‘A land that devours its inhabitants’?

Three acts of infanticide have come to light within a single week in Israel, shocking a nation that, by all accounts, is not easily shocked. Just days after a man confessed to “accidentally” killing his granddaughter and tossing her body into the Yarkon River, one mother strangled her child and another drowned hers in a tub of water.

The unnatural suffering of three little four-year-olds at the hands of their mothers (and grandfather) has dominated the nightly news, the morning headlines and the afternoon talk radio shows. What are they saying? The chatter is following the usual pattern: how terrible these acts were, how shocked the neighbors are, how the kindergartens are grappling with the question of what to tell the other children.

Then comes the low point. This bizarre killing spree has engendered the kind of speculation in which this country’s citizens love to engage: the extremely self-critical, disproportionately self-loathing kind. Is our society rotten, headlines ask? Has our moral fiber crumbled? Is our sense of community lost? Is Israel, like the Biblical calumny says, “a land that devours its inhabitants?”

In a word, no.

While each of these cases is stomach-turningly appalling and utterly incomprehensible, they are, unfortunately, not specific to Israel. Every year, in practically every country in the world, such stunning acts are repeated.

(cf: hostage children in Austria and Germany, murdering mothers in America, the Palestinian “horse boy,” etc.)

What’s more, the Israeli cases, like most of those from around the world, were not easily foreseeable. These are acts of insanity — deranged, but cold and almost gentle acts, not wild and furious outbursts the signs of which become apparent over time. Madness, not “society,” is to blame.

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