Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Not a Hill Worth Dying On

Is this worth shedding our blood? (Illustration)
Justice it is not. To put it mildly. But that is exactly what Rabbi  Ari Abramowitz called saying Kaddish on Har HaBayis. He assembled a Minyan, went up to the Temple Mount, and began saying the mourner’s Kaddish for the 3 slain members of the Salomon family. Who were brutally slaughtered by teenage Palestinian from the West Bank. Who felt that such butchery was an appropriate response to installing metal detectors at that site.  He actually believes that this is what God wanted him to do. For which he believes he will be richly rewarded in the world to come.

Rabbi Abramowitz thought the same thing. He believed that he too was doing God’s will by breaking Israeli law and exacerbating the kind of tensions that moved a religious Muslim teenager to massacre 3 innocent Jews.

Rabbi Abramowitz was promptly arrested… before he even completed the Kaddish. He explained why he did that to the Jerusalem Post: 
… he was moved to go to the site after having attended the funeral of the slain family members on Sunday.  "It was devastating," he said. "It was clear to me that going there [to the Temple Mount] is the calling of all the Jewish people, that there could be no peace unless we made the issue about God." 
On the surface that seems like a rational argument. To most people the ability of religious people to pray at their holiest site should be the right of every citizen in a democracy. When that site is viewed as holy by more than one people, it should then be shared. That is common sense. Forbidding one religion from doing so while allowing the other is indeed an injustice.

So under normal circumstances I would surely support what Rabbi Abromwitz did. And any democratic government would  make sure to enforce that right.

So why does Israel forbid Jews from exercising that right?   Because there is nothing normal or rational about the Middle East. Muslim Arabs believe that they have the exclusive right to pray there granted to them by God! They see any Jew going up there as challenging that right. They are particularly sensitive to it because they see Israel as an occupying force trying to control how they practice their religion in what they believe is the 2nd holiest place in Islam. The slightest indication that Israel is doing that causes great anxiety and havoc.They could not care less that we consider Har HaBayis our holiest site.

That Israel installed metal detectors  purely for security reasons is no excuse to them. And they will protest the ‘occupier’ with everything they’ve got. And encourage all Muslims to have a day of rage for that cause! That happened last Friday and spurred one devout fanatic Muslim teenager to murder 3 Jews sitting at their Shabbos table.

So why shouldn’t Israel stick to their guns and fight for the legitimate right of Jews to pray up there? Because they know the consequences of trying to do that.  While it is surely the right and even the duty of any country to assure equal access to all to their holy places - it is not always the sanest policy to follow. 

Sometimes ideology must give way to practicality. Especially when lives are at stake. There are times to fight for an ideology even when there is a risk to human life. And there are times not to. One must weigh what you are fighting for against the consequences.

Israel has done that with the Temple Mount. That is one hill that Israel clearly does not want to die on. Rightly so. Going there is merely a religious enterprise that is not mandated in our day at all! It is permitted by religious Zionist Poskim - forbidden by Charedi Poskim. The Israeli government realizes that this right is not worth the shedding of innocent blood that insisting on it will contribute to.

But bloodshed does not apparently get in the way of those who insist that this right IS worth dying for. All they just see a right being denied by an irrational people and their government capitulating to it.

So when there is bloodshed they do not blame any of it on a history of trying to assert this kind of right. They say, ‘They will kill us anyway!’ ‘So why not fight for even this right?!’  ‘What about the law?!’ ‘It is an unjust law and should not be obeyed!’  

They actually believe that God is on their side and take no responsibility for any deadly reactions fanatic Musilms might have because of what they do.

How selfish of people like Rabbi Abramowtiz to put their own religious feelings above the safety of their own people. (Of course they will strongly deny that they have any part at all in any kind of deadly result their actions generate among fanatic Muslims.)

There was absolutely no reason to say Kaddish on the Temple Mount. None whatsoever! Rabbi Abramowitz had no personal obligation to say Kaddish for the slaughtered members of the Salomon family.  That he may have been moved to do so is understandable. But he could have said it anywhere he wanted. It was only done there to ‘show the Arabs who’s boss! It was only done to show them our sovereignty over Har Habayis. 

Does Rabbi Abramowitz actually believe that by doing things like this, the Jewish people in Israel are better off? Does he think the Arabs will just get used to Jews praying there and calm down after awhile? Does he believe that since one can’t reason with these people the only thing they understand is force?

True - the Palestinians can’t be trusted as things stand now. That’s why I would urge Israel not give up a single inch of land for any kind of peace deal. Gaza has surely taught us a very sober lesson about what happens when Israel gives up land. Until such time Palestinians can prove their peaceful intentions by wiping out Islamic fundamentalism (which Hamas adheres to) there can be no 2 state solution.

But that does not mean we have to exacerbate the tensions in places like Har HaBayis. (Which is why Israel is removing those metal detectors.) That people like Rabbi Abramowitz don’t realize this only prolongs Jewish suffering.

As I’ve said many times, I believe the Charedi Poskim are right on this issue. They forbid going up there at all. Israel would be wise to make that their official policy. It will not prevent all terrorist attacks in Israel. But it will surely would have prevented what happened last Friday. And even if it saves the life of one Jew, it is worth it.