The tumultuous few weeks preceding the elections created a number of moral dilemmas for me. At first, I thought of writing an article for one of the Hebrew dailies or The Jerusalem Post entitled “Don’t vote for the fascists!” However, with the weight of senior rabbis, an entire well-funded yeshiva system, and the high-budgeted Yesha Council of Judea and Samaria egging on the “patriotic” far Right, what would one puny article do to influence the entrenched in their convictions?
Morally, I should speak out. Realistically, what good would it do? Praise would come from the anti-fascists. But the supporters of these right-wing parties would ignore this at best or would mount a campaign of denigration. Period!
Haredi leader bashes English and math studies
Second, the resident genius heading the Hassidic part of United Torah Judaism, aka Agudat Israel, formed to counter Zionism over a hundred years ago, advised us that studying mathematics and English did nothing for Israel’s economy.
“I have not seen how math and English have advanced the country and its economy,” Yitzchak Goldknopf told Channel 12. Goldknopf urgently needs a laser operation to correct his vision, but he needs an ophthalmologist who never studied English or math.
My dilemma: I should have written an article condemning the calculated falsehood uttered in the name of the Torah. But The Jerusalem Post already published an editorial ruffling this strange bird’s feathers. Haaretz’s economics specialist, Nehemia Shtrasler, wrote a piece whose headline reads “If he has a toothache, does he study Gemara or go to a dentist who studied math and English?”
I assume all the Hebrew press, except for the haredi-funded or oriented, did similarly.
Oh yes, another Goldknopf gem (the pun here is that the man’s name means “golden button”): He said that studying Torah is “more difficult than serving at the front.” Tell that to my grandchildren who have done both. Perhaps the Gerer Rebbe, aka the Grand Rabbi of Gur, who appointed Golfknopf, can push the golden button switch to ”silent.”
Promoting the extremists Smotrich and Ben-Gvir
Also, I could have written an article strongly criticizing the unwilling leader of the opposition, Bibi Netanyahu, for anointing Itamar Ben-Gvir and his Kahanist minions and for matchmaking him with Bezalel Smotrich, who is anyway a duplicate of Ben-Gvir but hides his true colors better.
In Bibi’s desperation to get his old job back, he granted legitimacy to an “ism” that his revisionist father and other decent right-wingers, like Menachem Begin, would never consider. Smotrich already has his eye on the Ministry of Defense, and Ben-Gvir on Public Security, which oversees the police. However, I trust Bibi – based on how he has destroyed internal wannabes in the Likud – to see to it that these two will both have their hopes dashed. If, of course, he can succeed in forming a viable coalition. But I did not write such an article because the true believers will believe, and their false prophets will continue in their leadership.
Tzohar: Supporting them morally, annoyed at their neutrality on the fascists
I had another moral dilemma. I support most of the ideas of Tzohar, which is headed by Rabbi David Stav. But when asked in a phone call to contribute money, I immediately snapped at the caller, “As long as Tzohar does not rid itself of the fascists, I will not contribute.” The poor woman on the other end of the line told me, “We are not political…” Still snapping, my instinctive reply was “Yes, but you’re supposed to be moral,” and hung up. All this in Hebrew, of course.
I owe the lady an apology for chopping off the head of the messenger. She obviously does not make policy. I will send a copy of this article to Tzohar with an apology. That was one dilemma, hopefully resolved with the apology.
My second dilemma was that Tzohar does do good things, challenging the corrupt, entrenched Chief Rabbinate. I support many charities and help some families directly, all told in excess of the biblical tithe. This is not to boast but to show how hard it was not to give. My anger was aimed at the Orthodox rabbis who support the Smotrichites and the Ben-Gvirites and encourage the ugliest phenomena in the so-called “Religious” Zionist camp. Where are the moral voices in the camp I grew up in? Why are they silent?
I have found the Tzohar site online that shows many respected rabbis, including some who are female. Are you all fascists as well? My moral dilemma is weak on this issue. I understand the fear of retaliation, of losing a livelihood, and the role these rabbis chose and spent years preparing for. But I was taught that a good rabbi is a teacher. Does not the Bible empower him to reprove his colleague and not bear his sin? Does it not tell us all that we must reprove evil?
To sum up: The reality is clear. Smotrich and Ben-Gvir are immoral, and he who cohabits with fascists is not innocent of adulterating democracy. There is one moral imperative in the forthcoming elections: No pasarán!!! They shall not pass. Don’t let them bring fascism into our gates! ■
Avraham Avi-hai has lived in Israel since 1952. Never has he seen our country face such a momentous choice.