As long as this horrendous phenomenon was just contained to Israel people were able to claim that suicide bombers were just groups and individuals who had lost all hope and out of extreme desperation resorted to killing others with explosives attached to their bodies.
Because of the pervasiveness of this sort of violence this argument is now defunct. However the truth is that it should have never been given any credibility in the first place, and its premise shows a fundamental ignorance of both the possible causes of suicide and radical Islamic society.
The Werther Effect or copy-cat suicide, where when one often famous person in a community commits suicide and others follow is well known. Other studies have also shown that when this happens in a community suicide can become trivialized and youth will begin to look upon it in an experiential or recreational manner (Rubinstein, 1983). This then causes the suicide rate in a community to go up dramatically.
In Judaism, suicide is forbiddenIn his best seller, The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell calls this phenomenon, “suicide epidemics.” It is particularly prevalent in Micronesia where the youth suicide rate is seven times higher then that of the USA, The point Gladwell makes is that people will do things that are potentially fatal simply because they are deemed to be cool. Epic and dangerous expeditions are a good example of this: people are willing to risk their lives in pursuit of fame, glory and notoriety. Suicide bombers just take this concept one step further.
Judaism takes steps to avoid suicide epidemics. It has always viewed suicide as forbidden; in fact scriptures see suicide as comparable to murder and punishable by heaven. Thus Jewish sources state that metaphysically the soul of a person who committed suicide never finds any peace in the afterlife and their body cannot be buried in the cemetery together with everybody else.
Judaism categorically removes all the potential desirability of suicide: it brings only shame and disgrace in this world and creates aggravation for the soul in the world to come. In fact research has shown that within the USA those states that have higher percentages of Jews have lower suicide rates.
The doctrine of the suicide bomber and the barbaric type of society they are raised in do the exact opposite—they engineer suicide epidemics.
Suicide bombers become heroes
In the Palestinian territories summer camps, public squares and streets are named after suicide bombers. Suicide bombers are idolized, glorified and immortalized in these societies. Furthermore, afterlife for a suicide bomber is infinitely rewarding with pleasures of the flesh on offer more than could ever be imagined in this world.
In addition their families are proud of them. And families of suicide bombers also receive stipends from generous donors – such as Iran, the Palestinian Authority and others – who admire what their children have done.
So the suicide bomber becomes a hero to his community — an all round enticing option for many teenagers. If a suicide epidemic could take hold in Micronesia just by being trivialized as cool by teenagers it is obvious that such an epidemic will take hold of a society which glorifies suicide bombers and makes heroes out of them.
Over the past ten years this deadly suicide epidemic has spread from the Palestinians to other parts of the Arab and Islamic world and has killed innocent people all over the globe. Like all other epidemics where it will spread to next is unpredictable and stopping it is a difficult, maybe impossible, task. However let us please call it what it really is: a killer epidemic spawned from a tragically erroneous world view. Not an act of desperation.
Rabbi Levi Brackman is executive director of Judaism in the Foothills and the author of numerous articles on a whole range of topics and issues, many of which can be found on his website