An admission: My family sold our house to Muslims. It was more than 30 years
ago, in England, before we made aliya. At the request of the Pakistani family
who moved in, I left the poster of Jerusalem on my bedroom wall. I took with me
the picture of Masada and the anti-PLO billboard.
I immediately joined a
Bnei Akiva Nahal garin but soon decided it wasn’t for me and requested a
transfer into a regular IDF unit. “You’ll be eaten alive,” garin members warned
me. But I wasn’t concerned. When you’ve grown up in a not particularly Jewish
neighborhood in London and studied at a non-Jewish school, you learn how to get
on with all types of people and explain the rules and wonders of
My first army posting was indeed a test of faith, but not in the
way most had predicted. The IDF placed me in the military government on the
Golan Heights. One Friday night I looked around at the soldiers collected in the
dining room and realized there was not a Jewish male in sight. “Don’t worry,
Liat. If you give us your little book, we can make the bracha,” offered a Druse
officer and gentleman. How do you tell a Middle Eastern man of any faith that a
woman can make kiddush for herself, without hurting his ego? And how to explain
that I couldn’t even drink the wine he wanted to pour, let alone consider it
sanctified? The letter by the group now known as “the rabbis’ wives” – like the
proclamation by the rabbis against renting or selling an apartment to non-Jews
before it – hit a raw spot with me.
Growing up with, serving with,
working with and occasionally socializing with Muslims and other non-Jews has
not placed my mortal soul in danger. In fact, as my wise mother told me during
my teens: “Don’t think that just because someone is wearing a kippa, it means
he’s a nice Jewish boy.”
As writer Yair Lapid pointed out in his column
in Yediot Aharonot
last week, there is something very flawed about these letters
which exhort against “the other,” the Arabs. “After all, they could have
explained to their girls that they are part of the most beautiful story in the
world,” wrote Lapid – a story that includes the Torah and Talmud. Instead, they
chose to warn that the bogeyman would carry them away to their villages “and
curse, humiliate and beat them.”
“The letters are insulting,” declared
Lapid, not only to the non-Jews who are besmirched in them, “but also to anyone
who thinks that Judaism represents beautiful values which are more important
than xenophobic hatred.”
Instead of strengthening the pride of the young
Jewish women in their own identities and heritage, they opted for instilling
fear – more fear. Incidentally, I have yet to hear of the Muslim family which
was delighted by the news that its son had fallen in love with a Jewish woman,
and I’m far from convinced that the Arab world has decided to fight the Jews by
marrying their womenfolk one by one.
The rabbis’ letter concerning
Jewish-owned property is equally perturbing.
Refusing to rent an apartment
in Safed to an Arab social-work student or nurse might make a certain type of
person feel good, but if the point of the letter was to indicate that Arabs are
buying Jewish land and property, it missed the mark.
Indeed, it deflected
attention from where it could serve a purpose.
While Israelis were
looking at the small numbers of Arab students and workers seeking (mainly
temporary) housing in Galilee, they all but overlooked what could have been the
biggest real-estate story in the region concerning its long-term
Palestinian businessman Basher al- Masri has been bidding
to buy out the debt-ridden Digal Company, which is building the 400-apartment
Nof Zion complex next to Jerusalem’s Jebl Mukaber neighborhood. Nof Zion was
marketed as an up-and-coming, nationalreligious Jewish area, not the next major
development project of Masri – who is also behind the construction of Rawabi,
the town near Ramallah offering homes for middle-class Palestinians.
incidentally, Masri is insisting that companies involved in building Rawabi
commit in writing that they would not use any products from “settlements,”
including east Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. Coexistence has its limits on
both sides, apparently.
This one businessman – a Palestinian version of
Baron Edmond de Rothschild – unknown to most Israelis almost became the person
with the greatest impact on determining the future borders of Jerusalem and a
future Palestinian state.
Last week, it was announced that Jewish
entrepreneurs, including supermarket mogul Rami Levy, had succeeded in
countering Masri’s bid.
THE FOREIGN funding of purchases of land is the
focus of one of the Knesset committees of inquiry being demanded by Israel
Beiteinu, although it was overshadowed by the proposal for the Knesset to set up
a committee to investigate the sources of funding of NGOs identified with the
You’ve probably heard of that proposal.
You were certainly
meant to. A committee of inquiry is, after all, largely declarative. It has no
real means of implementing its findings and there is no guarantee that the
groups in the spotlight will even agree to cooperate with the investigation –
except, of course, that it would give them massive free publicity.
ministers Bennie Begin, Dan Meridor and Michael Eitan, as well as Knesset
Speaker Reuven Rivlin, were among the many who pointed out that a parliamentary
committee is not the right place for such an investigation.
not the Knesset, should investigate suspected illegalities – as Israel Beiteinu
head Avigdor Lieberman of all people must know by now, after a decade of what
the British politely call “helping the police with their inquiries.”
of course, there are already other organizations, such as NGO Monitor, which
examine the issue of funding.
No wonder Israeli commentators have been
struggling to pronounce the word “McCarthyism.” This is not just a slippery
slope; it’s a slippery slope with land mines.
Defending the committee of
inquiry, Lieberman accused the NGOs of “collaborating with terrorists” and
declared right-wing ministers and MKs who opposed it “traitors to the national
On a roll, Lieberman and his MKs have more declarative legislation
in the pipeline, including a proposal that would ban Arabs from living in Jewish
Which brings us back to the unholy letter of the rabbis. At
the moment, it’s hard to tell who’s causing the country greater harm both at
home and abroad: the leftist groups championing human rights (but largely
ignoring the rights of Jews); the rabbis and their spouses more intent on
attacking the non-Jews than educating their own children; or the foreign
minister probing NGOs for political gain.
They all have an
“I can’t figure out whether you’re right-wing or left-wing,” a
reader recently told me, ignoring the possibility that I could be anywhere in
the very wide space on the spectrum between the two.
Having a herd whose
members don’t think for themselves is handy if you happen to be looking after
goats, but it’s not healthy in a democracy.
I just share my opinions.
You’re free to agree or disagree – thank heavens.The writer is editor of
The International Jerusalem Post.