'Occupied' Rabbis?

The meeting didn't set off alarm bells.

Yisrael Medad,

OpEds Yisrael Medad
Yisrael Medad
צילום:
The dogma of infallibility is just not Jewish. Unlike in Catholicism, the decisions and opinions of rabbis are not preserved from error, especially when rabbis venture into the world of politics and diplomacy. In fact, more often than not, their behavior is quite fallible
The statement was not agreed to by Rabbis Amar and Metzger.
and foible-full.

On November 7, two Chief Rabbis of Israel, Yonah Metzger and Shlomo Amar, and one former Chief Rabbi of Ireland, David Rosen, convened together with Muslim sheiks and church priests in Washington, DC. The occasion was a meeting of a new creation, the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land. A joint statement, a result of this new inter-religious working relationship, was issued and widely publicized.

Rabbi She'ar-Yashuv Cohen, Haifa's Chief Rabbi, who attended the meeting, claimed that the statement was not agreed to by Rabbis Amar and Metzger.

What was the agenda of the conference? As one participant put it, "The Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land hopes it can serve as a new platform for the region's moderate voices." The person uttering these words was Salah Zuhayka, Assistant Secretary of Islamic Endowments for the Palestinian Authority, the Waqf. The Waqf, if the rabbis didn’t know, is not at all moderate, but is actually quite extremely anti-Jewish. It is the main body responsible for the destruction of Jewish historical archaeological artifacts on the Temple Mount. Zuhayka’s participation is perhaps indicative of the devious intentions at the meeting, which didn't set off alarm bells.

The political, rather than religious, thrust of the convocation was evident in that the group had previously met with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Jerusalem in mid-October. Rice urged them to go to Washington with their ideas ahead of the Mideast peace conference in Annapolis. While in Washington, the delegates met with top congressional members and with State Department officials. It became clear that the leaders were there to offer religious support to Palestinian and Israeli negotiators.

What "support" were our rabbis to provide? Two matters stand out.

There were, as is de rigeur at such gatherings, some nice ecumenical statements about everyone believing in the "one Creator and Guide of the Universe" and that they view themselves as "responsible for using the influence of their good offices to advance sacred values and to prevent religion from being used as a source of conflict."

Getting down to practicalities, they lamented that holy places are a cause of bloodshed when they should remain dedicated to prayer and worship only, places where believers have free access and put themselves in the presence of the Creator. Each religious community should treat the holy sites of the other faiths in a manner that respects their integrity and independence and avoids any act of desecration, aggression or harm.

Were not the rabbis aware that, for the past dozen years, this is exactly what has not
They lamented that holy places are a cause of bloodshed.
been done in and around and below the Temple Mount? Several times, notably in 1990 and 2000, Jewish worshipers at the Kotel have been stoned by quite religious Muslims from within the Temple Mount compound, instigated and incited to those acts by imams and muftis. Are they not aware that the stand of the Chief Rabbinate forbidding entrance anywhere within the Temple Mount esplanade encourages these violent persons to presume that their actions will be "understood," at least in the religious sphere of the conflict?

One element in the joint declaration referred to Jerusalem and reads: "...together reflect on the future of Jerusalem, support the designation of the Old City of Jerusalem as a World Heritage Site, work to secure open access to the Old City for all communities, and seek a common vision for this city which all of us regard as holy."

This is no less than a succinct suggestion that Israel should no longer be the sovereign power in Jerusalem. The Basic Law: Jerusalem reads, "Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel," and many prime ministers have declared over the years that it is also the eternal and undivided capital of the Jewish people. Now, with the approbation of Israel’s Chief Rabbis, the city has been transformed into no more than a cultural site without any special Jewish attachment or value. It has been stripped, with their approval, of all Jewish uniqueness.

Indeed, as the Voice of America report revealingly informed its listeners, "The most challenging problem, the leaders say, is finding an acceptable compromise on Jerusalem, a holy city for the three religions." Are the rabbis perhaps compromising, even, as the Halachic principle has it, l'mar’eet ayin (for appearance’s sake)?

It is, however, the traipsing off into high diplomacy that reveals stark ineptitude on the part of someone in the Israeli delegation. It does not help that Rabbi She'ar-Yashuv Cohen now claims Rabbis Amar and Metzger did not agree to the final version. The declaration had been in the public domain for some two weeks before we heard differently. But first things first.

The inclusion of Rabbi Rosen as a main organizer and mover is a bit odd. He is a founder of Rabbis for Human Rights. This is a group that is vociferously and actively opposed to any Israeli or Jewish presence beyond the Green Line. What type of hechsher did Rabbis Amar and Metzger presume their fellow-traveler possessed to talk about these matters? The proof, then, is in the pudding, which, despite Rabbi Cohen's protestations, has already been digested.

Here is that portion of the official statement relating to Israel and those areas of its historic and Halachic homeland:

"We, believers from three religions, have been placed in this land, Jews, Christians and Muslims. It is our responsibility to find the right way to live together in peace rather than to fight and kill one other. Palestinians yearn for the end to occupation and for what they see as their inalienable rights. Israelis long for the day when they can live in personal and national security. Together we must find ways of reaching these goals." (my italics - YM)

What does that mean, "we have been placed"? Did God do the placing? Did the seventh-century Islamic conquests and the eleventh century Crusaders execute the "placing"? And of what "occupation" are we talking about? Of the occupation of the historic Jewish homeland by Arabs from the Hejaz peninsula? Signatories or not, what did Rabbi Rosen
David Rosen has succeeded in trapping the Chief Rabbis into a semantic ambush.
have in mind when he presented this document that recognizes the Israeli presence in Judea and Samaria as "occupation"?

It would seem that David Rosen has succeeded in trapping the Chief Rabbis into a semantic ambush. Why couldn’t Rosen have composed something like "Palestinians yearn for their own sovereignty" instead of "an end to occupation"? Let them yearn for anything they want, but to brand Israel's presence in its historic homeland as "occupation" is a political stand, not a faith-based one.

The rabbis have failed or, at the very least, I do think someone erred in trying to affix the signatures of the two Chief Rabbis of Israel to the document of the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land.

Secretary of State Rice encouraged the organizers to have their conference dovetail (pun intended) with Annapolis. The document aids her in her efforts to wrest Jerusalem and more from Israel. The rabbis should have stayed clear and they should have used the good offices of some other advisor than Rabbi Rosen. He may have been knighted by the Pope, but we need rabbis of Jerusalem, not of Rome.




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