Usually I enjoy flipping through Torah Tidbits, a 50+ page booklet in English about the weekly Torah portion that is distributed to synagogues throughout Israel and published online. Produced by Orthodox Union (OU) Israel, Torah Tidbits is often insightful and inspiring Shabbat reading, but I found the latest edition (Vayak-heil, 1080) to be extremely disturbing.
I’m speaking specifically about an article by Rabbi Nachman Kahana, the Rabbi of Chazon Yechezkel Synagogue – Young Israel of the Old City of Jerusalem, on pages 39-41.
In the article, Rabbi Kahana speaks about what he believes were missed opportunities for Israel during the Six Day War. Rabbi Kahana expresses regret that Israel didn’t expel “all the alien peoples” from Israel and didn’t set up puppet governments in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt. I think his words speak for themselves:
During those six days we could have removed the desecration of HaShem’s holy Mount by demolishing the Al Aksa mosque and the golden domed building.
And the world would have been silent.
We could have conquered Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and established pro-Israel puppet governments. And the world would have been silent.
We could have transferred all the alien peoples from our lands and had a totally Jewish country. And the world would have been silent.
But we did not do any of these justified acts because the ‘fear of the Jews was upon them’ did not register with our leaders.
Today, Israel is being accused of war crimes; I admit to one unforgivable war crime. When in 1948 and again in 1967 we did not expel our enemies from the country. This is our war crime, for which we, our children and grandchildren will have to pay the price.
We did not learn the lesson of Purim; that when HaShem performs miracles, it is incumbent upon us to advance the opportunities afforded us with conviction and courage along the path of Jewish redemption.
In case Torah Tidbits readers missed Rabbi Kahana’s subtle-as-a-sledge-hammer message, he followed his historical analysis with a story meant to demonstrate that Arabs are evil and only understand force.
To conclude with a light story with a serious message.
An Arab entered a bank, just as the automatic mechanism closed the safe. To his threatening demand to receive cash, the teller told him that the safe could not be opened until the following morning. When the Arab became very nasty, the manager physically threw him out into the street.
While the Arab was nursing his wounds, the teller approached him saying: ‘Didn’t I tell you that the safe is closed until tomorrow morning?’ The Arab turned to the teller and said: ‘Yes. You told me, but he explained it.’
It is senseless to tell our enemies of the folly of their ways. They will understand only when it is explained to them, in the spirit of ‘Fear of the Jews was upon them.’
It seems to me that I shouldn’t have to explain why advocating that Israel transfer “all the alien peoples from our lands” is morally wrong on so many different levels, or why stereotypical stories about evil and menacing Arabs are inappropriate.
But maybe I do, because Phil Chernofsky, Educational Director for OU Israel and Torah Tidbits editor, obviously believed that Rabbi Kahana’s article was fit for publication. The publication of Rabbi Kahana’s article raises some troubling questions for me:
- Is this article representative of mainstream views within OU Israel or the Orthodox Union?
- Each edition of Torah Tidbits states that, “OU Israel and Torah Tidbits do not endorse the political or halachic positions of its editor, columnists or advertisers.” But how could Phil and/or OU Israel have possibly thought these views are even within the boundaries of acceptable discourse?
- Torah Tidbits is filled with advertisements. In fact, the three pages of the Rabbi Kahana article contain advertisements for Fresh Coat Painters, Apartment Management and IsraTransfer (not to worry, it’s a money transfer service). Do advertisers know that these types of viewpoints are allowed in Torah Tidbits? Could an article like Rabbi Kahana’s affect future advertising rates?
- Page 3 of the last edition of Torah Tidbits states, “Torah Tidbits and many of the projects of OU Israel are assisted by grants from The Jewish Agency for Israel and the Dept of Tarbut Torani, Misrad HaChinuch.” Do these bodies know that their money is potentially funding Rabbi Kahana articles about expelling all non-Jews from Israel?
There will be those who will be angry that I aired (what I consider to be) dirty laundry in public. But I think we’ve seen time and time again that sweeping these issues under the carpet only makes them worse. If OU Israel thinks that expelling every single non-Jew from Israel is an acceptable viewpoint that deserves publication (regardless of whether it agrees with that viewpoint), then it shouldn’t fear an open discussion about why it thinks that way.
UPDATE: Response from Rabbi Avi Berman, Executive Director of OU Israel (he cites “a lapse in the editorial process” and says Rabbi Kahana writes for Torah Tidbits “on a volunteer basis”):
The activities of the Orthodox Union in Israel focus on strengthening Jews’ connections to their heritage, land and people. OU Israel also provides a positive framework for Israeli teens from challenging backgrounds, and of course, kashrut supervision. It is the practice of OU Israel always to advance these goals in a fashion that is warm, welcoming, non-partisan and, above all, with an emphasis on Derech Eretz and Kiddush Hashem.
Rabbi Nachman Kahana’s views as expressed in an article that appeared in Torah Tidbits this past weekend are entirely his own (OU Israel Publishes Kahana Transfer Article, Eric Danis, Feb. 22, 2014) and not those of OU Israel or the Orthodox Union. Rabbi Kahana is not employed by OU Israel and writes for Torah Tidbits on a volunteer basis, subject to editorial approval. The article in this past week’s publication appeared as written due to a lapse in the editorial process, which the Orthodox Union and OU Israel regret.
I thank Rabbi Berman for his quick reply and I hope OU Israel will reconsider its relationship with Rabbi Kahana in light of the severity of his views.