As fires still blaze across the country, our hearts are turned to those who lost everything to the flames. In cases like this all Israel takes care of one another, at least on the surface.
But if we go deeper, we see the fires of intolerance and the hatred of Jew against Jew are running stronger than ever. They are being fanned by the leadership of haredi politicians and rabbis. When that leadership says that Reform Jews are not Jews, that they are heretics, dogs, and that they are destroying Judaism, it is an incitement to violence. This led to the violence against rabbis, women and children, and to Sifrey Torah at the Kotel, on Rosh Hodesh Cheshvan and it has now led to credible death threats against Reform Jewish leadership.
Sometime, in the early morning hours of Thursday November 24, the Reform synagogue in Ra’anana, Kehilat Ra'anan, was vandalized (now the fifth time) and this time the vandals sent a very direct message to the community and to the Israeli, and international, leadership of the Reform movement. The writing on the synagogue wall was a warning that the spirit never moves from the Kotel and a quote from Maimonides that says it is a commandment to kill a heretic. A knife was left along with three envelopes addressed to Anat Hoffman, the chair of the Women of the Wall (WoW) board, Rabbi Gilad Kariv, the director of the Reform movement in Israel, and to Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism.
The leadership of the Reform movement were singled out because of their involvement in trying to get the Israeli government to implement the Kotel deal that was approved by the government almost a full year ago. The haredi leadership believe that this deal will lead to official recognition that there are more ways to be Jewish and fear a weakening of the strangle-hold they have on all aspects of Jewish life (who’s a Jew, marriage, kashrut, and who controls the holy spaces) and the power of the purse strings that go along with that.
Hoffman responded to the threat by saying: “The extremist who placed the knife with my name on it is getting his inspiration from the fact that Mr. Netanyahu, our prime minister is dragging his feet with implementing the Kotel compromise. The more he drags the implementation, the more the haredim feel they can fight it.”
While Netanyahu, and other political leaders have strongly condemned the attack, the haredi leaders have been noticeably absent. Yesh Atid put out a statement saying: “the people who did this are hate mongers that they have nothing to do with real Judaism. This is an explicit threat to murder and we expect the law enforcement agencies to work quickly and determinedly to find those involved and bring them to justice.”
Unfortunately, controlling haredi crime and violence is not high on the list of government’s priorities. The people who threatened the WoW board after the Sobel decision have never been caught. There are countless images of the violence at the Kotel, where the perpetrators are clearly identifiable – many of them are employees of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation – and no-one has been charged with any crimes. IDF soldiers are repeatedly jumped and beaten in haredi neighborhoods, and this is barely reported as news anymore.
It is really time to say enough is enough and for the control of Jewish life in Israel to be taken away from this band of extremists. It is time for there to be direct elections for Prime Minister and to do away with the coalitions that are bought and paid for to the detriment of most of the population.
It is time to extinguish the flames.