The Danger To The Jewish Home
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Op-Ed

The Danger To The Jewish Home

Itamar Ben-Gvir, left, and Michael Ben-Ari of the Kahanist Otzma Yehudit party
Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90 via JNS.org
Itamar Ben-Gvir, left, and Michael Ben-Ari of the Kahanist Otzma Yehudit party Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90 via JNS.org

“The love of Israel compels [us to] love every person.” (Orot, 149)

“We should not be carried away by the current of hatred even upon the worst of our enemies…” (Orot HaKodesh, vol. 3, 326)

“He who the light of faith appears upon him in its purity loves all creatures beyond measurements.” (Arpilei Tohar)

It is Rav Kook Zt”l, the great visionary and guide of these past generations, who wrote these sentences. He indeed wrote a great amount about the love of Israel and about Jewish Nationalism, but he always emphasized that these come as the second floor that should be built upon the universal moral basis of love of mankind. “Only upon a soul that is rich with love of creatures and love of mankind will the love of the nation be raised in noble pride.” (Mussar Avicha, 94).

How sad and depressing it is that the heads of Bayit Yehudi and Ichud Leumi, who see themselves as disciples of Rav Kook’s thought, created a covenant – even if it is only political – with disciples of Kahane who support his racist and hate-driven doctrines. True, I think it is incorrect to compare the racist doctrines of Kahane and his students from “Otzma Yehudit” to the abhorrent doctrines of the Nazis (may their names be obliterated) and to their horrifying laws. With that said, are the laws that Kahane promoted, such as separate beaches for Jews and Arabs (including punishment for those who would bathe on a beach that was not designated for them), not capable of shocking us and of reminding us of something from our not-so-distant past? And when these hateful ideas are expressed by Jews who, in their own eyes and in the eyes of those around them, fear God, and when they lean on the words of Torah in a distorted way, is there a desecration of God’s name greater than this?

Is there a desecration of God’s name greater than this?

As someone who sees himself as a part of the Beit Midrash of the Religious Zionist Movement, I am ashamed of the fact that people who praise and admire the murderer Baruch Goldstein, received legitimacy from those who see themselves as students of Rav Kook Zt”l.

I once heard Dr. Michael Ben Ari claim that accusing him of racism and of hatred is a false accusation. However, it seems that the pictures in which he appears at his teacher Kahane’s memorial service with posters saying “Kahane was right” in the background, as well as his participation and his declarations at protests that are full of hatred for Arabs (and left-wingers), speak for themselves.

Meir Kahane. Wikimedia Commons

One claim that has been voiced is that the doctrines of Kahane, Ben Ari and Ben Gvir find their roots in and receive support from the Torah. They often quote verses from Chumash like “Do not leave anyone alive” (that was said regarding the ancient nations of Canaan, and even then, according to Chazal, was not upheld literally). Or another verse that states: “Blot out the memory of Amalek” among others. According to their thinking, those who would claim that today we must stone those who desecrate shabbat could find support for this position in Chumash where it says: “Those who desecrate it should be put to death.” However, in this matter it is clear to all that we are not Karaites, and we have, thank God, the Oral Torah that guides us in the reading and application of the words of the Written Torah in our times.

In exactly the same way, we have an Oral Torah and traditions of Chazal that guide us in matters regarding the nations of the world in general and non-Jewish residents of Israel in our times in particular. This mistaken claim, that connects Kahane’s racist doctrines with our holy Torah, demonstrates vividly the horrible desecration of God’s name that is caused by these distorted doctrines.

I have recently read that Prime Minister Yitzchak Shamir z”l would leave the plenum when Kahane spoke in Knesset. Similarly, Prime Minister Netanyahu was not willing to make room for Otzma Yehudit in his party because the Likud is a respectable party with a tradition of ethics and human rights. However, in the eyes of the Prime Minister, Bayit Yehudi, the party of the Religious Zionist movement, is the appropriate framework to include a Kahane-influenced religious movement that is close to it… It is about matters similar to this that it is written: “Oy for that embarrassment, Oy for that disgrace.” (Bava Batra 75a)

The danger the Bayit Yehudi party faces is also no justification for this offensive collaboration. Far greater and more severe than this is the danger to the Jewishness and moral ethics of Israeli society and, as a result of this, to our Jewish home in the state of Israel, that we received through divine providence in the last generation.

“Zion will be delivered with justice, her penitent ones with righteousness.” (Isaiah chapter 1, verse 27).

Rav Yehuda Gilad is the Rosh Yeshiva at Yeshivat Maale Gilboa in Israel’s Gilboa Mountains.

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