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The Midrash on the Sunday Times cartoon

 

Reading the many comments on that Scarfe cartoon in the Sunday Times, I think one important one has escaped notice.

 

 
As my good friend, Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald, had written a while ago, in another context, the Passover festival has a special focus, a
 
 
    ...frequent emphasis on children, especially at the Passover seder...the Bible and the Midrash emphasize that the Egyptians singled out the Jewish children for persecution. Pharaoh instructs the midwives to kill all male children. 
 
     
    The Midrash says that Pharaoh, a leper, bathed in the blood of Jewish children, had the Jewish children burned in Egyptian furnaces, and, if the Hebrew slaves failed to produce their quota of bricks, Jewish children were plastered into the walls to fill the gaps
    
 
    The Egyptian strategy was to disrupt Jewish family life and prevent the birth of Jewish children. And, even when Pharaoh (Exodus 10:10) finally agreed to allow the Israelites to worship for three days, he would not allow the children to accompany the adults.

 

As is recorded, the Midrash Shemot Rabbah 5:21, on the verse, "and you caused our savior to be abhorred..." but the Hebrew actually reads: "you caused our smell to become an offensive odor", comments:

 
 
Rav Yochanan said on the verse 'our smell was fouled': from the blows that they were struck, their smell became foul.  Resh Lakish said: from those [children] that they had sunk into the building, they died and their smell became foul. 
 
 
And from 2:5 [9], 
 
 
 
 
Such was the Egyptian oppression the most difficult in the world before the Holy One that He said 'oh how I have seen the poorness of my People'.  And what can be learned from this, that the verb 'to see' is said twice [for emphasis]?  That they [the Egyptians] would dunk the children into the river and then insert them under pressure into the building.

 

That Jews could be portrayed as placing Arabs, adults and children, into a wall being built when that wall is intended to bring Jews security from Arab terrorism, especially suicide-bombers who destroy themselves in their hatred, is to be so upside-down and backwards a reality that it boggles the minds of all humanists, of which the caricaturist is not.  Nor his editor.

 

Scarfe drew his inspiration not from reality but from the dark recesses of anti-Semitism, of hatred, of the blood libel, of the the "blood of the innocents" in that BBC report from Bethlehem a decade ago.

 

This is what the new editor must deal with.

 

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