November 1, 1997
Last week Israel's "most-honorable" President, Ezer Weitzmann again opened his mouth and stuck his foot in, as he is so wont to do. In Beit Shemesh on Wednesday Weitzmann told his audience that it's not always worthwhile to read the Bible because not everything written in it is 'sympathetic.' He also had some choice remarks about Moshe Rabbenu - (Moses).
The next day during Kol Yisrael's morning radio show, Shelly YECHemovitch, asked Israeli Chief Rabbi Lau what he thought about Weitzmann's assertion. Rav Lau's answer: "Exactly 60 years ago this week the British Peel Commission, studying the 'problem' of Jewish aliyah to Eretz Yisrael concluded its hearings. One of the major witnesses to testify was David Ben Gurion. (Ben Gurion was not known for his observation of Torah law.) When he finished answering the panel's questions, they asked him one last question before he left. "What is the source of Jewish rights to settle in the Land of Israel?" they queried. Ben Gurion answered with one word: "This." In his hand he was holding up, before the British commission, a copy of the Bible.
When Rav Lau finished, YECHemovitch, as not her wont, had nothing to say.
The problem with Weitzmann's remarks is not only what he said. The next day, in reply to protests made by the religious parties, he apologized if he 'hurt anybody's feelings.' Following the expression of regret the religious politicians immediately announced that they could now support Weitzmann for a second, five-year term of office. (His first term of office is nearly over.)
How can anyone support a man who is willing to publicly say that the Bible shouldn't be read? He didn't retract his remarks; he just apologized for saying them.
About a month and a half ago I was approached to give a tour of Hebron to four Israeli 'border policemen.' One of them lives in a community not far from Hebron. The others are serving in a city in Benyamin. They came in and we spend several hours together. Later we sat down to an in-depth discussion with Noam Arnon. It was fairly obvious that they didn't all lean to the right, but I had no idea as to the results of our meeting.
Last week one of these men called me up and told me that he really enjoyed his trip to Hebron and that his eyes had been opened up to 'the other side.' As a result he asked me if I could take him on another tour, with a few more of his friends. I was very busy, but agreed to spend a couple of hours with them. A few days ago they arrived - and we were together for almost four and a half hours. One of the young women, in particular, questioned and commented. Both she and one of the others spoke about the 'historical' conflict between Jews and Arabs. When I pointed out that the conflict is not so much historical, as religious, they were both, more or less, stunned. They told me that this was the first time they had ever heard such an opinion. We spoke for a long time and visited the Jewish neighborhoods in the city. They were, I observed, extremely moved by the memorial room for the Jews slaughtered in 1929. I have no doubt that they left Hebron changed people. No, I'm sure they didn't change all of their views, but they surely had much to ponder.
During the Succot holiday we had tens of thousands in Hebron. I had the pleasure to escort a few of these tourists through Jewish Hebron. Each day at least one person on each of the groups asked, after hearing stories of what is happening in Hebron, and seeing it with their own two eyes, WHY? - How can this thing have actually happened - where is the logic?
I have only one answer: EDUCATION.
Only people who have absolutely no appreciation for Jewish heritage, for Jewish history, for the importance of Eretz Yisrael to Judaism - only people whose personal philosophy can lead them to say, 'it's not worthwhile to read the Bible' - only these people can be willing to relieve themselves of major parts of Israel - of Beit Lechem, of Shechem, of Hebron and yes, even of Jerusalem.
Then, of course, a very good question can be posed: How then, do 'RELIGIOUS' politicians support such policies? The answer is, of course, the same as given above - EDUCATION. Unfortunately, even those who, at least outwardly, are 'observant' forgot, or perhaps never knew, the essentials of Am Yisrael - one of which is, Eretz Yisrael. This is a direct result of our 2,000-year galut - exile from the Land of Israel.
Last week Prime Minister Netanyahu told Rav Kaduri that the Israeli left has forgotten what Judaism is. He is correct. He didn't say that they are not Jewish - he acclaimed that they don't know what being Jewish means. What he doesn't realize is that he too, falls into the same category. Only a leader who has absolutely no understanding of Judaism could give Arafat 80% of Hebron, or agree, for that matter, to give him, or anyone else, any land area in Israel.
Tonight Foreign Minister David Levy, one of the people responsible for rebuilding The Jewish Community of Hebron, is leaving for Washington to renew negotiations with Arafat's cronies. He is going to discuss opening a new Arab airport in Gazza, freezing Jewish building in Judea and Samaria, and implementation of the next stage of 'further redeployments.' According to news reports tonight he will agree 'temporarily' freeze Jewish building if Arafat will agree to forgo the next staged abandonment of parts of Israel. Arafat will, no doubt, refuse. The American 'partner' is going to attempt to force an agreement calling for continued Israeli concessions. Levy may very well fold.
It's time we realize that the questions facing the Jewish people today are not really 'who's left.' At least, not in the political sense of right and left. Today the questions center around 'who is right - and who is wrong.' Are we going to live 'Jewishly' in Eretz Yisrael, according to, even as Ben Gurion realized, the right we have from time immemorial?. Or, are we going to let the nations of the world, who sat by and watched while six million were shoveled into ovens half a century ago, dictate our fate to us? That, of course, depends on us. If we know who we are, we have no uncertainty as to the proper decision. The time has come to realize that this generation is 'who's left.' All of us - together. And it is time to start moving in the right direction.