Yaakov Neeman is part of Israel''s political mosaic.

He may not be one of the shiniest of pieces in the picture, but he holds a serious position as Minister of Justice.


Be the first to know - Join our Facebook page.


The word apparatchnik entered Hebrew (pl apparatchnikim) from our Russian roots, and refers to a person who has climbed in an organization (government or political party) by serving those who matter, and is likely to be a heavy handed enforcer of the party line. Russian-speaking friends tell me that the word is no more a compliment in Russian than in Hebrew.


Neeman is not an elected Member of Knesset, but was appointed by Prime Minister Netanyahu to serve as Minister of Justice. He has held distinguished positions as head of committees making recommendations for issues of public policy, and the committees overseeing Bar Ilan University and the Bank of Israel. His entry in the English language version of Wikipedia is thin, and may reflect his marginal reputation as something between a holder of power behind the throne, or a nuisance, depending on one''s view. The Hebrew Wikipedia is a bit richer, and shows him to be an attorney who has served academia as well as government. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yaakov_Neeman http://he.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D7%99%D7%A2%D7%A7%D7%91_%D7%A0%D7%90%D7%9E%D7%9F


The Jerusalem Post describes Neeman''s latest foray into the spotlight as a meeting that "shocked a high-profile group of American Jewish leaders" from the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.


According to the Post, the "meeting was short but ended with (Neeman) raising his voice and scolding the Americans." http://www.jpost.com/DiplomacyAndPolitics/Article.aspx?ID=249048&R=R1


In regard to legislative proposals said to be problematic for American Jews, such as an oath of loyalty to Israel as a Jewish State, Neeman said “We will have a majority of non-Jews if not. This is a Jewish state. If you don’t like it, you can move to another country.”


About the controversial compaign of the Ministry of Immigration and Absorption to persuade Israelis living in the United States to return home, he said, "All Jews need to come home to Israel. . . I want them here. A Jew who doesn’t live here in Israel is not doing the most important thing.”


Neeman also reacted against the comment of a Reform rabbi who commented about Jews who do not believe in God.


“Show me a nation that still exists after 2,000 to 3,000 years that was exiled and still exists that doesn’t believe in one nation . . . We existed, and we returned. It is due to the belief in God and that we returned to our homeland. . . . the No. 1 danger (to Jews is) not Iran, but assimilation.”


He went on to cite a San Francisco rabbi for the statistic that 95 percent of marriages in the Bay Area area involving Jews were intermarriages.


According to the Reform rabbi:


"(Neeman) has an inaccurate perception of American Judaism. . . . (the figure he cited about intermarriage in San Francisco is) preposterous and reckless. . . . Our group included leaders representing the diversity of American Jewish life. . . Many of us were shocked by some of the statements Neeman made. Much of what he said was problematic and some of it offended people. . . . (Neeman showed) indifference to the fact that those who work to counter assimilation look to Israel to exert a strong cohesive force. . . .This is undermined by state-supported discrimination against the non-Orthodox streams, which apparently is endorsed by the minister of justice . . . This raised concerns about the ability of top Israeli officials to understand even their strongest supporters in the US.”


I know of no hard evidence that permits a reliable comparison of the attitudes held about one another by  Israeli and Diaspora Jews. Insofar as the United States is the largest and the most politically active of the diasporas, there are surveys and commentaries (i.e., personal impressions) that justify several observations.


Most apparent is a wide spectrum of religious and political postures among both Israeli and Diaspora Jews. Moreover, this is not new. Indications can be found in the Biblical Book of Ezra, the Books of Maccabees that didn''t make it into the Hebrew Canon, and Josephus'' The Jewish War.


Neeman and the American Reform rabbi represent two poles of contemporary Judaism. Even more extreme are the ultra-Orthodox, especially those of the Taliban variety, and Israeli and Diaspora Jews who participate in campaigns to boycott Israel for its offenses against their views of human rights.


Between the ultra-Orthodox and ultra-leftist extremes are some general tendencies.


The tension between Neeman and the Reform rabbi reflect postures that appear mainly between Religious Nationalists in Israel, like Neeman, and Americans who ascribe to non-Orthodox Judaism. If anything represents a prominent polarization of Israeli and Diaspora attitudes toward one another, their views may be it.


A majority of Israelis and American Jews are probably outside of the clusters who feel strongly about such things. Fairly typical is the secular Israeli Jew who views religion as part of the environment, and thinks of American Jews (if he/she thinks of them at all) as distant cousins. Polls suggest that American Jews view Israel as important, but not the most important issue that concerns them. A realistic view of Israel is that it is no longer in imminent danger. Distant cousins living in Israel can look after themselves militarily and economically, and needn''t be at the top of the list for political activism in the Diaspora or the donation of scarce resources.


Just as Neeman may bother American religious Jews for his Israel- and Orthodox-centered views, so American Jewish leaders bother Israelis with their insistance that non-Orthodox Judaism receive better treatment in Israeli. The typical secular Israeli Jew already has enough to worry about in the pressures felt from ultra-Orthodox and Orthodox Jews. He/she is not enthusiastic about another cluster of religious Jews making demands.


About the year 537 BCE Ezra chastized Jews who returned with him from Babylon for marrying women of the land whose pedigrees were suspect. Indications in the book he authored is that many of the offending Jews ignored him, and did not abandon their families as he demanded. (Ezra 10)


Sometime around 167 BCE Mattathias Maccabee saw a Jew who went to offer sacrifice at a Greek altar. Maccabee
"was inflamed with zeal, and his reins trembled, neither could he forbear to shew his anger according to judgment: wherefore he ran, and slew him upon the altar. Also the king''s commissioner, who compelled men to sacrifice, he killed at that time, and the altar he pulled down." (I Maccabees, 2:24-25).


Josephus'' Jewish Wars describes a bloodly conflict in the first century CE between what he called "unrepresentative and over-zealous fanatics" and those who adopted the culture of Rome, and were willing to live under Roman governors. The term for the zealots--sicarii--has returned to modern Israel for ultra-Orthodox toughs who terrorize other ultra-Orthodox for not acting according to their norms.


We have passed through those crises, and will survive the meeting between Yaacov Neeman and the delegation from the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.


The Preacher (קוהלת) is quoted most often on what is relevant (Ecclesiastes 1:9)
מַה-שֶּׁהָיָה הוּא שֶׁיִּהְיֶה וּמַה-שֶּׁנַּעֲשָׂה הוּא שֶׁיֵּעָשֶׂה וְאֵין כָּל-חָדָשׁ תַּחַת הַשָּׁמֶשׁ


That which hath been is that which shall be, and that which hath been done is that which shall be done; and there is nothing new under the sun.





Relevant to your professional network? Please share on Linkedin
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official position or viewpoint of The Jerusalem Post. Blog authors are NOT employees, freelance or salaried, of The Jerusalem Post.

Think others should know about this? Please share