Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman called on the Chabad movement to expand its
indefatigable activities worldwide to include “bringing all the Jews from around
the world here to Israel.”
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Speaking at the Knesset during a Monday event
honoring the emissaries of the hassidic movement stationed in the Former Soviet
Union, the foreign minister noted the revolution the ubiquitous “shluchim” have
brought to a part of the world where, until not too long ago, that kind of
Jewish religious expression and activity was forbidden.
“The messiah must
be on his way if there are so many delegates in the FSU,” he joked.
more serious note, Lieberman spoke of the “amazing things” Chabad does in
bringing Jewish education to Jews abroad.
“There is nothing more
important than Jewish education,” he stressed. “Without us existing as the
Jewish state, there is no point in Israel’s existence. One can live in Moscow,
New York or London – there are enough places in the world,” said the Moldova
native. Only because of this I chose to live here: I want to live in a Jewish
“We existed till now since we knew how to safeguard our
tradition,” Lieberman continued.
“Everyone has a different interpretation
[of] exactly what that means, but regardless, whoever contributes to preserving
tradition is doing an amazing thing. Our central problem as a Jewish people is
the fact that 60-70 percent of Diaspora Jews have no connection to the Jewish
We must do everything we can to ensure that 100% of the Jewish
people are exposed to our tradition.
“But an even greater goal,”
Lieberman continued, “is to not only preserve the Jewish communities in the
Diaspora, but bring them all to Israel.
This is more important than any
foreign aid or diplomatic activity we engage in.
“If we succeed in
bringing all the Jews here, we will be in an entirely different
Being here ensures a bond with Jewish history and
“I hope you join the second part of the Jewish undertaking to
bring Jews to Israel. We want to see all the Jews here in Jerusalem,” he
The foreign minister’s remarks, delivered in the presence of other
ministers, Knesset members, Chief Rabbi of Russia Berl Lazar, heavyweight Chabad
donors Lev Leviev and Michael Mirilashvili, as well as more than 100 emissaries,
were especially interesting taking into account the traditionally non-Zionist
element of the Chabad movement.
Ahead of the event, NGO Hiddush: For
Religious Freedom and Equality distributed to all Knesset members a letter
“exposing the statements of senior Chabad leaders against the State of Israel
Hiddush head Rabbi Uri Regev said that “any Zionist MK with
national dignity should keep away from saluting this anti-Zionist
A spokesman for Chabad, Rabbi Menahem Brod, rejected the
While not denying the statements quoted in the
document by Chabad leaders such as the Lubavitcher Rebbe, he put them in their
“This is an attempt to carry out a battle that
belongs to 60 years ago,” he said. “All of these discussions are
Today, we do not deal with the question of being in favor of
the Zionist movement, or against it.
“The State of Israel is an
established fact. Chabad is part of the state’s institutions, including the
religious educational system. Chabad men serve in the IDF, and take part in all
of Israel’s mechanisms.
“There are issues that pertain to the secular
nature of the state in which Chabad has a different outlook, and that is only
natural,” said Brod.
“The absurd here,” said Brod of Regev, “is that the
body attacking Chabad on the Zionist angle is the Reform movement – the same
body that in the past erased from its prayer books any mention of Zion or
To Brod, the fact that prominent Chabad rabbis had, at the
most recent Independence Day ceremony, attempted to prevent one of their
hassidim, Rabbi Shimon Rosenberg, from lighting a torch in honor of the State of
Israel, could not be evidenced as the movement’s anti-Zionist nature.
Rosenberg’s daughter Rivki and her husband, Rabbi Gavriel Holzberg, were the
emissaries murdered in the 2008 Mumbai attack.
The Chabad rabbinic
leadership, at the last moment, instructed Rosenberg to light the torch, and
Rosenberg changed the wording of the salutational text he recited, dedicating
his act “to the state of the Land of Israel” rather than to the modern secular
State of Israel.
“There was a discussion here around it, there were
different opinions on the subject,” Brod said.
Head of the Knesset’s
Aliya Committee Danny Danon (Likud), who organized the event, saw no problem
with the Israeli parliament honoring the movement.
“Chabad has for many
years done very much for the State of Israel and its citizens, and in light of
our appreciation and gratitude to it, the Knesset decided to hold this
salutational event,” he said.