Mourning and Celebration

I woke up at 4.45 this morning to get ready to head to the BBC studios to give my Pause for Thought. I glanced at facebook on my phone, and the first status, from a friend in the US, looked like a joke. 'Bin Laden dead'. As I scrolled down it was repeated again and again... on went the radio, and yes, it seems to be true. It seemed even more unreal after reports yesterday that one of Gaddafi's sons had been killed in Libya.

I had been warned when I started Pause for Thought that when big news breaks I may need to do last minute re-writes, and I assumed this would be one of those occasions, so out came a pen and I jotted down a few notes. When I got to the studio, the mood was very different - it's bank holiday, we're not focusing on the news. I was surprised, but then Vanessa Feltz pointed out it's a risk to speak about something quite so soon after it is news, especially as things often change. So I write this with caution...

What struck me after my facebook and twitter rambles was the mixture of responses. Many seemed amazed, joyous, and the throngs in Washington gathering outside the White House certainly have reason to be. But some responses are more measured, and I think this is wise. On my last Pause for Thought, and on a recent blog post, I told the story offered in a Midrash of God chastising the Angels for celebrating at the suffering of the Egyptian army in the Reed Sea (Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 39b).

While it is understandable that those who have lost loved ones to terrorist violence will want to celebrate today, it is not a Jewish response (certainly not MY Jewish response) to celebrate at the defeat of an enemy. It is a time for us to reflect, on the thousands of lives lost, both soldiers and civilians, and in particular the thousands of victims of terrorism in Pakistan, who are so often ignored by us in the West. I hope and pray that more lives will not be sacrificed or murderously taken. As we approach the 10th anniversary of 9/11, we remember those lives lost and the shock so many of us felt at watching the attack unfold before our eyes. It is yet to be seen if the world is safer today because of Bin Laden's death. In the (paraphrased) words of Pirke Avot (Sayings of the Fathers 2:21), it is not our duty to complete the work, but neither can we refrain from it - we must all continually strive for peace, and a world where all are safe and secure. Perhaps we will not see it achieved in our lifetime, but those who say it cannot be done, shouldn't stop those who are doing it.

Too many innocent lives have been lost, in the US, in the UK, in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq...... let us remember those lives, rather than celebrate the demise of one, and hope no more must be given, or taken.

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  1. My thoughts too.
    We are in DC at the RAC and went to the white house to see the reaction of the crowds. Wrote about it at Http://

  2. A life is a life, even if it is your enemy's. To celebrate the loss of a life seems absolutely obscene. Just my two pennies.

  3. i am so happy to read this blog. this was my message to my children this morning. i can't help but think, what separates us from "them" if we, too, celebrate the death of an individual.

  4. Thanks all for your comments - Paul the rally sounds very moving, and Beth, it must be very hard to explain all this to kids, but well done you! Sounds spot on!


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