Many years ago, when I first came to Israel, I lived on the Rav Berlin Street in Jerusalem. I later learned that the name “Berlin” belonged to a great Torah sage, Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin, known as the ‘Netziv.’ Years later I knew his great grandson, a Torah scholar with the same name, presently a Rabbi in Rechovot. Except that the last name, Berlin, had been Hebraized to Bar Ilan.
Bibi and Bar Ilan
The ‘Netziv’ was known to be a huge sage, whose published books are standard works amongst Torah students worldwide. He was also a great lover of Eretz Yisrael, the land of Israel. When the Russians forcibly closed his Yeshiva in Volozhin in 1892, he planned to move to the holy land. Unfortunately, illness and his passing prevented this dream from becoming reality. But a number of his principal students did move to Israel and became Rabbinic giants: for example, Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook, Israel’s first chief rabbi, Rabbi Moshe Mordechai Epstein, later dean of the ‘Hebron Yeshiva,’ Rabbi Issur Zalman Meltzer and others.
Rabbi Berlin was also a strong supporter of the ‘Chovevei Tzion – Lover’s of Zion’ movement, which furthered aliya and settlement of the Land of Israel.
Additionally, the Netziv’s son, Rabbi Meir Bar Ilan, a Torah scholar in his own right, was an outstanding leader within the ‘Mizrachi’ movement, who voted against Herzel’s Uganda plan at the seventh Zionist Congress, and worked strenuously for Jewish independence from the British in Israel. He moved to Jerusalem in 1923. He was also instrumental in founding the Bar Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel. According the American Mizrachi movement, "The name Bar-Ilan was chosen, in honor of Rabbi Meir Bar-Ilan (Berlin), a spiritual leader who led traditional Judaism from the ashes of Europe to rebirth and renaissance in the Land of Israel."
Our new Justice minister, Tzippy Livni, grew up on the knees of Jabotinsky and Eretz Yisrael. Her father and mother, Eitan and Sara Livni, were active members of the Irgun in the pre-state Israel, working to expel the British conquers from this Land. Before he died, Livni requested that the Irgun emblem be engraved on this tombstone.
Yesterday, upon notification of Tzippy Livni’s joining of his budding coalition government, Bibi Netanyahu announced that not only would she be Justice minister, but also head up negotiations with Abu Mazen and the Arabs. In her own words, "You all know my commitment to peace between Israel and its neighbors and to the two-state solution, a commitment shared with the majority of the Israeli public.” And, "The dispute is around the question of whether you can have it both ways -– maintaining Israel as a Jewish state and keeping the entire Land of Israel."
This woman is very very dangerous. She is very smart, whose ideology centers on her appetite for power. She left the Likud, following Sharon like a puppy. She later abandoned Kadima after losing leadership to Shaul Mufaz, formed a new party and announced that she’d never sit in a Netanyahu government. And she is willing to chop up Israel in a blink. She was a great supporter of the Gush Katif expulsion.
She and Netanyahu seem to have a lot in common. He too has no tangible ideology to speak of, he is determined to remain in the Prime Minister’s office as long as possible, and has already proven his loyalty to Eretz Yisrael. See: Hebron Accords and Wye.
The Bibi-Tzippy coupling, as he has declared, focuses on the catastrophic 2009 Bar Ilan speech, when Netanyahu officially recognized a ‘two-state solution,’ thereby granting legitimacy to a ‘palestinian people,’ a palestinian state’ and division of the State of Israel. The Prime Minister says that Livni will be ‘representing him,’ and negotiating for him.’ In other words, he’ll pull the strings and Tzippy will move her mouth.
But we know it doesn’t always work that way. Rabin, as Prime Minister, didn’t initiate Oslo. Peres did.
At present, a final Bibi-Tzippy coalition could look like this: Likud – 31 mandates, Tzippy – 6, Avodah-Shelli – 15, Shas – 10, Agudat Yisrael – 7, Mufaz – 2. – By my count, that’s 71. Maybe Lapid will also join. And the Jewish Home will be able to sit back and watch them take apart Israel. Horror at its worst.
I wouldn’t be surprised, if every time that Bibi, or anyone else, mentions the ‘Bar-Ilan plan,’ Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin, and his son, Rabbi Meir Bar Ilan, roll around in their graves, with tears in their eyes. How could such a suicidal, destructive initiative take the name of such lovers of our land? I hope and pray that they will stand before our L-rd in Heaven and beseech Him to put an end to this madness before it gets out of hand. We are in need of another Purim miracle, fast.