MK Tibi writes ‘Dvar Torah’ on Joseph

Becomes first Arab MK to write for Knesset Torah newsletter; implies Jewish Israelis are like “jealous” brothers in Joseph story.

December 13, 2011 15:22
2 minute read.
Ahmed Tibi

Ahmed Tibi_311. (photo credit: Reuters/Mahfouz Abu Turk)


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Torah Tidbits is a popular English-language newsletter on the weekly Torah portion – but what about “Torah Tibi?”

Chakima, the Knesset’s weekly Torah newsletter, printed a Bible lesson by MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta’al) on Tuesday, the first by a Muslim MK.

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Writers for Chakima come from all over the religious spectrum – from haredi to secular – but until this week, the contributing politicians have all been Jewish.

Chakima prints an MK’s or minister’s take on the weekly Torah portion every week, many of which have political undertones, as does Tibi’s, which features a thinly-veiled comparison of Jewish Israelis to Joseph’s jealous brothers.

Tibi explained that he chose to write about this week’s Torah portion, Vayeshev from the Book of Genesis, because it focuses on Joseph, who is not only a pivotal figure in the Bible, but a “beloved prophet in Islam” who is the focus of an entire chapter (Sura Yussuf) in the Koran.

According to the MK’s article in Chakima, Joseph is a “wonderful character” and the ninth prophet according to Islam. The Torah, however, does not describe Joseph as a prophet, but calls him one of the fathers of the Jewish people, a righteous man and role model.

“Discussing the character of Joseph can lead to an argument between religions – Does Joseph belong to Jews or Arabs? – but Islam believes that the Bible was also written by God,” Tibi explained.

He added that the biblical story of Joseph is seen as truth by Muslims, who believe that the Koran’s description enriches the story.

Tibi said one of Joseph’s most admirable traits was his naivete, which could be seen when he described his dream to his brothers, and did not recognize their jealousy.

“However, the cruel reality showed him that he cannot live this way,” Tibi wrote.

“The lesson he learned made him stronger and turned him from a naive child to an important member of Pharaoh's court.”

Tibi then quoted Palestinian national poet Mahmoud Darwish’s poem “I Am Yusuf, Oh My Father,” in which Joseph is a metaphor for the Palestinians.

The poem includes the lines “my brothers do not love me/ do not want me among them, father. They attack me and stone me/ and want me to die” and ends with “it became clear that they are jealous/ what did I do to them, father?” Tibi wrote that he loves Darwish’s poem, and identifies with its message.

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