Melchior: ‘Religion is key to finding a political solution'

The founder of the Israel Civic Action Forum talks to 20 Questions about being an orthodox rabbi on the Left, anti-Semitism in Europe, and the polarization between religious and secular Israelis.

By DEBORAH DANAN
April 22, 2011 14:46
2 minute read.
20 questions

20 questions 58. (photo credit: courtsey)

This week, 20 Questions hosts Rabbi Michael Melchior, a former minister and MK and founder and head of Israel Civic Action Forum.

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One of the issues the ICAF is tackling is making sure that the distribution of the natural gas royalties is fair and beneficial to Israel and its citizens. Rabbi Melchior’s foundation has proposed that of the estimated $450 billion the Tamar and Leviathan fields may garner, 20% should go into the pockets of oil and gas tycoons and their companies, while 80% should be invested in a public fund.

Born in Denmark and serving as Norway’s chief Rabbi for many years, 20 Questions asks Rabbi Melchior his opinion on the rise of anti-Semitism in Scandinavia. Melchior sees a distinct problem with the fact that many of these countries view Israel is an occupying power. But, unlike other European countries such as the UK and France, no Scandinavian governments engage in a debate about Israel’s right to self determination. Rabbi Melchior further added that fighting anti-Semitism demands sophistication, and one must be aware not to classify all criticism against Israel – even unfair criticism – as anti-Semitism.

Rabbi Melchior postulates that the Left and Right in Israel today is completely confused; whereas in the past the notion of a two-state solution was only on the extreme Left’s agenda, today, even the most right-wing government lays everything on the table for debate, including Jerusalem.

Rabbi Melchior does not view being a leftist and a religious Jew as being mutually exclusive. As a religious Jew, he believes that the Jewish people have a belonging to all the land, including Judea and Samaria. “But,” he adds, “you can’t always get you want.” Melchior believes that peace is a Jewish and religious value, and that religion can provide the key to finding a political solution.

Rabbi Melchior criticizes some of the Chief Rabbinate’s handling of conversion issues, adding that during the creation of the state, thousands were converted so as to avoid a situation where people had no status whatsoever.

The polarization between secular and religious Jews, says Melchior, is one of the worse problems facing the country today and must be addressed. Rabbi Melchior believes that if Judaism is not for everybody then it’s not for anybody. He warns against the Jewish nation becoming a hostage of its past instead of using it to build a more united future.

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