In her letter (Dec. 9) commenting on a review of my book, “The Unmaking of Israel” (Dec. 2), Karen Stahl-Don compares me to the 10 spies of the Torah. I confess my bemusement.
After coming to Israel 34 years ago to study Torah, I chose to stay and have raised my family here. My book expresses confidence in Israel’s ability to cope with external enemies and advocates vigorous defense of its democratic character. Writing from Riverdale, Stahl-Don, in her letter, expresses the same panicked fear of Israel’s enemies (“We looked like grasshoppers to ourselves, and so we must have looked to them,” Numbers 13:33) that caused the Israelites to declare, “Let us head back to Egypt.” I suggest that she read the Torah more carefully and the current problems of Israel with less fear.
As to Ms. Stahl’s specific points: In my book, I indeed advocate ending the hesder yeshiva program, an unhealthy partnership of the military with right-wing religious institutions — some of whose leaders have encouraged insubordination on political grounds. I stress that Israel must continue to accept Jewish immigrants, but indeed argue that the attitude of “negating the diaspora” behind efforts to convince Jews to make aliyah is outdated. And yes, I argue that a theology making West Bank settlement into a central article of faith warps Orthodox Judaism. Only utter unfamiliarity with Israeli society and debate could lead Ms. Stahl-Don to label these positions as “radical views.”
Since Ms. Stahl-Don signs her letter as “Chair, Israel Action Committee of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale,” I must ask whether it represents the views of that congregation, or only her personal opposition to a vibrant debate of Israeli policy. I trust the latter is the case.