any faith comes not from its coercion of critics and dissenters. It comes from the moral integrity and the intellectual strength of its believers.”
(Mustafa Akyol is a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times and the author of “Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty.”)
Friends, it's nothing to do with Christians not loving our neighbours. Multicultural societies require the same weight of responsibility exercised by all. And what a joy in the Lord as a Christian minister to have with pleasure, a person on each arm, one who happened to be a Muslim, and the other who happened to be Jewish. This was my experience when elite athletes visited the respite facility in Moruya in those remarkable 14 years as part of my sport ministry.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand. Dr Mark Tronson’s Press Service International in 2019 was awarded the Australasian Religious Press Association’s premier award, The Gutenberg. In September 2020 Summer Moore presented her commission portrait of Dr Mark Tronson holding the Gutenberg plaque. The above photo is the upper part from this portrait.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at: http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html