In my youth way back a long time ago, the heady days of the seventies when we still knew we could change the world, I thought of being a lawyer, and I’d contemplate a career in human rights law. Today, in a world with few heroes, I think of people like Prof. Irwin Cotler, a tireless campaigner for human rights in many parts of the world, as an individual we would do well to emulate.
So, when my love of justice and human rights is perverted by those who claim to represent other great loves in my life, Torah and Israel, I can’t help but feel hurt and disappointed. Oh yes, and did I mention angry?
I’ve been listening with one ear to the discussions around the infamous letter of some rabbis regarding selling or renting to non-Jews, specifically to Arabs, and was happy to see it condemned by key rabbis of all stripes and colours. Prof. Jeffrey Woolf has written about this here, as has Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein.
Clearly, there are more responsible leaders who condemn the by now infamous “rabbis’ letter” than there are rabbinic supporters of this offensive point of view. I still wonder what the impact will be on the ground, whether we are sowing the seeds among the people for these perverted attitudes to become more and more acceptable, as representing true Jewish values and Jewish Law.
What pushed me over the top on this issue was seeing yesterday that now the “rabbaniot”, the wives of many of the same rabbis who signed the letter, have jumped on the bandwagon. And about what? That Jewish girls shouldn’t marry Arab men.
Shocker that one.
Without a public letter from these illustrious women we might never know that Jews shouldn’t intermarry. Thanks for that insider’s tip. (Funny, I don’t see any missives being sent out to Natalie Portman, our girl in LA, who just announced an engagement to someone from outside the tribe. How about warning off super-model Bar Rafael from any marriage to DeCaprio?)
What can I say, it’s all painful. Yes, Jewish law forbids marrying someone who is not Jewish. Yes, I’ll even go so far as to say that the fate of Israeli women married to Arab men is generally unhappy. However, the need to make a public, strident statement with hysterical language clearly does not have as its goal preventing anyone from marrying or dating an Arab.
And let’s get this straight; were this a statement about Jewish Law, it would have spoken about marrying non-Jews. This was racism pure and simple; don’t go near those scary darker people who live in our midst.
And to whom is this geared? To the girls in the ulpanot, the high schools for religious girls? Presumably, they are the constituents of the authors of this letter. So without a doubt, the girl from that particular milieu who was just about to sign up for National Service in Um-El Fahm so that she could find herself a nice Arab husband is going to change her mind, now that she has seen the cumulative wisdom of the rabbis’ wives in writing.
Thank goodness for that particular intervention.
Oh, and the girl from the non-observant family, she is definitely going to refrain from getting into the car of the nice Arab man whooing her because she suddenly recalls the letter from Rabbanit Ovadia.
Are we now in a race to be the most publicly offensive and imbecilic?
My dear rabbaniot. With all due respect, there are lots of ugly things going on out there in the world, and there are a lot of things that need fixing. Perhaps you might want to start using your political connections to agitate for bigger budgets for schools, so that all Israeli children – male, female, Arab, Jewish or other – receive a decent basic education.
If you are sincerely concerned about Jewish continuity, perhaps you might want to focus on where we have failed in our homes and education system to communicate Jewish values to the extent that a young woman would turn her back on her tradition? Are you even aware of the active and aggressive work that missionaries carry out in Israel? Or are they white and polite, so they don’t register on your radar screen of affronts to Jewish values?
Raising your voices to a high pitch and investing your personal prestige to raise a hue and cry about a phenomenon that affects a small number of women every year, giving it a higher profile than acute social ills, calls your motives – and your integrity – into question.