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Wednesday, June 19, 2013,
11 Tammuz 5773.
|Kol Nidre Sermon 2011|
Kol Nidre Sermon 2011
Let me share with
you two very contrasting perspectives of the Israeli-Palestinian relationship. The first comes from a rabbi, the second from
a doctor, both live in
First, the rabbi,
Shlomo Riskin who in 1983 went on aliya, shares this lovely anecdote in his very
recently published memoir “Listening to God”.
He writes how soon after arriving in Efrat just 7 miles from
‘We have a verse in the Koran,’ he said ‘A close neighbour is better than a far-away brother (we have the same verse in The Book of Proverbs). We have been close neighbours where love for each other has made us brothers. I beg of you, do not put up the fence. It would embarrass our friendship. I guarantee that there will never be a problem form Wadi El-Nis.’
Our city council checked with the IDF and the order for us to put up a fence was removed. Until this day there has been no trouble from Wadi El-Nis – much the opposite, they have proven their friendship in many significant ways!”
perspective comes from the doctor, Arieh Eldad – professor and head of the
plastic surgery and burns unit at
“The skin bank I
established is based at the
We supplied all
the needed homografts for her treatment.
She was successfully treated by my friend and colleague, Prof, Lior
Rosenberg and discharged to return to
One day she was caught at a border crossing wearing a suicide belt. She intended to explode herself in the outpatient clinic of the hospital where they saved her life. It seems that her family promised her that if she did that, they would forgive her.
This is only one
example of the war between Jews and Muslims in the
Now whenever I
have spoken about Israel from the pulpit, I hope the perception has been that I
am an unequivocal lover of Israel who believes that a secure sovereign
independent Jewish state of Israel is necessary for the physical safety of the
Jewish people, the political defence of democracy, and for the moral decency of
This is the thirty-seventh consecutive year I have spoken to you on Kol Nidre, each time about Israel – a sort of State of the Union message, the union between Jew and Israel. I make no apology for introducing what some may say is politics into this holiest night of the Jewish year because for me Israel is not politics, Israel is family, home to nearly one half of the 13 million Jews around the globe I call family, living in a land promised to my family, your family, our family through a covenantal relationship between God and Abraham, and enjoying an unbroken Jewish settlement since Joshua led the Bnei Yisrael back to the country some three thousand two hundred years ago. I also make no apology for speaking about Israel because each year over the past 37 years, Israel, our family, has become more vulnerable suffering an unceasing intensifying, well funded and insidious campaign of denunciation, deligitimisation and demonization – a campaign waged with great passion and professionalism in parliamentary chambers, royal palaces, dictator’s citadels, town councils, media, universities and work places. This tsunami of malevolent misinformation and bigotry has gathered strength invading all parts of the globe, overwhelming its developed and developing parts, spewed out alike by religious fundamentalist and unwavering secular, rabid, right wing and radical left wing; democrat and despot and even Jews, intelligent Jews, well-intentioned Jews but arguably ill informed, however I have no intention of abusing the sanctity of this holy night by denigrating and disparaging those who seek to achieve or affect the extermination of a Jewish State. I will not hesitate to use the pulpit on a Shabbat for this purpose because truth is an essential ingredient of Judaism. Moreover, in the Torah, ironically in Yom Kippur’s Torah reading from Leviticus we read “You shall reprove your fellow man, and not share his guilt.”
But Yom Kippur more so than any day in the Jewish calendar is an opportunity, more a holy obligation, a mitzvah to look above all at ourselves, openly, honestly.
Many Jewish visitors to Israel enjoy the welcome evidence of a burgeoning economy, experiencing the luxury five star hotels and high class restaurants while remaining oblivious to the daily concerns of the Israeli. Three brief examples of these concerns. First Leonard Cole in his book “Terror – How Israel has Coped” records a conversation between Laurence Lauer who was walking home with his 14 year old daughter Anya near their Jerusalem home when she suddenly suggested that she and her father change positions on the pavement, “Dad, I think you should be walking on the outside and I should be on the inside. What if a terrorist bomb should explode from the street? If you died, I think that somehow I would eventually get over it, but if I were killed I know you would never get over it.”
Second, a while ago I watched a TV international edition of Moving Home. I never watch these programmes but in flicking through the channels I heard Tel Aviv mentioned. The programme focused on a twenty five year old
Tel Aviv woman
Rachel seeking her first property The choice
was narrowed down to three – a small flat in fashionable Rechov Shenkin, a
small town house in Jaffa or a flat in Ramat Gan. Rachel fell in love with the
Third, there are in Israel regular air sirens and air raid exercises, the security cabinet meets in an underground bunker somewhere in the Judean hills while dozens of government and security officials simulate how they will act in time of mass missile attacks. With their hearts Israelis yearn for peace, with their lips they pray for peace, with their heads they prepare for what many regard as the inevitability of war.
All this, all this, compounded by the fact that Israel is surrounded on all sides either by the sea or hostile countries, outnumbered by 60 to 1 and battered and bruised by a well funded, well organized, world wide demonization campaign means the country and the people suffer a unique sense of vulnerability.
The phrase “a
second holocaust” with reference to a nuclear attack on
this fear, informs
Some Diaspora Jews
have detached themselves from
Let me share with
you this news story found in the Israeli news paper Ha- eretz – a story that
puts the propaganda into proper perspective.
The head of the IDF forces in the West Bank, Brigadier General Nitsan
Alon, apologized today on Israeli television for an incident in which an Arab
civilian was killed in his bed during a raid which took place in
He said that Israeli soldiers shot Amir Quwasme last night in his home by mistake during a raid that was aimed at capturing six terrorists who had been released the day before by the Palestinian authority.
Quwasme lived one floor above the intended target Mahmoud Said Bitor. Bitor who was involved in a deadly bombing attack that took place in Dimona in 2008, was apprehended during the raid and is now in an Israeli prison.
announced that the soldiers had made an honest mistake, and that they would
therefore not be arrested and put on trial.
However, he said that the Israeli government deeply regrets the incident
and expresses its condolences to Mr Quwasme’s family for their loss. What does this story tell us? All armies are made up of human beings and
all human beings make mistakes but I don’t remember reading about any other
country in the world whose chief of staff admits when they kill someone by mistake as this general
did. British Colonel Richard Kemp
writing an article in the Times 3 months ago under the heading “In Modern war,
civilian deaths are inevitable” points out that according to some analyses
civilians made up 45% of those killed in the First World War and 65% in the
Second. Every death is a tragedy but
If anyone questions the moral decency of the ethos of the IDF, let me refer you to a 13 page newspaper interview in the Jerusalem Post with Kasher who continues to work on the moral doctrines that shape the IDF’s actions.
So who is right in their perspective? The rabbi or the doctor – Riskin or Eldad, a hand held out in friendship or a hand clenched ready for war. We have to hope, pray, believe it is Riskin, but my real gutwrenching fear is that it may be Eldad.
The last line of the Kaddish reads
“May He who makes
peace in the Heavens make peace for us and all
In 1939 when Rabbi
Benzion Uzziel, became Sephardi Chief Rabbi of
May God who makes peace in the heaven, bring this peace to us and all the world in our lifetime.
RABBI STEVEN KATZ
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