God protect the brave man….
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.