Thursday, December 14, 2017

 Vic Rosenthal's Weekly Column


Thirteen Conservative rabbinical students studying in Jerusalem wrote a letter in which they criticized the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. They wrote in part,

We, a group of rabbinical students of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary write from Jerusalem to express our deep concern and unease following the current US administration’s reckless decision to formally recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city outside the context of just and respectful negotiations for peace with Israel’s Palestinian neighbors. …

Though the president called for a continued hope for a two-state solution, he has done nothing to show honest dedication to advancing such a goal—or any lasting solution toward peace in the region. To validate this counterproductive move would be to normalize a political moment that continues to stretch itself far beyond the bounds of what is normal.

The Torah frames this entry into and possession of the land of Israel as contingent upon actions that are born of a collective memory of oppression. We recite our plight in Egypt, our generations of suffering, and our responsibility to all of God’s creations as guidelines for governance. As we reside in the ancient, holy, and beautiful land of Israel, we are commanded, year after year, to remember that we are but tenants of God’s eternal domain and have the crucial responsibility to uphold the dignity of every person who resides in our midst. As temporary and permanent residents of Jerusalem and as future rabbis, we expect the Jewish state to govern with this holy mandate of equality and humanity for all peoples in mind. We therefore envision a Judaism, a generation of American rabbinic leadership, and a State of Israel that heeds the cries of our Palestinian brothers and sisters who currently live with neither a path to citizenship nor self-determination.

My immediate thought was that students with such an obviously limited understanding of Jewish history, both ancient and recent, who aren’t cognizant of the reasons that there hasn’t been (and will not be) a “two-state solution,” and who hear the cries of their “Palestinian brothers and sisters” more loudly than those of their Jewish ones who are being stabbed on the street in the Jerusalem that they claim to love so much, should find another line of work than being rabbis.

However, I shouldn’t have been surprised. Recently a scroll dating to c. 165 BCE was uncovered by archaeologists sifting through rubble removed from illegal excavations by the waqf on the Temple Mount. Until the development of advanced computer imaging techniques, it was unreadable. But scientists at Bar-Ilan University in Jerusalem have recently announced that they have succeeded to decipher much of it. It sheds light on the controversies of the period, which it turns out were not so different from ours. Without further ado, I present some of the text, which I’ve translated into English:

We, students of the Hellenistic school of the priesthood of the Holy Temple write from Jerusalem to express our deep concern and unease following the Maccabee Administration’s reckless decision to cleanse and rededicate the Temple, without first holding just and respectful negotiations with our Greek neighbors. 

Of course Yehuda Maccabee calls for a negotiated settlement with Antiochus, but he just went in and kicked the Greeks out, with no consideration for their humanity and right of self-determination. Would it have been so terrible to have a small altar to Zeus in one corner of the Temple? We have the obligation to uphold the dignity of every person who resides in our midst, even if it’s their custom to slaughter pigs on our altar.

As temporary and permanent residents of Jerusalem, we expect the Jewish state to govern with this holy mandate of equality and humanity for all peoples in mind. We therefore envision a Judaism and a State of Judah that heeds the cries of our Seleucid brothers and sisters who currently live without the ability to fulfill their religious obligations with pigs.

In addition, as everyone knows, the Maccabee program is impractical. Where, for instance, do they think are they going to get the oil to light the Menorah for eight days of sacrifices?




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