Israel, Politics

Some Converts Are As Harmful For Israel As…

The Talmud teaches in Yevamot – “converts are as harmful for Israel as an ailment of the skin.” The Tosafot, including one convert, commenting on this Talmudic teaching give various answers for why this could be.
None of the answers given there are as horrible as this.
From YNet:

Indictment: Jewish convert aided terror
Assaf Ben David, 39 year-old Palestinian convert to Judaism, charged with conspiring to aid his brother, a member of Islamic Jihad
The Haifa District Attorney’s Office filed an indictment at the Haifa District Court Thursday against Assaf Ben David for conspiring with the enemy, and having contact with a foreign agent.
The indictment accused Ben David of contacting his brother, a member of Islamic Jihad and other terror organizations with the intention of aiding in attacks against Israel.
Ben David, a 39 year-old Palestinian who converted to Judaism, left both his village and his religion to become haredi.
Born Husam Hafez Suafta in 1968, Ben David began the conversion process when he was about 25 years-old, and received his Israeli citizenship in 1996. He married an Israeli woman, with whom he has two children and two stepchildren who currently serve in the IDF.

So he converted — and became charedi — but in the end, perhaps blood is thicker than water. Perhaps his brother being in Islamic Jihad meant that he had to aid and abet Islamic Jihad. With that comes the destruction of Israel, and with that comes this indictment.
The sad part is the timing — or perhaps the journalists’ agenda. Converts’ status under the Law of Return is already under dispute, and this is only going to serve to make the situation worse. Indeed, the number 2 comment on the YNet article already reads:

Rabbi Amar, Jerusalem (01.18.07)

I wonder how he converted. If he converted under the Rabbanut, this is only another symptom of the problem: an overworked rabbinate which remain under an increasingly secular government.
My rav says that the Israeli government should get rid of the rabbinate altogether as a government agency. If this is the kind of oversight it’s doing, then how could one disagree?
And if this was an independent beis din, then there are three rabbis out there who have a huge task ahead of them — to be m’karev,to bring back to Judaism, the jihadi convert they converted, to send someone straight to Ramallah with hamin and kugel to bring him back to the charedi way of life to which they introduced him.
Their responsibility, having converted Mr. Ben-David, is no less — and they may even have a halachic imperative to do so.
Overseeing a conversion means creating a Jew – a responsibility not to be taken lightly. Hopefully this rude awakening will lead to creation of more safeguards to enable sincere converts and not, as I fear, the closing of doors for all those from all nations of the world who desire Torah.

26 thoughts on “Some Converts Are As Harmful For Israel As…

  1. Baruch Ha’Shem!
    Hopefully all Jews will be accepted who choose Judaism, not just those who choose one particular brand.
    Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Ortho and Ultra-Ortho all have thier place in Am Yisrael. But I will will wait for that post.
    Also I think Ruth was charged with a simlar crime…but was let off the hook because she was a good person and end up being the mother of someone importaint… can’t remember who…
    Converts are JEWS just as much as those of us born with it. Once you are in, you’re in! Lets move forward.

  2. Hopefully all Jews will be accepted who choose Judaism, not just those who choose one particular brand.
    Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Ortho and Ultra-Ortho all have thier place in Am Yisrael. But I will will wait for that post.

    a) You know that it’s not that simple, that these come down to serious theosophical issues;
    b) The hyperpoliticization of theology is all that such a premise as you stated is reflective of (obviously these “denominational lines” have practical ramifications (e.g., kashrut supervision, and validity of testimony for marriage etc.). These are not, without making gradations, distinctions like “you’re Polish, I’m Ethiopian; you’re Republican, I’m Democrat”. I’d actually wager to say that halachic and non-halachic Judaism are closer to being two different religions than two “interpretations” of the “same thing”;
    c) I know you were trying to get at me. Are you trying to make me into a pissed off liberal Jew, too? 😀
    (I guess, actually, for that, one would be too late.)

  3. This man has not been convicted of anything. How about we say that the Shin Bet is trying to pressure somebody and they are afflicting the convert, which is not only mean, but is a serious lav?

  4. Here in the US we used to have a law saying that we were innocent until proven guilty (actually, it is still on the books, but not utilized properly). Is there not such a law in Israel?
    When I listen to the news, these days, I also keep my ears open for what is NOT said — what’s behind the motivation for the story.
    I give as much credence to such ‘breakthrough’ Israeli news involving security, as I do to US news which has our military always assassinating Osama’s second in command.
    Pity that there are passages in Talmud which seem to attack converts. There is no such thing in Torah.

  5. “You shall love the convert” (Deuteronomy 10:19)
    “Dearer to God than all of the Israelites who stood at Mount Sinai is the convert…Can anyone be dearer to God than such a person?” (Tanhuma (ed. Buber), Lekh Lekha 6:32)
    Ehem. Because the Torah tells me so…

  6. That quoted rabbi is not only a racist, but also an idiot.
    One of my Israeli relatives married a non-Jew, and has two kids by him, neither of whom has been raised Jewish (her son isn’t even circumcised). He’s planning a trip with Birthright.
    So, which is more Jew — the convert or the non-Jewish son of a Jewish woman?

  7. y-love, i wouldnt assume already that this dude is guilty. you know the israeli govt isnt exactly unbiased when it comes to dealing Palestinians, and like you said, converts have come under increasing suspicion.
    Terms like “conspiring with the enemy” are pretty vague. I’d like to know what exactly they’re accusing him of doing and with what evidence.

  8. “Pity that there are passages in Talmud which seem to attack converts. There is no such thing in Torah.”
    Actually Miriam you should learn that passage in the Talmud along with the commentaries. It gets a great deal more interesting than I think you think.
    So, which is more Jew — the convert or the non-Jewish son of a Jewish woman?
    I don’t really understand that. There’s no such think as “more” or “less” Jewish. A person either is a Jew or is not. At least according to halacha once they’ve converted that’s it!

  9. Well, we already know that an indictment is not the same as a conviction, and my usage of the word “perhaps” was my using the conditional language required when a charge is at the allegation stage.
    However, my point still stands. If these allegations are true, then this reflects back on the beit din that did the conversion, and if this was a conversion done under Rabbanut authority, then this says something about the Rabbanut.

  10. Sure you do, Eric. She’s clearly not asking who is more Jewish in terms of a technical definition; she’s asking something more along the lines of, “Which of the two is a more valuable, contributing member to the Jewish nation?” In fact, the value of that technical definition is precisely what she’s questioning. What’s the practical meaning in someone’s technical Jewish status if they do not identify with nor contribute to Judaism or the Jewish people in any way, shape, or form?

  11. missyaicha thanks for the back up.
    Y-Love… I was just trying to point those few things. The idea that Orthodox Jews and Reconstructions Jews and Reform Jews are not brothers and sisters in religion and blood doesn’t fly with me. There are so few Jews, that we should be open to all of our interpretations of Judaism. Doesn’t mean I would ask you to remove your Kippah or never rap T’ffiln, and you should see me as a co-religionist. It also goes to conversion debate. People who choose Judaism should be embraced and welcomed, not told they really aren’t Jewish for one reason or another. Teach and embrace, not shun and embarrass.

  12. POLJ – you know that if I were any more into unity, I’d be surgically attaching people. It’s just that for me, as someone who holds the Ikkarim of R’ Albo or the 13 Principles of Faith of Maimonides dear and central to what Judaism is, it’s very hard to sit down to say, “I and the Jew sitting next to me who does not believe in G-d hearing prayer (ø”ì) have the same religion.” Or with someone who does not believe in the Messiah, or in the Divine origin of the Torah, or in King David’s existence as anything more than an allegorical character.
    Not that I’m saying it’s not something to be or not to be striven for, I’m just saying — you have to understand the difficulty.

  13. How does him contacting his brother make him a terrorist? surely this is just Zenaphobia! and even if he did plan to help destroy the state of Israel – why does this make his conversion questionable – surely Netura Karter would still consider him Jewish?

  14. I would also like to take issue with the convert (from memory, I think is name is Rabbi Abraham the convert) quoted in tosafot ad. loc. He says, and he is probably right, that converts are “difficult to Israel like a skin disease”, becuase their diligence in observance of the commandments gives Jews from birth a bad rap in the eyes of God. How about we accept *that* interpretation of the bavli, and shut up.

  15. y-love – If he were examined by psychologists, and it was determined that he underwent conversion out of a sense of identification with those whom he perceived to be his oppressors (Stockholm syndrome), or because he felt that becoming a Jew would alleviate the feeling of being disenfranchised – would that, in your opinion, invalidate his conversion?

  16. (oh, yes, I would also like to take issue with the comments claiming that “that rabbi who said those things was an idiot”. It is not only disrespectful but a sign of ignorance to say things like that about the talmud and tosafot. How about we reserve epithets like that to people who deserve them. The Torah has many objectionable rules as well, some of which we find problematic and we reinterpreted, and some which we stick to nontheless. saying “idiot” is intellectually lazy and also says something about those who say it). Now I will shut up.

  17. Y-Love
    I see your point. I don’t believe you to be right, I see your observance to be wrong (for me) and I also see you as a co-religionist. You’re a Jew and I am a Jew.
    But I respect how that could be hard for you to see. I get that if you believe that I am bad for doing what I do, then that is part of your understanding. It is wrong (in my eyes) but it is yours.
    So my brother in religion, let us agree to dissagree.
    But I would like to thank the pissed off Israeli – Amit – who pointed out the rest of the quote from the rabbi. As an intellectually lazy person…it was good to hear the whole truth.

  18. First of all, “…if you believe that I am bad for…” is a clause formed out of nothing I said. I don’t believe any PERSON is bad for anything — especially not any Jewish person.
    Nor am I trying to be exclusionary. The difficulty lay more in the fact that a religion is usually thought of as being a unifying core set of beliefs or values. And here, given what I said above about the Ikkarim or the 13 Affirmations of Faith (inter alia) being the core sine qua non of Judaism, it’s the saying “me and this person share the same unifying core set of beliefs” that gets problematic.
    But what, I’m going to adamantly proclaim the right to additional division? Please. 🙂
    Obviously, we’re agreeing to disagree, otherwise we’d be disagreeing on disagreeing, and that would mean one of us would be valiantly agreeing 🙂

  19. I suspect that the ‘who is a Jew’ argument will rage on for some time to come. What is interesting to me is that, at its core, the argument is actually ‘whose Judaism is authentic’ and that my haverim is very dangerous indeed.
    Yes, it is absolutely critical that we ensure that conversions are ‘kosher’. However, let’s not forget why the Second Temple fell and, in my view, questioning the authenticity of someone’s Judaism is a very slipper slope indeed.
    That said, the alleged crime which has been committed is heinous and deserves to be punished, if proved guilty. If you have converted and accepted Israeli citizenship you should be tried and, if convicted, sentenced under Israeli law.
    I see no difference in the eyes of the law between a convert aiding a terrorist and Yigal Amir. If convicted, this chap should be locked up and the key dispensed with.

  20. Y-Love– cute point on disagreeing/agreeing 🙂
    I’m not sure I’d call the 13 ikarrim [principles] the sine qua non of Judaism though, as they have often been controversial, and it seems that Rambam saw them more as good education for the masses than his own personal beliefs.
    but I very much agree that it’s ok for not everyone to accept all people who self-identify as Jewish, as really Jewish. (did that follow?) yes, that that would ignore some very real differences in definitions of Judaism. So long as it’s respectfully done, and separated from political power and civil law, that is (ahem, rabbanut…)

  21. Rebecca:
    Exactly the point that I was trying to make. Conversion is a religious endeavour, and I for one consider anyone who converts under the auspices of Reform to Reconstructionist to Haredi as Jewish. Would I eat at a restaurant with a Reform ger as the shomer? Probably not, but then again I doubt very much they would be offered the job anyway. That said, I am happy to eat cold vegetarian fare at a ‘nonkosher’ restaurant and I’ve no doubts that there are the strictly frum who would take exception to that, so there you are. ‘Horses for courses’ as we say here.
    The issue remains, however, that the aiding of a terrorist is a civil issue and should be dealt with by the civil courts. What this man did, allegedly let’s remember, is reprehensible but I am not convinced that his conversion should enter into it. By this logic, should I approach the Jew in shul that I know eats pork on occasion and chastise him/her for their actions? Okay, murder and eating pork aren’t on the same scale and I’m not wishing to draw moral equivalence, but you get my point.

  22. matityahu–
    Unless I misunderstood you, I actually made the opposite point. As I see it, X has the right to accept only ortho ones, Y has the right to accept only ortho and conservative, Z has the right to accept anything and everything, Q has the right to accept all conversions but reject patrilineal descent, etc etc.
    Someone who has certain views about what Judaism is, and halacha is, will simply not be able to accept all conversions as kosher. And that’s perfectly ok, as long as everyone is respectful (well, easier said than done), and does not try to prevent others from living their lives because of above disagreement (hence the rabbanut reference).
    That is why I disagree with POLJ, who says “People who choose Judaism should be embraced and welcomed, not told they really aren’t Jewish for one reason or another.”
    I’m all for embracing and welcoming, but there are situations in which I can’t accept that someone is Jewish for purposes of halacha. I’d wouldn’t bring it up unless there were a real halachic issue (minyan, layning megillah), and even then I’d be careful, b/c I know it’s difficult to have one’s identity questioned.

  23. Take something like this, for instance. Let’s say, for a split-second, that that particular rabbi were to speak for an entire movement, the movement of Jews who do not believe that Moses necessarily existed (ç”Ã¥).
    Consider, then, how central Moses is to those Jews who do consider the Torah to be a Divine document. The difficulty is obvious.
    I want to applaud Rebecca M’s assertion that “it’s ok for not everyone to accept all people who self-identify as Jewish, as really Jewish”, it’s a statement of simple reality — every Jewish movement has its guidelines for distinguishing from a random person walking in off the street proclaiming Semitic ties and a bonafide “Jew.” That being said, halacha is an objective, fixed way of determining said status, and why it is somehow de facto invalid (ø”ì) for some reason is beyond me.
    BTW, Rebecca, I meant the 13 Affirmations or R’ Albo’s Ikkarim inter alia, I meant to include by that all the other classical works (e.g. R’ Sa’adya Ga’on).

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