Culture, Global, Israel, Politics

God protect the brave man….

Rabbi Kanefsky
I’ve already heard people begin to smear him on various fora, so it’s only fair that someone say something nice: God bless the man for taking the risk.
JTA regurgitates an article in the LA Jewish Journal last Friday in which he breaks two holy icons of both the Orthodox and mainstream Jewish institutional thought. Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky, whom I admire for his progressive stances in the Orthodox world and his ability to work with Jews -even God forbid, rabbis- of other denominations, wrote that in negotiating for peace, it will be necessary for Israel to admit that some wrongdoing or “moral ambiguity” may have occurred on our side; secondly, that it is likely that however awful it is for us to consider, however heartrending, Jerusalem may have to be on the table in some way.

Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky of B’nai David Judea wrote in Friday’s Jewish Journal
of Greater Los Angeles that the “worst-case scenario” of returning the Western Wall and the Temple Mount to Arab control would be horrifying and unfathomable to him.

“At the same time, though, to insist that the [Israeli] government not talk about Jerusalem at all (including, the possibility, for example, of Palestinian sovereignty over Arab neighborhoods) is to insist that Israel come to the negotiating table telling a dishonest story — a story in which our side has made no mistakes and no miscalculations, a story in which there is no
moral ambiguity in the way we have chosen to rule people we conquered, a story in which we don’t owe anything to anyone,” Kanefsky wrote.
The 44-year old rabbi occasionally has startled Orthodox circles with his innovative ideas, but he enjoys wide respect among his peers in other denominations, who elected him to a term as president of the Southern California Board of Rabbis.
Kanefsky predicts that no peace conference will succeed until Israelis and Palestinians accept honest versions of their conflict and admit their mistakes over the past 40 years, including the occupation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank after the Six-Day War in 1967.

Predictably, the institutions are indulging in their usual shrillness and fighting back.

The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, the community’s umbrella organization, is drafting a statement on the article. However, its Web site said “the Orthodox Union is preparing a comprehensive action plan which will call upon members of our community to join on the walls of Jerusalem and become her defenders against those who would divide her.”
Rabbi Pesach Lerner, executive vice president of the National Council of Young Israel, denounced the article, telling the Los Angeles Times that “Rabbi Kanefsky is completely off-base. I think his call for this discussion is ridiculous. It would amount to religious suicide.”

Even the provocative – to some, anyway- Rabbi David Wolpe, who so dismayed people with his suggestion that whether the Exodus actually happened or not might not be the point, has denounced his local colleague’s position, “To give up Jerusalem to people who want to destroy your country is an emotional high jump you’d have to be better than an Olympic athlete to vault.”
Actually, it seems to me that Rabbi Wolpe is the perfect person for comparison: his sermon that provoked so much overwrought animosity was generally not actually understood for what it was, either. Peoples’ responses revealed far more about them than about him.
Rabbi Kanefsky isn’t suggesting that Jerusalem ought to be given up, just offering a realistic assessment of what peace might take: that a discussion in which Jerusalem is not off the table to start with, and an admission that Israel is not right, right or wrong, and may have sometimes done things for which we need to atone in some manner. One would think that this would not be such a tempest, except, of course, that it’s an Orthodox rabbi saying it (even a Conservative rabbi would be getting hard looks in these circle-the-wagon days).
When, when, when are we going to be able to move past this? It is obvious that Israel is populated with human beings, some of whom sometimes make poor judgments, immoral decisions, act for their own selfish ends or with overly nationalistic fervor that does not ultimately serve the people.
What? Israel is a nation of people? God forbid. The matter isn’t that we don’t make mistakes, it’s that if we really believe that the Jewish people are a people with a purpose, if we are not simply some hardy ethnic group who have no more right to exist than any other out there, including the thousands who have disappeared into the mists of time and the vagaries of history, then it is our response to our own wrongdoing that is important. It can’t be swept under the rug; we can’t pretend it isn’t true and hope it will go away. No, we have to acknowledge it, then we have to make reparation for it and finally we have to refrain from repeating it when the opportunity again presents itself. And it will, oh it will: I am under no illusions that the Palestinians are any better than we are. Of course some of them engage in behavior that is indescribably wicked – but that isn’t how God works. We don’t get to say, but “Great Big Ima in the Sky, He hit me Fiiiiiiiiirst.. He’s the one who’s really bad, not Meeeeeeeeee.”
Nope, ‘fraid not. The reality is that both as Jews who are obligated to obey God’s standards, not human standards (although starting with that as a minimum would be a good beginning) we have no control over how other people act, only us. We have only our own souls to take the measure of, and so it is up to us to act well, even if all around us do not. And the truth is, that even speaking practically, this is probably the best path to peace, as well.
Rabbi Kanefsky, kudos to you. I hope that you get as much support as you are going to get vilification.

18 thoughts on “God protect the brave man….

  1. I declare everything from the Nile to the Euphrates to be within the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem! Jerusalem must never be divided!

  2. I think the problem isn’t so much that Rabbi Kanefsky said something concrete that people disagree with, it’s that he challenged the triumphalistic assumption of our own righteousness in everything.
    It’s like the new 14th Ikkar: “I believe with a complete faith that I (and all groups I identify with) can do no wrong.”

  3. AN OPEN LETTER TO RABBI KANEFSKY, A MUST READ. EDUCATIONAL.
    Dear Rabbi Kanefsky,
    Your efforts at upholding the truth are quite commendable. As you rightly said in your last paragraph, “There will be peace the day after there will be truth.” Unfortunately, truth has been ignored by politicians since the “peace process” started in 1993, which explains the existential anguish that Jews and Israelis are going through. I hope Israeli leaders will heed your call for disclosing the full truth so that they can embark upon a new era of lasting peace.
    Of course, the pursuit of truth requires knowledge first. What are we to call “truth” if we have no clue of reality? Also, reality should be known in its entirety and this knowledge should not be truncated, as the Palestinians do, a point you aptly emphasize in your article. It is only when all the facts are brought to light that the full story can be told honestly. I have no doubt that honesty is paramount to you, as you mentioned this term – and any variations thereof – no less than 21 times in your piece.
    I am prepared to grant you the mantle of honesty but only partially, very partially. Knowingly or not, you jumped on the honesty wagon before ascertaining the truth of what you wrote. And what you omitted from your exposé is so glaring that you are misinforming your readers in a grand scale. Like the Palestinians who regularly present their narrative in their distorted fashion, you too have grossly truncated the truth by limiting your view of reality to the post 1967 period. Had your vision not been so narrowly limited, you would have discovered that the international community recognized the historical connection of the Jewish people to the whole of Palestine, including Jerusalem, back in 1920; that Jewish settlement of the whole land, including Judea and Samaria, was not only allowed but highly encouraged; that these territories were not to be ceded to any foreign power; and that all those provisions received the imprimatur of international law.
    Instead, you write that Israel is illegally occupying these territories; that the settlement of these lands should not have taken place; that this situation violates international law; and that those who challenge these views “refuse to read history honestly.” The most eminent legal experts in international law – Stephen Schwebel, Sir Elihu Lauterpacht, Eugene Rostow, Julius Stone and many others – would strongly disagree with each and every one of your assertions. On your side, though, you may find some allies in characters like Jimmy Carter; Arab academics of dubious credibility; the Neturei Karta sect; the leaders of Hamas, Fatah and Hezbollah, as well as a host of their Jewish sycophants who have been thoroughly brainwashed by the very kind of article you just wrote. I leave it to you to choose the most credible camp.
    Allow me, Rabbi Kanefsky, to conclude with a saying from the Talmud: “If you add to the truth, you subtract from it.” What you did in your article is far worse: you started by subtracting from the truth. This can only be attributed to ignorance, sloppiness or, dare I say, malice. Whatever the case may be, your 21 instances of the word “honest” ring hollow. I don’t know what drove you to jettison the collective rights of the Jewish people and to disparage Jewry in the process. But I suggest that you and your supporters get better informed and, most importantly, get finally over your guilty Jewish hang-ups.
    Best regards,
    S.B. Toronto, Canada
    P.S.: You claim that those who oppose your views “have never offered any alternative solution.” Nothing could be farther from the truth. Consider just a few of the alternatives:
    – Dr. Martin Sherman: “The Humanitarian Solution”,
    – MK Benny Elon: “The Israeli Initiative”

  4. With the government approving and supervising the destruction of parts of the Temple Mount I’m not so sure it makes a huge difference whether we control it or the Arabs do. And that is very, very sad.

  5. Divide Jerusalem to create a terrorist state?
    Rabbi Kanefsky reflects a schizoid personality that the so-called ‘progressive’ Jews of LA suffer of, regretfully. In effect, they feed the anti-Semites and those who wish to wipe Israel off the map and at the same time encourage those intractable enemies of the West who seek world dominion such as fanatical Islam today, which include most of the Arab/Palestinians society.
    Rabbi Kanefsky is removed from reality, facts and history

  6. BZ Wrote:
    I declare everything from the Nile to the Euphrates to be within the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem! Jerusalem must never be divided!
    You just don’t want ot have to worry about when Purim is! 😉

  7. Other Adam:
    Yeah seriously. That has been eating me up and fueling my anger for months. What the hell do they think they’re doing? That’s our heritage and the world’s right there, and they’re letting the Waqf dismantle it dumpster by dumpster. And nobody’s complaining except for the Christian crazies and the Third-Templenik crazies. But isn’t this a direct attack on world history, archaeology, and all of Jewish heritage?
    I’d trade away most of Israel to get expel those obscene zealots from the Temple Mount. The Israelis completely made the wrong choice in 1967: they should have kept the Temple Mount, and let go of the West Bank etc, instead of settling the Territories and giving the Waqf thugs free reign to destroy possibly the most important historical site on the globe.

  8. Ya know what kinda pisses me off. I live in Jerusalem and Rabbi Kanefsky is right. Jerusalem already is divided and Olmert is talking about neighborhoods that NEVER were part of Jerusalem before 1967. Do I really need Shuafat and refugee camps in Jerusalem? Let them become part of the PA as long as there is a way to ensure a secure border. Of course some Arab neighborhoods (Arab neighborhoods! Again there wouldn’t be such things if Jerusalem were heterodox and pluralistic and mixed) like Issawiya (too close to French Hill) and the neighborhood off Rt. 1 (where the American Colony is) should stay Israeli J’lem as well as the Old City, but that’s what Olmert said!
    Or we could, I don’t know, invest in the Arab neighborhoods by — uh — providing them sewage and trash pickup and making sure there kids are in school (of course that’s irrelevant since no one is in school thanks to striking teachers and a lack of competition and private marketplace in education)… But the point is – Jerusalem already is divided!

  9. Rav Yosef is my rabbi here in L.A., and I can’t tell you how proud I am of him. He is, however, coming under attack really from all sides. The main reason for this is something not pointed out in your post: that headlines about Kanefsky’s letter in the Jewish Journal and the LA Times have declared that Kanefsky is in favor of dividing Jerusalem, and that is NOT what he said. So most people here haven;t discussed the substantive parts of Kanefsky’s article re: our community being honest with itself.
    The other thing I want to credit the rabbi with is the extraordinary amount of jew-on-jew dialogue that has occured within the orthodox community. This last weekend, i was at a shabbaton and must have had and overheard at least 10 conversations on this. So kol hakavod to Rabbi Kanefsy for starting such a neccesary and important conversation.

  10. Hugest kudos to Rabbi Yosef for instigating a realistic discussion about the particulars of Jerusalem. Having done the bulk of my volunteering in Jerusalem giving tours of the east side of the city, I’ve got to totally back up amechad’s intel. On at least a dozen tours some folks (not always Jewish) began the tour saying something about not feeling comfortable “dividing” the city, only to end it realizing that the dividing is already done. The Temple Mount is a special issue, but the wider city itself is quite clear.
    Of course, when you take the tour, you see also that the wall doesn’t divide between Jewish and Palestinian, but between Palestinian and Palestinian. And suddenly the particular resistance to the complaint against the routes of the wall being political and not security also disappears.
    It’s amazing how the issues pop up in sudden clarity through first-hand observations.

  11. I believe Issawiya is in “West Jerusalem” anyway (i.e. the part that was under Israeli control between 1948 and 1967), as part of the Har Hatzofim exclave, though I could be wrong.
    (of course that’s irrelevant since no one is in school thanks to striking teachers and a lack of competition and private marketplace in education)
    What? Teacher strikes are uncommon in the US, and especially uncommon in the parts of the US with fewer private schools (i.e. away from major cities).

  12. chillul Who?:
    I couldn’t agree with you more. There was an outcry when the Taliban blew up the statues of buddha, and yet there’s hardly even a nod of the head about this. It makes me sick to my stomach and my heart ache. This is as if someone were to take a bulldozer to the kabaa with Saudi approval. Jerusalem is where my heart is, not Ramallah, not Shekhem/Nablus, not even Hebron.

  13. The main reason for this is something not pointed out in your post: that headlines about Kanefsky’s letter in the Jewish Journal and the LA Times have declared that Kanefsky is in favor of dividing Jerusalem, and that is NOT what he said.
    If I didn’t say it, I certainly meant to: that’s what I meant by comparing him to WOlpe, who also was quoted quite badly. IN any case, the guy’s a wonder, and I hope no one does anything horrible to him. Kudos to him, kol hakavod, and I hope that those of us who support him are very vocal, because he’s going to need it.

  14. the problem isn’t the accepting of any moral ‘wrongdoing’ on our part, per se. Jews have been doing that for thousands of years when we accepted that the destruction of the Temples was due to our sins. The problem is that whatever concessions we make to the Arabs, it will only be enough for a short time, and then they will come back and want more. When we refuse, the rockets will start raining down upon Israel again, and the teenagers will start blowing themselves up at checkpoints again, and the world will lambast the ‘bad Jews’ for hurting the ‘poor Palestinians’.
    I want peace, but I don’t hold out much hope of getting it as long as the Arabs continue their scandalous libel that we ‘stole’ their land and that Palestine is ‘Arab’. The Arab leadership is on record as stating that Oslo was a ‘Trojan Horse’ and that their true aim is the ‘liberation’ of Palestine. This can only come about by the destruction of the state of Israel and the extermination of every one of its Jewish residents.

  15. For the record, Arab residents of Jerusalem are a bit less sanguine about the coming turnover of their neighborhoods to the PLO than many on this board are.
    Thousands of Palestinians apply for Israeli citizenship
    It would seem, Kol Ra’ash and amechad, that many Arabs prefer the “moral ambiguities” of Israeli “miscalculations” to the very unambiguous oppression of Palestinian rule.

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