As Rav Kook wrote at the beginning of his 27th letter, “I am writing, not because I have the strength to write, but because I don’t have the strength to remain silent…The situation does not provide rest to my heart, and for that reason I am forced to speak of strong, powerful, great things.”
I am writing, not because I want to, or because I want my voice heard, but because I want to be heeded, and I want my friends to listen to me. Not just my friends. Every young person in Jerusalem and the periphery must hear this, seeing as in three weeks I anticipate the greatest Chilul Hashem of the year to take place, as it does every year, and I will try and ensure, to the best of my limited abilities, to prevent as much of it as I can. If one Yeshiva boy listens to me among the thousands, if one participant among the masses decides not to partake in this public disgrace to religion, this essay will have been worth the time I spent writing it. If not, well at least I know I have enough values to condemn such disgraceful behavior.
The Chilul Hashem of which I speak is the annual Yom Yerushalayim flag march (which will take place May 17th), during which thousands of teenagers and young adults march through the city with banners and flags and cheers of “a redeemer will come to Zion” on their lips. Every seminary and yeshiva for miles around sends their students to participate in this massive show of solidarity with the Holy City. The girls will gather at Gan Sacher, assuming things are the way they were last year, and from there they will march to Shaar Yafo, singing and dancing, to join the boys at the Kotel.
But the boys’ route is different. The gathering begins in front of the Great Synagogue, with a concert and lively dancing, complete with the same flags and banners. Another part of this ritual is the distribution of stickers. Some of these stickers, worn by the participants and stuck to their flags, bear harmless messages, perhaps a statement of, “Jerusalem of Gold” or something else. However, the most common sticker being distributed is one which undermines the symbolism of Jerusalem and the nature of the Holy City entirely. The simple sticker, common place on Jerusalem lampposts and garbage cans, reads “Kahane was right”.
If anyone is familiar with the teachings of Rav Kahane, they will know that this sticker is not talking about Rav Kahane’s statements about Torah observance and Jewish pride being of utmost importance; the sticker refers to his plan to transplant Palestinians out of Israel and into different lands.
Now if you happen to agree with Kahane you should accept two facts. Firstly, even if you think it is legitimate, Kahane’s plan is unfeasible and not practical in a current age and society (nor was it appropriate for any society, but that’s besides the point). Secondly, you will be thought of as a racist and perhaps even a terrorist if you ever openly speak about your support of Kahane’s views. As such, it is worthwhile for any serious Kahanist to keep his or her mouth shut about Kahanist philosophy and about their views, and to not openly express those views in the form of a sticker stuck in the center of the Magen David on your Israeli flag. Unfortunately many new to the country are uneducated as to the significance of the sticker, and just go along with the herd. I knew last year enough to know, regardless of my views, that were a picture to be taken of me with a Kahane sticker, even as a joke, I would risk future employment opportunities and scandal if I ever become a member of Knesset, and as such I avoided them like the plague. However, all of my friends took them up and wore them proudly, as if to say to the world, “You got it right! Zionism is racism and colonialism!”
To make matters worse the parade continues to march through the Damascus gate, a gesture in and of itself inciting; to impede public movement and to interfere with the day-to-day lives of fellow citizens is not only unfair but obviously upsetting to the population in question. But it does not stop there. The hundreds of students begin singing, some of them songs of Torah and of Jerusalem, but some of them such popular songs as “Mohammed is dead, he wasn’t a prophet, just another Arab…Mohammad is a f***** son of a b****” and other wonderful tunes full of racist sentiment, and chants inciting violence against Arabs, “Itbakh al ‘Arav (butcher the Arabs)”, “Mavet LaAravim (death to Arabs)”, and other lovely sentiments. To march through the holy city singing songs of hate is wrong enough, but to think that after defiling your mouth with disgusting defilement such as this and then consider yourself worthy to stand at the Kotel? What have we been teaching our children? Where did they learn such hate if not from their parents? And how can we atone for introducing such hate into the world?
I am a self professed, and proud, right-winger. I want to raise my family in the beautiful patch of land the media has deemed the “West Bank” (while the entire state of Israel lies on the western bank of Jerusalem), I visit graves of Bible figures deep in Arab villages, and I am friends with a few Temple Mount activists (this article was inspired by a post from one of them, Rav Yehudah Glick). But I know my limits, because I know what is considered normative and what is considered racist. I know what my friends in America and on the left consider, “OK, that’s Noah,” and what they consider, “good God, why am I friends with such a radical?” More than that, I know what lies within the bounds of religion and what lies in the realm of politics, and what is part of Judaism’s values and what defies them.
In light of all of this, I am compelled to beg all of my friends, and anyone who reads this article, and especially the Yeshiva and Seminary students, PLEASE, for the sake of Hashem’s Name which has been defiled among the nations, do not march through Sha’ar Shechem. Faculty, do not encourage your students to do so! Tell them to turn right and go to Sha’ar Yafo, where they can dance through Jewish populated areas, and feel not only more holy but also more befitting the title of “Jew”.
In a world where Yeshivas encourage their students to dance in Arab neighborhoods on Simchat Torah because Torah “weakens Yishmael” and to hate and disrespect their Arab neighbors in the name of “You shall give them no sanction”, where marches for the Temple Mount are lead by those wearing shirts of the terrorist organization “Lehava” which calls for the use of violence to stop intermarriage and intermingling between Jews and Arabs, we who see the light and realize that the ways of the Torah are pleasant and peaceful instead of harmful and hateful must share that light and that realization. We must protest this injustice and this chilul Hashem. We must say enough, we must be human, we must be respectful, and we must remember that all are created in the Image of God. We know that still tomorrow signs will go up all over calling for Jewish death, that radical Muslims will call for the deaths of Temple mount activist and Two-State-Solution activist alike, and yet in this fight we must be the human, we must be the tolerant and thoughtful, and we will not allow ourselves to let our emotions get the better of us, and that indeed, just because they hate does not mean we should as well.
Kiddush Hashem is the act of causing the Image of God within oneself to shine forth in such a way that it becomes so obvious that a person acts in His Name, and thereby the Name of God becomes something praised and recognized. Chilul Hashem creates an abyss in the world in which God’s Presence should be felt, but because of someone’s decisions to act as a racist, a fascist, and a cruel, violent person, God has nearly been forced out of the equation, His Word being replaced by someone’s base agenda. It hurts beyond anything when people try to sanction their disgusting behavior towards Arabs, try to find religious basis for cruelty and hatred of other people. But why must this be the tone set on this holiday, when we celebrate Hashem’s delivering victory to us in front of the world, one of the greatest acts of Kiddush Hashem that could have occurred? The city of Kings like Solomon, noted for his foreign policy and positive relations with other nations, should not be tainted with such unsophisticated, coarse, plebeian hate, nor should the Chosen nation of priests be guilty of such conduct.
So the question becomes, on a day which celebrates God’s returning His people to His Holy City and His Holy Mountain, will you then go and drive out the Presence of God from the camp of Israel? Will your songs be dedicated to thanking God, or disgracing his creations? And while dancing through the streets, will your hands clap together in appreciation of His kindness, or will they beat the walls and gates of other citizens of the Holy City? This city’s first name in the Bible means “Completion”, or “Peace”, and if your actions will do nothing but lead to the opposite of that, then they have no place in Jerusalem.