Suzanne Fields

I weep for the dead in Haifa.

I weep for the three generations of the Zer-Aviv family who are with us no more: Bruria, 54; Bezalel, 30; Keren, 29; Liran 4; and Noya, 1.

I weep for the idiocy of Hanadi Jaradat, 27, who blew herself up in a restaurant operated by both Israeli Arabs and Israeli Jews. The Maxim restaurant was a comfortable beachfront meeting place where men, women and children of different religions casually testified to friendship.

The destruction of Maxim's will be recalled years from now as another tragedy punctuating the Jewish New Year, coming between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

This is the time of year when Jews ask for forgiveness and pray for their names to be written in the Book of Life for yet another year. They listen to the shofar, the ram's horn, blasting through to the soul with notes of sacrifice, suffering and hope. The notes express possibility and anguish, recalling life's many tragedies and the need for repentance. We listen to the wail of humankind, a collective howl despising man's inhumanity to man.

But how can this tragedy at Haifa do anything but instill more anger, cultivate more outrage? This was murder timed to occur just after President Bush spoke out against "the fence." It's these savage crimes of suicide bombers that make that fence, ugly as it may be, necessary. The explosion was timed to turn the road map into a dead end. That was and is inevitable as long as Yasser Arafat remains in power.

Jews argue endlessly among themselves, but there is no interpretation of the words of the Torah that could lead children or young adults or anyone else to blow up themselves to kill others. The Jewish emphasis is on life not death, and murder in Judaic teaching never translates into martyrdom.

We are assured by certain Muslims that the suicide bombers - and those who instruct them - find no direction or validation in the Koran. But is that necessarily so?

In a new book, "The Trouble With Islam," Irshad Manji, an Islamic woman, challenges the authority of the Koran and its interpreters who are "uncritical" of what they read and who dominate mainstream Islam with a literal interpretation of the Koran. "We can't be afraid to ask: What if the Koran isn't perfect?" she tells The New York Times. "What if it's riddled with human biases?"


Suzanne Fields

Suzanne Fields is currently working on a book that will revisit John Milton's 'Paradise Lost.'

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