Remember the “Get Out of Jail Free” card in the game of Monopoly. Well, it seems as though not a few prominent rabbis in Israel are trying to play that card right now.
Israel’s former president, Moshe Katsav, has been convicted of rape. Not one count but two. He was further convicted of indecent assault, sexual harassment, and obstruction of justice. There appear to have been other violations – but I shall stick to the proven facts.
The assaults took place against women who were working for Katsav. Each count of rape is punishable by up to sixteen years in prison. The unanimous verdict was handed down by a panel of three judges. The presiding judge, George Kara, said that Katsav’s testimony was “strewn with lies, small and large,” and the court was convinced that the sexual relations were not consensual and that the rapes had involved the use of force.
“There are no two states of Israel just one state,” said Shimon Peres, Katsav’s successor as president of Israel. “There are no two kinds of citizens here. Citizens of only one kind exist in Israel, and all are equal in the eyes of the law.”
Harassment by those in power is far more common than we may suppose. But this conviction, hopefully, shall send a message to aggressive misogynists that the world will no longer tolerate such behavior; it is both improper and illegal.
Enter the rabbis. Today’s newspapers carried the following headline: “Rabbis Send Letter of Support To Katsav.” No, you did not misread the headline. Dozens of Israel’s most eminent Zionist rabbis believe Katsav to be innocent.
Their letter reads, in part, "All of the people of Zion are sighing and groaning under the burden of the poisonous media, waiting for the return of pureness to our public life and hoping for the day when the injustice will be removed and the truth will come out – and then many, many people will be redeemed and rejoice with you."
Fact: I am part of the “people of Zion” and I will not rejoice. I am sickened by the blatant disregard of these rabbis for a system that even (sadly in my view) offered Katsav every opportunity to walk away with no prison time and barley a slap on the wrist. His continued arrogance, as he awaits sentencing, is pathetic.
But no less pathetic is the slap on the face to Israel’s judicial system by these rabbis who ought stand up on behalf of the injured, who ought, unlike those Anti-Zionist Haredi rabbis who do not recognize the authority of the State, pursue justice.
Not all prominent Orthodox groups joined in the party on behalf of Katsav. The well respected, Orthodox feminist group, Kolech, reacted by saying: “Rabbis who signed onto such a letter to Katsav need to understand that by standing up for a convicted rapist, they become accomplices... and cause promiscuity and harmfulness by authoritative men toward their subordinates.”
Ne’emanei Torah Ve’avodah said that the letter “adds no honor to the Torah.”
I, of course agree with those critical of the letter. What would cause these rabbis to express such opprobrious views is beyond me. It is beyond my comprehension that they would even think such thoughts.
But, I shall conclude by saying that the rabbis who signed the letter do not make me ashamed to be Jewish today. They make me shamed that they are part of the Jewish people.