To see Jews wearing tefillin and wrapped in the tallit lying in pools of blood, I wondered if I was imagining scenes from the Holocaust,” said Yehuda Meshi Zahav, the veteran leader of a religious emergency-response team, describing the straps and prayer shawls worn by the worshipers. “It was a massacre of Jews at prayer.”

The 7 a.m. attack on a synagogue complex that is the heart of community life in the Har Nof neighborhood shattered Israelis’ sense of security and further strained relations with Palestinians at a time of heightened tension and violence. Six people, including a baby, a soldier and a border police officer, have been killed in a spate of vehicular and knife attacks fueled in large part by a dispute over a holy site in the Old City known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount.

Three of the four men killed in the synagogue Tuesday were rabbis, and all were immigrants to Israel with dual citizenship. One was born in England, and three in the United States, including Moshe Twersky, 59, part of a celebrated Hasidic dynasty.

Relatives identified the attackers as two cousins, Odai Abed Abu Jamal, 22, and Ghassan Muhammad Abu Jamal, 32. They were said to be motivated by what they saw as threats to the revered plateau that contains Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock.

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Israeli Shin Bet (internal security) chief Yoram Cohen has rejected claims that Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas encouraged terrorism, bucking the party line established by prime minister Netanyahu and other ministers. Per Haaretz:

No one among the Palestinian leadership is calling for violence, Cohen said, noting that Abbas has reiterated that the path of intifada should be rejected.

“Abu Mazen [Abbas] is not interested in terror, and is not leading [his people] to terror,” he told members of a Knesset committee after the incident. “Nor is he doing so ‘under the table.’” At the same time, however, Cohen admitted that, “There are people in the Palestinian community who are liable to see Abu Mazen’s words of criticism as legitimization for taking action.”

Earlier Netanyahu had said “incitement” by Hamas and the Palestinian Authority motivated attacks on Jews. “This is a direct result of the incitement lead by Hamas and Abbas, incitement that the international community irresponsibly ignores,” he said.

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Netanyahu said the synagogue attack was “a direct result of incitement” led by Hamas and Abbas, “incitement that the international community has been irresponsibly ignoring.”

We will respond with a heavy hand to the brutal murder of Jews who came to pray and were killed by lowly murderers,” said Netanyahu, who summoned his security cabinet for a special session.

Violence in Jerusalem, areas of Israel and the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories has surged in the past month, fueled in part by a dispute over Jerusalem’s holiest shrine.

Five Israelis and a foreign visitor have been deliberately run over and killed or stabbed to death by Palestinians. About a dozen Palestinians have also been killed, including those accused of carrying out those attacks.

Residents trace the violence in Jerusalem to July, when a Palestinian teenager was burned to death by Jewish assailants, an alleged revenge attack for the abduction and killing of three Jewish teens by Palestinian militants in the occupied West Bank.

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George W. Bush knew the threat and countered it. Barack Obama pretended it (1) didn’t exists and pulled out of Iraq and that (2) in Israel, it is Netanyahu’s fault.

Note: The four victims were all rabbis, one born in England and three in the United States, including Moshe Twersky, 59, part of a celebrated Hasidic dynasty.

John Kerry issued a statement, not the president:

“The Palestinian leadership must condemn this,” Mr. Kerry said in London, after speaking by telephone to Mr. Netanyahu, “and they must begin to take serious steps to restrain any kind of incitement that comes from their language, from other people’s language, and exhibit the kind of leadership that is necessary to put this region on a different path.”

If President Obama can put aside his hatred for Netanyahu and who knows who else, he will make a similar condemnation, in person and at length, and soon.

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CNN’s coverage of Tuesday morning’s attack on a Jerusalem synagogue was riddled with errors and questionable assumptions, with the network initially calling it an assault on a mosque and later equating the Palestinian attackers with their victims.

But while broadcasting Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat’s condemnation of the attack, CNN ran a chyron confusing the synagogue with a mosque, implicitly suggesting that the victims were Palestinian Muslims.

The network eventually corrected their error, but then changed their chyron to emphasize the killing of the two Palestinian terrorists by Israeli police – failing to note that the young men were engaged in slaughtering innocent people when they were shot.

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The events of last night, and the silly and vain — but remarkably resilient — argument over what Bill Maher said about Islam, which is our pathetic equivalent of the struggle over here, make it quite clear that the world of the 21st century is not equipped to deal with the politico-religious violence of the 16th century, draped as it is in the trappings of organized monotheism. We don’t recognize its true malevolence, its complete resistance to compromise, its willingness to throw over even the most sacred tenets of the religions in question in order to satisfy its bloodlust. Its motives are unfathomable to us, its implacability terrifying. In watching it, we are in the position of Michael Crichton’s paleontologist, contemplating the hubris behind the creation of Jurassic Park, looking at something ancient thrown together to live again among evolved humans in a modern world. How can we possibly know what will happen?

By the choice of targets, by the alleged motives in question, and by the ex post facto justification offered on behalf of the attackers, this was purely an act of religious war. By the choice of targets, by the alleged motives in question, and by the ex post facto justification of what is surely to come, the response is likely to be purely an act of conventional war, even though there will be a religious undertone to it that nobody will talk about. The response is also likely to be overwhelming. Thus, in the choice of targets, by the alleged motives in question, and by the ex post facto justifications of both sides, the violence will be speaking to the violence in a different language entirely. One cannot solve the other because one cannot understand why the other does what it does. This increasingly seems to be a problem that the modern world is unequipped to solve. The intellectual faculties needed to understand religious violence have atrophied in the west. It baffles us, a T-Rex in the Internet cafe. It baffles us and it goes on.

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