Wednesday, July 14, 2021


Please don’t trash-talk Israel. Aside from the fact that criticism of Israel is against Torah precepts, and really bad form, why would you do it when the entire weight of the world is bearing down on the Jewish State with all the hate it can muster? Do we really need it from you, too?

Look, I don’t know you. I don’t know who you are, or what you think about Israel. But if you don’t love Israel, this piece probably isn’t for you. Because this week I’m writing for the people who love Israel. And if you love Israel, this is very simple: you’d never do anything to harm her.

Yes. I know. The IHRA working definition of antisemitism says that criticism of Israel “similar to that leveled against any other country” isn’t hate, and “cannot be regarded as antisemitic.”

That’s fine. We’re not talking about haters here. We’re talking about the people who claim to love Israel. People who ought to know better. (Here’s where for some reason, I see in my mind’s eye a Scotsman on a mountaintop, in full kilt crying out, “If ye loue her, you'd ne'er slander her.”)

The sages of the Talmud were clear about this, going so far as to stand in the shade on hot days and in the sun on cold days so they and their students would not complain about Israel’s weather. Ketubot 112a:

Rabi Abba kissed the rocks of Acco. Rabi Chanina repaired the roads of Eretz Yisrael. Rabi Ami and Rabi Assi moved the students from the sun to the shade and from the shade to the sun [so they wouldn’t complain about the weather]. Rabi Chiya bar Gamda used to roll in the dirt of Eretz Yisrael, as the scripture (Tehillim 102:15) states, "For your servants desire her stones and find charm in her dirt."

Scripture is clear on this. We learn it from the story of the spies. The spies weren’t lying when they talked about seeing giants and other bad stuff during their pilot trip to Israel. They were telling the absolute truth. But there were many nice things they could have said about Israel. Instead they chose to say ugly things, and this had a chilling effect on the people, so that they became scared to make Aliyah.

It all boils down to this: The Torah prohibits speaking negative language about the Land of Israel. To use negative language in relation to Israel is a form of Lashon Hara (Evil Speech), a category of forbidden speech. Also, the Torah stipulates that Lashon Hara, by definition, is true.

The spies’ report was scary for the very reason that it was true. Giants? You’d talk about them no matter WHERE you saw them, Spain, France, Italy . . .  why would you keep the presence of giants to yourself? The report given by the spies was legitimate, but here’s the thing: it was frickin' scary.

IHRA would no doubt see the spies’ report as “legitimate criticism.” But the Torah went to great lengths to tell us it’s wrong to speak like this about Israel—that it’s damaging.

Here’s where some might say, “It’s precisely because I care about Israel that I say these things. I want to effect positive change.”

But negative reports about Israel cannot and do not effect positive change. That’s a part of what we learn from the story of the spies. Negative reports about Israel cause damage. In the case of the spies, a negative report scared people off from coming to live in Israel. And this is a kind of damage, because Israel encourages and needs Aliyah

I like to tell people: “Israel wants your warm bodies.”

Because what Israel needs isn’t a public perception that limits her ability to grow. Israel needs to be strengthened. And that means strengthening Israel's population through Aliyah.

The spies could have, and should have, talked about the delightful fruits of Israel and the way the inhabitants feared and gave honor to the spies. Today we can still take this route. We can talk about the wonders of the Israeli pomelo and the flavorful red tomatoes. We can marvel at the way our leaders face down Iraq and Iran, and appear before Congress to standing ovations. The Land of Israel has been vanquished time and time again, our land nearly, but never quite emptied of our people, yet here we are, having risen from the ashes like a phoenix.

These are the things that make a positive impression and make people yearn to be here. Stories about the wonderful people. The miracle we are. The gorgeous produce that springs from our holy soil.

Had the people but heard these potent stories that tell of Israel—stories that are true, stories that tell of what they never knew, never dreamed we would become—they’d have rushed into the Land with pure hearts, full of excitement, desire, and purpose.

Here's the thing: Israel is called the Holy Land for a reason. To be holy is to be set apart from all else, in this case, all other countries. Sacred. The IHRA definition that refers to criticism you’d say of “any other country” notwithstanding: Israel is different.

Am I saying that Israel should be held to a different standard? Hell, yes. All honor must be given. A negative report, on the other hand, is a desecration.

Don’t think it’s not. 

Because when you trash-talk Israel you're piling it on. You're increasing the hate, which is to put all Jews in danger. And at that point, who the hell cares if what you’re saying is true? The words that issue from your mouth damage public perception thereby posing an existential danger to Israel.

Do you want to effect positive change? Increase love for Israel in the world. Say nice things about her. Speak well of the Jewish State that rules over a significant part of your land.

If nothing else, don’t say anything bad. Even if you feel like you really, really want to. Seriously.

Just zip it.

Note to my readers: I will be taking a hiatus from this column as I recover from surgery for midfoot arthritis. Thanks for being my loyal readers. I hope you’ll be waiting for me on my return. In the meantime, keep it warm!









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This blog may be a labor of love for me, but it takes a lot of effort, time and money. For over 14 years and 30,000 articles I have been providing accurate, original news that would have remained unnoticed. I've written hundreds of scoops and sometimes my reporting ends up making a real difference. I appreciate any donations you can give to keep this blog going.

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