The Talmud taught a remarkable lesson about the hazards of partnerships, “This is how the scrupulous people of Jerusalem would act: They would not sign a document unless they knew who was signing with them.” The 11th century scholar Rashi explained the custom of the scrupulous of Jerusalem, “They were worried that they might unwittingly sign with a disqualified witness and cause embarrassment and shame.” In a case with a document signed by a disqualified witness, Talmudic law negates the entire document. The scrupulous person researched his partners to make sure that he wouldn’t be tainted with the stain of the disqualified witness. The Talmud adds, “They also would not sit in judgment unless they knew who was sitting with them, and they would not join a meal unless they knew who was eating with them.”
The scrupulous people of Jerusalem taught that when joining with others, a person can never be too careful of their partner’s reputations. Ignorance of a partner’s disqualification is not an acceptable excuse. It is each person’s responsibility to ensure that those they join with are righteous. Failure to ensure the cleanliness of your partners demonstrates ignorance and a willingness to be used for illicit affairs. Nothing could be more shameful than naivete that lead to partnering with evil.
Khan-Al-Ahmar is a collection of Bedouin huts found on the side of the Jerusalem-Dead Sea highway. Contrary to reports in the media it isn’t a village and it isn’t Palestinian. The Bedouins that live alongside the highway have never gotten involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They are shepherds who bring their sheep up and down the surrounding desert hills and workers in Mishor Adumim, the local joint Israeli-Arab industrial park.
Unfortunately, the Bedouins of Khan-Al-Ahmar last constructed their huts within the boundaries of Kfar Adumim, a Jewish town 15 minutes east of Jerusalem. After a grueling ten year court battle, the Israeli Supreme Court finally decided that the Bedouins had built their huts illegally. After countless appeals the Court allowed the demolition of the huts and the transfer of the people of Khan-Al-Ahmar. Israel has already built a bigger and better school for their children. Ironically, the settlers of Kfar Adumim fought on behalf of the Bedouin.
Shamefully, activists pretending to act on behalf of the Bedouin hijacked their situation and used them as pawns in their efforts to demonize Israel. Ignored for decades by these activists, all of a sudden buses converged on Khan-Al-Ahmar and plenty of Palestinian flags, never seen before among these huts, were planted in the ground.
To counter the false narrative often spread by Israel’s enemies, the organization I direct, If Not Us, takes American students studying in Israel into Judea and Samaria (what the world calls the West Bank) and teaches the truth based on facts, not narrative. On a recent tour we took students to an overlook across from Khan-Al-Ahmar. While there we saw Hezbollah’s flag flying alongside the Palestinian flag. Hezbollah is a known terrorist entity, and its flag demonstrated the violent entities active in Khan-Al-Ahmar. Some portray the Bedouins as innocent victims, but the truth is that they’ve welcomed a terrorist entity to live among them. A Hezbollah flag is as noxious as a swastika flag – both call for the death of the Jewish people. We don’t want to accept it – but the Bedouin of Khan-Al-Ahmar have allowed themselves to be associated with terror. It’s no wonder that our security consultants told us not to walk through the huts on our visit.
Recently, Jeremy Ben-Ami of J-Street and Rabbi Rick Jacobs of the Union for Reform Judaism, among other leaders, sent a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urging him to stop the demolition of the huts of Khan-Al-Ahmar. The letter claimed to be battling on behalf of peace and justice. The signers of the letter should’ve reviewed their Talmud. They would’ve been well served to heed the lesson of the scrupulous of Jerusalem and researched who they were joining. While I’m sure it was unwitting, J-Street and the URJ have joined with Hezbollah in Khan-Al-Ahmar.
How did these two well-funded and well-staffed organizations make such a grievous error? I am speculating, but I’m going to assume that commendable empathy combined with an assumption of Israel’s guilt, and a dose of superficial research, led to a misunderstanding of the true nature of the Bedouin and their activists. These organizations are based in the United States, and while each has visited Khan-Al-Ahmar, they did so while on sympathy visits. Before they arrived they had reached their conclusion that Israel was guilty and the Bedouin were innocent victims. Had they spent the time researching, and not spent just a few hours in the camp, they would’ve seen the signs – like Hezbollah’s flag – and known to stay away. As Rashi warned in his commentary to our Talmudic lesson, partnering with evil people brings shame. I know that J-Street and URJ would never have sided with Israel’s enemy against its own people, yet they now find themselves working with Hezbolllah’s supporters. I’m hoping they’ll reconsider.