Melchior leads Sternhell solidarity visit

Senior Tzhohar rabbi: "Terrorists" who threw pipe bomb at professor "devoid of all Jewish morality."

September 28, 2008 22:27
2 minute read.
Melchior leads Sternhell solidarity visit

melchior 224.88 aj. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)


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A group of dovish rabbis and academics visited Prof. Ze'ev Sternhell Sunday at his home to denounce an apparently ideologically motivated pipe bomb attack against the left-wing professor. The contingent of moderates, all affiliated with the religious Meimad Party, was headed by MK Rabbi Michael Melchior (Labor-Meimad). "This despicable, criminal act is not only a crime against liberalism, democracy and freedom of expression," said Melchior. "It is also a desecration of God's name since the immoral people who perpetrated it said they were acting in the name of Judaism." Various religious Zionist groups have taken turns staging public condemnations of the attack, purportedly perpetrated by extreme right-wing religious fanatics. Last week Tzohar Rabbis, an association of modern Orthodox, religious Zionist spiritual leaders, issued a statement against the attack. "We express out abhorrence for the violent act directed against Professor Sternhell," said the statement. "We as an organization created after the assassination of [Prime Minister Yitzhak] Rabin see in this act an affront to the Torah, to halacha and to Israeli democracy and to the delicate balance within Israeli society." Ramat Gan Chief Rabbi Ya'acov Ariel, who is also a senior Tzhohar rabbi, said that "those terrorists do not represent even a tiny portion of the settlers in Judea and Samaria nor do the represent the supporters of the Entire Land of Israel ideal. They are devoid of all Jewish morality." On Thursday, which is also the Fast Day of Gedalia, Ne'emanei Torah Ve'Avodah, a moderate religious Zionist organization, plans to hold a public prayer rally outside Sternhell's home in protest against the attack. Other organizations and educational institutions slated to participate include the Hartman Institute and the Hertzog Institute. Since the assassination of Rabin in 1995 by a young religious Zionist law student, who cited theological reasons for the act, the religious Zionist community has been involved in soul searching about whether the assassination could in some way be blamed on the movement's educational system or spiritual leadership. The diverse religious Zionist movement represents a wide range of political opinions from the dovish Meimad on the Left - which supports territorial compromises for peace with the Palestinians - to the extreme right-wing settler groups who have vowed to oppose, physically if need be, any attempts to dismantle settlements in Judea and Samaria. However, the vast majority of settlers, while holding right-wing opinions, are strongly opposed to using violence in the Entire Land ofº Israel campaign. According to those who were present at the short meeting, Sternhell was visibly touched by the visit. "I am happy that in the government and in the Knesset people understand that there is a serious problem [with right-wing extremists] that needs to be addressed," said Sternhell. "It is impossible to chase down each individual mosquito. You have to dry out the swamp." Sternhell made it clear that he had no intention of caving in to intimidation. "I am no coward. I have clear opinions and I will continue to express them." He has said in the past that settlements are a danger to Israel's ability to develop as a free and open society because they puts nationalistic aims before social and liberal aims. In the epilogue to his book The Founding Myths of Israel he writes, "The only uncertain factor today is the moral and political price Israeli society will have to pay to overcome the resistance that the hard core of the settlers is bound to show to any just and reasonable solution."

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