MK’s quake explanation may trigger bigger one for Israel-Diaspora ties

MK Yinon Azoulay (Shas), took the occasion of the quakes to inform his colleagues that Reform Jews “are not Jews.”

July 27, 2018 09:19
2 minute read.
Map of Israeli marks out higher and lower risk areas in face of an earthquake

Map of Israeli marks out higher and lower risk areas in face of an earthquake. (photo credit: COURTESY OF THE STATE COMPTROLLER'S OFFICE)

By California standards, the temblors that struck the Galilee region in northern Israel two weeks ago were barely noticeable blips on the Richter scale.

But the political earthquake they triggered in the Knesset could have far-reaching consequences for the relationship between American and Israeli Jews.

MK Yinon Azoulay (Shas), took the occasion of the quakes to inform his colleagues that Reform Jews “are not Jews.”

What really triggered the Galilee earthquakes?

It wasn’t Israel’s location at the crossroads of three continents or the geological rift below the surface of the Galilee. No, according to Azoulay, the earthquakes were God’s way of chastising Israel for allowing Reform Jews to build an egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall.

Say what?

“Maybe we should do some soul-searching that this earthquake was because someone is trying to touch that which is sacred to us,” Azoulay said from the Knesset floor.

“Hear our pain, they are not Jews,” he added gratuitously.

Standing in the rubble of his own intemperate arguments, Azoulay took it a step further.

Azoulay suggested that Reform Jews, “Take the money you invest in the State of Israel and build a Kotel [Western Wall] in the United States.”

One wonders if he believes the stone that fell onto one of the mixed-gender platforms Monday also received a Divine push.

Now, whether this politician was simply grandstanding or actually believed the nonsense coming out of his own mouth is a matter of speculation. Here’s what’s certain: Disrespecting millions of American Jews is no way to make a Knesset speech.

Azoulay ignores the facts that American Jewish advocacy – influencing the US government to support Israel, supporting thousands of Israeli organizations and rank and file Jews through American Jewish philanthropy – have sustained Israel from its birth, during its wars and in times of peace.

American Jews follow the news like anyone else. The Knesset member’s words reverberate far beyond the borders of the State of Israel.

If American Jews conclude that large sectors of Israel’s populace hold them with contempt, and even suggest that they withhold their contributions and influence, at some point, they will do just that. And everyone will suffer.

Blaming American Jews for earthquakes? A comment like that might be expected from the Russian Duma or even, more likely, Iran’s Majlis. But the Knesset?

It’s always been said that Jews don’t need enemies – we have each other.

Islamist terrorism and mounting antisemitism around the world make our era no less uncertain for Jews than any point in history.

Of course, with lawmakers like Azoulay, who needs external enemies?

The idea that a mixed-gender prayer separated from the traditional prayer areas of the Western Wall could have caused an earthquake is laughable.

But there’s nothing funny about potentially causing the ground to split between one group of Jews and another. That’s an earthquake that we all should be working hard to prevent.

The writer is president of the Ruderman Family Foundation.

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