Mel Alexenberg
Author of "Through a Bible Lens"

Banish Bernie to the Amazon Jungle

My Times of Israel blog posts on the weekly Torah portion relate to the “Torah Tweets” blogart project that my wife and I created to show how our life that week reflects the Torah portion.

The “Torah Tweets” post for the fifth portion of Leviticus titled “Banish Goldstone to the Jungle” connected the Torah portion Metzorah/ Slanderer to the defamation of the Jewish people by the infamous Goldstone Report issued by a UN kangaroo court chaired by a Jewish judge.  Everyone who hated Israel loved Goldstone. A Jew slandering his own people gave infinitely more power than any of the usual international reports assailing Israel.

Today, Senator Bernie Sanders, a Brooklyn-born Jew is following in the footstep of Judge Richard Goldstone.  In the “Torah Tweets” text below that I wrote five years ago when his libelous report was issued, I only had to replace “Goldstone” with “Sanders” to make it current.  The Torah portion provides a program of rehabilitation therapy for Jews who slander Jews.


Metzorah/Slanderer (Leviticus 14:1-15:33)

“He shall take the live bird together with cedar wood, crimson wool and hyssop….  And he shall set the live bird free upon the open fields.” (Leviticus 14:6, 7)

Rav Kook (Chief Rabbi of the Land of Israel during the first half of the 20th century) reads Metzorah as Motzi Shem Ra (to create a bad name for someone), a slanderer who defames others by his speech (lashon hara).

The slanderer not only afflicts his own body, clothes and house through lashon hara, but he threatens society through breakdown of trust.

Therefore, he is banished from his community to live in isolation and seclusion in the wild among animals and plants that speak no evil.


Bernie Sanders should be banished to the Amazon jungle for defaming Israel with blatant lies as it defends itself against rocket attacks.

Metzorah follows Shemini (kosher animals) to teach that what comes out of our mouths can be far more detrimental than what goes in.  (Rabbi Yisrael Salanter)

Rabbi S. R. Hirsch explains that the mighty cedar and hyssop weed with sheep wool and crimson bug dye symbolize all plant and animal life.

When banishment therapy has succeeded, cedar and hyssop are bound with a red woolen thread to symbolize rising above amoral nature.

A bird flying free represents the potential to tweet truthful words that confirm the metzorah’s rehabilitation from crowing hateful lies.

The biodiversity of the Amazon jungle is unmatched.  It is home to far more species of flora and fauna than anyplace else on Planet Earth.

Bernie Sanders would feel at home living with Amazon toucans, the greatest big-mouth birds in the world.


The damage Goldstone’s falsehoods inflicted on Israel’s image and standing was beyond calculation.  It made front page headlines.  Buried on the inside pages of newspapers a year and a half later, was the story that he recanted.  He admitted that Israel deliberately killed civilians were blatant lies.  Goldstone’s slander etched in the public’s mind could not be erased.


Prof. Michael Oren reacted to Sander’s lies: “He accused us of a blood libel.  He accused us of bombing hospitals.  He accused us of killing 10,000 Palestinian civilians.  Don’t you think that merits an apology?”  When Jake Trapper in his CNN interview corrected his lies, Sanders just shrugged it off without expressing any regret that he had misinformed the public. The number according to the UN was 1,462 and Israel’s estimate is 762 people who were warned by the IDF to evacuate civilian sites hiding rocket manufacturing and launching. Former U.S. Chief of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey says that Israel went to “extraordinary lengths” to limit civilian casualties in Gaza.

Senator Sanders displayed appalling ignorance by asking, “Who is Michael Oren?”  Oren was Israel’s high-profile ambassador to the U.S. during Obama’s first term, current Knesset member, and author of highly acclaimed books on the history of American foreign policy in the Middle East, a subject he taught at Harvard, Yale, Tel Aviv and Hebrew universities.

He dared not face his fellow Jews at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference in Washington and display his animosity towards Israel’s government and ignorance of the brutality destroying the countries surrounding the Jewish State.  His absence was conspicuous when presidential candidates Clinton, Cruz and Trump spoke there.

Sanders chooses to ignore the U.S. government designation of Hamas, the rulers of Gaza, as a terrorist organization that launched thousands of rockets at Israel’s villages, towns and cities in its attempts to kill and maim as many Israel’s as possible.

He could have googled “Hamas Charter” and learned their genocidal aims:  “Israel, by virtue of its being Jewish and of having a Jewish population, defies Islam and the Muslims…. The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them); until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim! there is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him….! I indeed wish to go to war for the sake of Allah! I will assault and kill, assault and kill, assault and kill.”

About the Author
Mel Alexenberg is an artist, educator, writer, and blogger working at the interface between art, technology, Jewish thought, and living the Zionist miracle in Israel. He is the author of "Through a Bible Lens: Biblical Insights for Smartphone Photography and Social Media," "The Future of Art in a Postdigital Age: From Hellenistic to Hebraic Consciousness," and "Dialogic Art in a Digital World: Judaism and Contemporary Art" in Hebrew. He was professor at Columbia, Bar-Ilan and Ariel universities and research fellow at MIT Center for Advanced Visual Studies. His artworks are in the collections of more than forty museums worldwide. He lives in Ra’anana, Israel, with his wife artist Miriam Benjamin.