For the past several months I’ve been extraordinarily busy with a new project that I am committed to. It has virtually left me little time to opine. However, there appeared in the op-ed page of the Forward this past week (Nov. 9, 2007) a piece co-authored by Tsvi Hersh Weinreb and Stephen Savitsky representatives of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America.
Their article, “We Cannot Forget Jerusalem”, is full of the usual clichés and platitudes reviewing our historical connection to Jerusalem through the ages. Of the eleven paragraphs 9 are a review of that connection and the last two paragraphs are critical of the upcoming Annapolis initiative.
Unlike Weinreb and Savitsky, I’m not taking a position as to the vision of the lack of it in regarding this latest initiative. I’ll leave that up to Israelis who installed Olmert as the prime minister and who allowed him to continue in that office even after the debacle in the summer of 2006. I do however take exception with the incredible temerity and dishonesty expressed by these two Orthodox Jewish bureaucrats. It has always been my position that “galus” Jews have no justifiable right to opine regarding the foreign policy of Israel whether it is regarding the surrender of Sinai, Gaza, the Golan or reaching an accommodation on Jerusalem. And for one simple reason: Only those people who live there, who have invested their lives and the lives of their families there have the genuine right to express their opinion regarding their future. Only the citizens of Israel who live under the constant threat of violence and the promise of peace at a significant price have the right to express their point of view. Those Jews opting to live in the lap of luxury whether it be in America or Europe, free of existential issues forfeit their right to any serious opinion; for they have not thrown in their lot with Am Yisrael choosing to live their Jewish lives vicariously and thus dishonestly.
Visiting Israel once or twice a year, buying an apartment in Jerusalem or sending your children to yeshivot for a year doesn’t earn you the right to opine about Israel’s future. The most stunning display of arrogance however was their statement in the concluding paragraph: “As Jews we are required to defend and rebuild Jerusalem, and if we do not take a stand now, history, and we believe, God himself-will judge us poorly…” Since 1948 Israeli’s have done the “dirty work” of defending and rebuilding Israel. While you sat smugly in your homes, planning your vacations to Israel, millions of Israelis lived the dream and defended Israel with blood. While your kids sat in yeshivot in Israel as though they were in extended summer camp, their Israeli counterparts were serving their country with pride, paying unfortunately, the ultimate price when necessary.
How dare these Jewish bureaucrats tell us what Jews are required to do? They have no monopoly on truth, values and core beliefs. Even within the Orthodox Jewish community there is a plethora of opinion; al achat kama v’kama amongst the other denominations, be they Conservative, Reconstructionist, Renewal or Reform. Furthermore, by what right have they too invoke God. We are all God’s children regardless of our faith tradition. It is precisely because of this myopic approach to religion that there is an almost continuous blood fest resulting either in jihadist or a rather pathetic attempt at understanding God’s will. If you are so convinced as to what is God’s will and the importance of a unified Jerusalem, then you ought to be investing your lives and those of your children in Israel. While I detest radical and fundamentalist Islam at least they have an ideology, albeit warped, by which they are prepared to live and die. What about you-are you willing to die for what you say you believe in?