Jew of the Year

Continuing my series of finishing 2005 about a month early to beat the end-of-year rush, here’s my pick for Jew of the Year: Rabbi Shlomo Aviner (bio in Hebrew)
Who is he? He’s one of the so-called “Settler Rabbis”. Rabbi of the West Bank town of Beit El and dean of the Ateret Cohanim yeshiva in the old city of Jerusalem that is preparing for the services of sacrifices when the Temple is rebuilt. Yeah, he’s right-wing alright. Here’s a review in the Forward of an English translation of one of Rabbi Aviner’s dozens of Hebrew books. The subtitle of the review is “A Controversial Israeli Rabbi Uses the Holidays To Explore His Own ‘Militant Theology'”.
So why am I declaring him Jew of the Year?
You might remember this summer some sort of Disengagement going on in Gaza. It made the news here and there. The rabbis of the settler groups were up in arms with all sorts of denouncements of the Israeli State and declarations of resistance at all costs. Rabbi Aviner took a different route, loudly opposing active resistance to the Disengagement. He announced that soldiers are not halachically obligated to disobey orders and continously lectured against fighting Israeli soldiers. During the Disengagement he actually went into the streets and got into a fistfight with teenagers trying to block roads so soldiers couldn’t pass. Even the ADL, no friend of right wing politics, went so far as to officially commend Rabbi Aviner.
Because of this, he has suffered significant political losses. His halachic prowess was denounced by major rabbis, not-so-coincidentally right after the Disengagement. He’s under constant attack in the periodicals of his own right wing community. But he won’t stop. He’s still publishing essays about dealing with the reality of Disengagement and how to continue supporting the State of Israel despite disagreeing with this policy.
This guy’s got guts and integrity. Even if you don’t agree with him you’ve got to appreciate that.

7 thoughts on “Jew of the Year

  1. I’m impressed too. I’m glad that someone among the settler-supporters had the gumption to point out that Israel is a democracy. Those on the Israeli/Diaspora right (who are a small but vocal minority) who advocate disruption, or even violence, against Sharon or the IDF are rank hypocrites: they are the same people who, during the “not-one-inch” Shamir administration, denounced even the meekest dissenters as “traitors” and insisted all Jews should just shut up and fall in rank with the actions of the elected Israeli government. It’s clear now that what they really meant was, “Support Israel’s government when they do what we want. Otherwise, scream bloody murder.”

  2. what’s up with the ateret kohanim settlements around east jerusalem and their role in lapolianski’s greater jerusalem municipal plan? aren’t they the ones who bought the property in the old city from the greek ortho church and pushed for the demolition of silwan?

  3. Over the summer, watching the disengagement happen from my yeshiva in Crown Heights, Aviner is a breath of fresh air. It always feels good to have someone who is frum and also not completely loony. I daresay I second the nomination, by Joe.

  4. ateret kohanim settlements
    Ateret Cohanim is a yeshiva as well as settlement organization. They deal only with redeeming real estate within the Old City walls and resettling theold city with Jews. On the other hand, ‘Ir David’ is concentrated in the south-east outside the old city, ‘Homat Shalem’ in the north-east area and ‘Machon hamikdash’ is more involved with temple preparations.
    This guy’s got guts and integrity
    With our short memory or ignorance, we forget that harav Aviner was one of the most ‘extreme’ right-wingers until I’m willing to presume, he was blackmailed about two years ago with the usual rabbi-student scandal that the newspapers here like to emphasize at every opportunity in order to defame the religious and right. Disregarding that nothing ever came of these widely publicized accusations and the cases never even got to court if I remember correctly, apparently Harav Aviner did some major cheshbon nefesh and took a turn to ‘moderate’ -the kind of Rabbi that everyone can love, so to speak. It is impossible to ignore that either the accusations were true and case dropped, or that the accusations and pressure themselves were a ‘warning’ from the ‘authorities’ to pipe-down.
    It’s nice that we can pick and choose when rabbis are good when we agree or disagree with them.
    I absolutely do not agree with the ‘moderate’ line he’s taken, epescially over the summer’s expulsion, but I remain a skeptical admirer and a proud support of his Yeshiva too.

  5. Show me a public figure who hasn’t been accused of some impropriety.
    He’s been moderate for years by opposing going up to the Temple Mount on halachic grounds. In the settler world, that’s considered moderate.

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