Soul searchings

We have got ourselves into a real 'pickle.'

Sivan Rahav Meir ,

Sivan Rahav meir
Sivan Rahav meir
צילום: עצמי


So both Netanyahu and Rivlin delivered a 'pickles' speech this week. Both speeches caused the opposite side of the political map to feel like a sourpusses, and they both spoke solely to their staunchest supporters.

Rivlin is supposed to be an impartial symbol of who puts the state's interests above politics, but his speech was an even more blistering attack than one would expect from a leader of the Opposition. He accused the democratically elected government of attempting to stage a coup. It is true that there is sometimes a general feeling that members of the present coalition are going a bit too far, that the Likud party, no less, has become like the Mapai party of the early years of the State of Israel in deluding themselves that they 'were born to lead' (at least in terms of declarations and promises, not necessarily in terms of deeds and policy).

Some of Rivlin's warnings are correct, but nevertheless the wider picture is more complex. Large sections of the Israeli public have little faith in the media, the judicial system, cultural institutions and all the other 'gatekeepers' that Rivlin so warmly praised and feel that they are biased. A speech about the 'forces of dark' versus the 'forces of light leaves many of those belonging to the 'dark' camp with a sour feeling toward their President. This is especially true when the President comes from the Likud who on previous occasions did not hesitate to point out the whole host of problems with the media and judicial elites and their bias and who would criticize them for bias and ignoring the will of the electorate.

With Rivlin ignoring half of the country, Netanyahu decided to insult the other half. It is certainly true that he was democratically elected and is a popular Prime Minister both in Israel and elsewhere. He can chalk up many commendable achievements to his credit and it is also true that the media often ignores them and prefers to focus on his dog Kaia's droppings on the sidewalk. Netanyahu won 30 seats in the last election and received a mandate from the people. However, listening to his speeches, you would think that the opposition Zionist Camp didn't win any seats at all.

Well, let us just recall that Bougie Herzog won 24 seats in 2015 and we will have to wait and see if Avi Gabay can lead the party to such a respectable showing. This translates into a huge number of concerned, involved people, who support the Left. Being a Leftie is not a profanity and this camp has the right to protest against the government's policies. They are neither sourpusses nor bitter people, they are dissatisfied and it is their right and duty to offer an alternative. There was no need for Netanyahu to post a picture of him sitting with a jar of sour pickles. He excels at using gimmicks such as the 'dugri', and 'ducks' imagery or his charts of the nuclear bomb at the UN. He would be better off focusing on sending a strong message against Iran and not against Israeli citizens.

In the opening week of the Knesset session, each side of the political map warmly welcomed one speech, and angrily rejected a second one. We have got ourselves into a real pickle.


And on the sidelines, a few items of interest from the week's news.

* Esther Hayut was sworn in as the new chief justice of the Supreme Court. Among all the ideological and weighty issues discussed surrounding the new appointment, I noticed a small item that tells us a lot about the more practical aspect of the legal profession's woes, namely the glut of lawyers flooding the market. In one of the write-ups about Hayut, we are told: "She is the mother of two lawyers by training who do not work in the legal profession: Uri, who works in real estate, and Yossi, a start-up entrepreneur".

* Anne Frank street in Petah Tikva hit the headlines for a short time with news of an embarrassing sign explaining the source of the street's name: "A Jewish girl in Holland who gained international fame because of the diary she wrote". The street sign makes no mention of the Holocaust, the Nazis or her life story. Today's children know that the way to fame is through a reality show, but in the olden days you had to write a diary. The outcry on social media led to an apology from the municipality who promised to correct the mishap immediately.

This small story is symptomatic of a far larger one. The issue of Holocaust denial in the world is often talked about, but the real story is about Holocaust ignorance, even here in Israel. The people who wrote the sign, approved it and hang it up are not anti-Semites, they simply did not know. The real challenge is not fighting Neo-Nazism in the world but making the facts and details about the Holocaust easily accessible to the next generation. Knowledge is power.

* I know that more funds have been invested in reminding us that on November 1st Channel 2 will be split up, but on November 2nd the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration will be commemorated. On this day the British government recognized the right of the Jewish people to a national home in the Land of Israel. The historical event will be marked in Israel, Great Britain and, in contrast, also in the Palestinian Authority. This week's parasha reminds us where this historical movement began.

Avraham is told 'Lech Lecha' 'Go forth'. He is the first Oleh who sets out on a journey and, throughout the years, he has been followed by millions of new immigrants who moved to the Land of Israel with or without international agreement or approval by the Turks or the British. Of course. we would prefer the world to support us and our way, but our connection to this land is not dependent solely on international agreements. Rav Kook's reaction to the Balfour Declaration was: "I do not thank Great Britain for the Declaration, I congratulate her for meriting to publish it".


As we come up to the 22nd anniversary of PM Rabin's murder, here is an aspect of what we can learn from his murder, an idea I had never come across before. Tzuriel Halamish is a student at the Hesder Yeshiva in Ma'ale Adumim who found a recording of a talk delivered by Rabbi Yitzchak Shilat, the Rosh Yeshiva shortly after the murder. I believe that his words should be given wider publicity. At that time there were many calls for soul searching, many discussions about incitement, democracy and the rule of the law. In a talk to his students a few days after Rabin's murder, Rabbi Shilat called for another kind of soul searching:

"We must look into the breeding ground of this Jew and how he came to murder. We must look inward and check what we need to correct. I heard he claimed he felt he had to do what he did based on what the halakha says. What audacity! A young fellow makes his own rulings on matters of life and death, as if he knows what the halakha says. Is there no authority, no Rabbis who make halakhic rulings, anyone can decide for himself on any subject? He totally twisted the meaning of halakhic terms such as 'din rodef (law of a pursuer) and 'the informant'.

What do these terms have to do with a decision made by an elected Prime Minister of the State of Israel? How are they connected to negotiations being conducted by the PM? If we are searching for our responsibility, maybe this is it? We are sending out a message to people that the Torah and halakha have no authority, that everyone follows his heart and does what he believes is correct. This is a failing, a free for all.

A person has to learn, to ask and not to think that he knows better than everyone else. My students sometimes ask me to officiate at their wedding, and I tell them that I would like to but do not feel that I have learnt everything on the subject nor have I mastered all the halakhot about marriage. Then a young man of 26, with a distorted mind and a head full of pride and arrogance, comes along and feels he knows more than anyone else, that he understands halakha better than all the great Rabbis?

Perhaps one of the lessons we can all learn is that we need to have more humility, and listen more often to the truly great people".