Baruch Dayan Emet we say on learning of a death: Blessed is the Righteous Judge.
In this instance we say it because of the passing of Rabbi Chaim Druckman, z”l, a leading and much loved Zionist rabbi, who died of corona on Sunday night, at age 90.
Among the great many roles he played, the rabbi was the Rosh Yeshiva (head) of the Or Etzion Yeshiva, and head of, and the most eminent authority serving on, the rabbinical council of the Religious Zionist Party. Previously he was president of the Union of Hesder Yeshivas [yeshivas that combine study and army service] and a member of the National Board of the Bnei Akiva [youth] Movement. The list goes on.
Enormously respected within the religious Zionist world, he will be greatly mourned.
As I write, the government is still in process of forming: deadline January 2. Word is that we may expect that government by Thursday.
Here I want to share one significant observation with regard to what this government will achieve. Those of us on the right, who embrace Zionist ideals, have great hopes for what might be accomplished.
At this point, however, it’s important to caution that we are not going to see a sudden, dramatic shift, with all illegal Arab building taken down as speedily as possible and sovereignty applied to at least part of Judea & Samaria in short order.
What I myself have come to understand – as I have wrestled with my own expectations – is that the changes will be more subtle, establishing a tone that makes even more possible down the road. We will be beginning a new and positive process.
I have been told that recently MK Itamar Ben Gvir, head of Otzma Yehudit, said that he has a list of 75 things he would like to accomplish, and he will be satisfied if he manages to accomplish 25. His approach is realistic, as, undoubtedly, is that of MK Bezalel Smotrich, head of Religious Zionists. These guys are enormously tough and determined, but also pragmatic.
And so must we all temper our own expectations accordingly. What we can expect is that there will be a major shift in the mood of the country. We must watch it, to see how the new situation develops, one goal, one step at a time. If Ben Gvir accomplishes 25 of his goals, this will already be of significant import.
One of the things it is realistic to expect are shifts in policies regarding Judea & Samaria that can bring normalization, i.e, that make Judea & Samaria more like Israel within the Green Line, without actually applying sovereignty. As the rules and policies that apply within pre-1967 Israel (some subtle in nature) are also brought to bear in Judea & Samaria the differentiation between the two regions diminishes. That is what normalization is about. It is a step short of sovereignty, but leads the way.
We must remember that Netanyahu is going to be prime minister, and has his own goals and orientation. Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS), who governs Saudi Arabia, has brought considerable changes and modernization to his country. At present he is drawing closer to joining the Abraham Accords. We are not there yet, but there are negotiations going on. (Netanyahu has been in touch with Riyadh since he won the election.)
A Saudi stipulation for joining would apparently be no Israeli application of sovereignty in Judea & Samaria. (Some media sources speak of annexation, but application of sovereignty is the proper term.) Netanyahu would agree to this. “This [normalization with Saudi Arabia] is a very important goal, because if we have peace with Saudi Arabia, we are effectively going to bring an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict,” he said. Israel’s strength in many fields has attracted Arab states, he explained, putting an end to the “Palestinian straightjacket.”
This is hardly a done deal yet, and requires a good deal of tough negotiating to bring it forward. Some critics are uneasy because the Biden administration would be involved. This involvement carries with it a great many negatives. Astonishingly, Nahum Barnea reports that, “The Saudi Crown Price is ready to avoid the question of the territories, but the Democrats in Washington have their own agenda.”
This rings a whole lot of bells, and would require Netanyahu to stand firm in maintaining Israeli independence. This is one place – of many – where the right-wing orientation of members of his coalition will be critically important.
But should this deal go forward, steps toward normalization would still be possible. Already, Netanyahu has agreed, for example, to exert less oversight over Jewish development in Judea & Samaria, which potentially means more progress in Jewish building. And we should see much more as matters progress.
An open letter by over 300 rabbis, publicized by Ron Kampeas of JTA last week, was recently brought to my attention. These rabbis have declared that they will not allow members of the “Religious Zionist bloc” in Israel to speak in their synagogues and will attempt to block their participation elsewhere in their communities.
My first response was that these rabbis are fools, because they are not willing to dialogue with right-wing members of Israel’s government, nor are they open to learning what the Israeli ministers really stand for.
It was my intention simply to address the erroneous statements they make about our new government. And I will come to that below. The misrepresentations are damaging.
But something else, written by Daniel Greenfield (pictured below), requires our attention first. Kampeas referred to these rabbis as prestigious. Greenfield has another take:
“The list [of signatorees] largely consists of anti-Israel clergy, many, if not most of them, also members of the ‘Rabbis for Hamas’. This was a list that Annie of Boker Tov Boulder put together…of leftist clergy who signed a letter urging ‘constructive engagement’ with Hamas…
Greenfield notes names of several rabbis who were on both lists. And one in particular stands out: Melanie Aron, a speaker for the Islamic Networks Group, who was so vociferous in her hatred for Israel that she drove away members of her congregation, Congregation Beit Simchat Torah. She said Kaddish for, and read lists of, Hamas terrorists who had been killed.
When it came to interacting Muslims, Aron was big on “interfaith” dialogue: “…we have struggled with the issue of how ‘pure’ our Muslims partners have to be…If we set the gate too high…we really cut ourselves off unnecessarily from people who are open to dialogue with us. We have found in our very diverse community … that there is more to be gained from participating in broad interfaith efforts than there is to lose.”
So, dialogue with Muslims who support terror, but not with right-wing Jews.
Please! share this broadly as the piece written by Kampeas – which has been seen by many – sets a tone that is not honest.
As to charges within that letter, I want to address just one or two here, because I realize I need an entire posting, or a major portion of several postings, to set the record straight on a host of different issues.
The letter says, according to Kampeas, that the incoming government proposes to “change the Law of Return to keep out non-Orthodox converts and their descendants.”
Not true. What is under discussion is removal of the grandparent clause, which allows individuals who have only one Jewish grandparent to enter Israel as citizens. This is something different. And I support the proposal.
The number of N. Americans who make aliyah based on just one Jewish grandparent is absolutely infinitesimal. It is not legitimately an issue for American Jewry.
Where this applies is in populations to the east, primarily in Russia and the Ukraine. Many of those with only one Jewish grandparent who seek to come to Israel as citizens do so not because of identity with Judaism, or devotion to Israel, but because Israel provides a better life for them. What we have are thousands – tens of thousands – of Russians in the country who care not a whit for what is Jewish, have zero interest in learning about Judaism and Jewish practice. Complicating this is the fact that many of these non-Jews then want to marry Jewish Israelis. As we seek to sustain Israel as the Jewish State, this is problematic.
The situation has been exacerbated in the last year, as there were Ukrainians and Russians seeking to run from an horrendous situation at home who came on aliyah (often utilizing the grandfather clause), received Israeli passports and funds to help get them started in the country, and then departed for elsewhere with passport and money in tow. Not a good scene. Not good to recognize that our generosity has led to our having been used.
I hasten to note that Israel receives refugees from horrific situations, but that does not mean they are citizens automatically or will be permitted to remain indefinitely if the situation in their home country improves. (There is much more to say on this score.) There is also an avenue for non-Jews to apply for citizenship, but it is a process, not automatic by any means.
The letter also says that the new government seeks to “expel Arab citizens who oppose Israel’s government.”
Come on! It’s a question of what “opposing Israel’s government” means, isn’t it? Some of these accusations are so glib and so broad.
This is a free country and supports free speech. Arab citizens have that right to free speech as much as Jewish citizens. There is not going to be wholesale deportment of Arabs!! But if opposing the government means supporting terrorist actions, that is another story altogether. Those who actively undermine the security of our society might – should – be expelled in some situations.
I note the date of this posting, which is just past the 25th. I had thought I would be writing sooner, and so let me assure my Christian friends that I did have you in mind. Hope your holiday was good.
Please see and share “The Death of Christianity in Bethlehem,” by Raymond Ibrahim, a Christian Arab. It is important that people know the truth.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.