The POSTman Knocks Twice: Reform rabbis; a reforming prime minister

The statement voices support for the survival of Israel. Well dammit, I hate that term. Our survival is not in question.

February 11, 2016 21:45
4 minute read.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the Knesset in Jerusalem

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the Knesset in Jerusalem. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)


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On the major part of a page in Haaretz, (six columns by 15 inches), a few hundred Reform rabbis “from the Diaspora and Israel” recently published a statement in the form of a paid advertisement. The offices of the Reform movement in Israel and the Reform seminaries in the US had nothing to do with the ad, I was told. It is not signed by an organization; there are more names there (in tiny font) than I cared to count.

The statement voices support for the survival of Israel. Well dammit, I hate that term. Our survival is not in question. But never mind. The statement calls for things I might agree with and some I might not; but it uses ugly language to describe Israeli actions in the West Bank. It then repeats the mantra of freezing settlement building, and peace negotiations based on territorial compromise.

Negotiations? Now? Perhaps the reverend rabbis do not know that even the Labor Party has realized that negotiations now are not possible.

My first gut reaction to the ad: Diaspora rabbis – if you cared, you’d be here. Then my head took over, and I thought, “They don’t want to live here, and it’s a free world.”

Second thought: Who paid for this? Who organized it? The text is familiar. Do I not have the right to know who pays for giving me advice? Next thought: These same Diaspora rabbis have a platform of social justice, the overworked slogan is usually “Tikkun olam” (“Repairing the world”). My mind shot back to the Talmudic principle, roughly translated, “The poor of your city take precedence over the poor of other cities.”

You have made the Diaspora your choice of residence. In that case, why have I never seen or heard a group of Reform rabbis castigating the evils in their own countries in almost full-page ads? For example, in the United States, the owners and heirs of Walmart are worth as much as the bottom 40 percent (!!) of the entire American people.

Billions of dollars have been bilked from the US taxpayer by major banks. They have been hit by heavy fines. Who was hit? The banks but not the bankers. How do they get away with it? Where is the moral outcry, rabbis? How about the political system where billionaires and their clients can get themselves elected because America treasures Mammon more than morality. A political system that puts no effective limit on how much a candidate can receive from a single donor.

So rabbis, begin where you live.

And now, from Reform rabbis to the reforms planned by our prime minister.

After a series of boomerang government appointments of unfit people, a special vetting committee was appointed about 20 years ago. It was first headed by the outstanding ex-Supreme Court justice Gabriel Bach, and then by former Supreme justice Jacob Turkel. Over the years the committee has blocked the appointment of candidates for senior national positions for various reasons, ranging from lack of experience or expertise to various moral lapses.

Now our august prime minister has a reform in his pocket. Well, let’s agree that Mr. Netanyahu has not the slightest desire to appoint his unvetted supporters to “jobs.” Nor does he urgently need to bolster his position in his own party. He never has a personal agenda, only what is good for the state. “His” state. Moi! Therefore, he wishes to abolish the Turkel Committee.

No more vetting! How can he justify this patriotic move? Simple! If the people elect the ministers, then they have chosen worthy people.

They were elected to govern! These competent women and men then can make excellent choices without the need for further vetting.

My Yiddish reaction is “azoy?” – is that so? Bibi, these insults to my intelligence are based on simple misrepresentation. Ministers are not chosen by the “people.” They are chosen by small cabals of party leaders many – most?? – of whom trade jobs for votes. Then the parties play chess with one another until the right person is chosen for the fitting position.

Thus we have a deputy foreign minister who disses the IDF and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency). She knows better than their sophisticated and trained specialists. After all she has been in the position nine months.

We have a minister of education who is trying to stamp education in his image and form, while casting his eyes covetously on another man’s ministry. He has appointed himself the shadow minister of defense. He then out-Rights the Right by calling for what amounts to war in Gaza. A senior defense official called him “childish, irresponsible...

[an example of] ministers who are willing to drag the country into war for political cynical gain....”

Let us not skip over the minister of culture and sport. How did she ever get to be IDF spokeswoman, never mind a minister??? A minister of tourism graced by the gift of prophecy. He knows that there will be no Reform Jews left in one or two generations. One of our Talmudic ancients said: “When the Temple was destroyed, prophecy was given over to fools and young children.” The minister is 46.

Having worn my fingers to the moan in recounting some of the wisdom of our “leaders,” you, dear reader, have no doubt that such ministers can be trusted to choose the best woman or man for senior positions. It is not an insult to our intelligence, is it? Reform rabbis from afar and reforming Bibi at home. All doing their best for us.


Avraham Avi-hai has been a senior civil servant, founding dean of the Rothberg International School, and world chairman of Keren Hayesod-United Israel Appeal.

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