Shmuly Yanklowitz

Condemning the barbarism in Huwara: A statement from Orthodox rabbis

(​Torat Chayim)
(​Torat Chayim)

This is a statement, made by members of Torat Chayim, an international group of Orthodox rabbis, as signed below.

We have watched events in Israel in recent days with profound sadness and heartbreak. On February 26, Hallel Menachem Yaniv and his brother Yigal Yaakov Yaniv were shot and killed by two terrorists as they drove through the town of Huwara.

We condemn this cruel act of terrorism which occurred during a wave of Palestinian violence in which 14 Israeli civilians were murdered in the last weeks. We appeal to our Palestinian neighbors to stop these horrific actions which are not only evil but set back the cause of Palestinian self-government which ostensibly is the reason for terrorism. Every such crime convinces more Israelis – the very people who must agree to Palestinian self-rule – that such a state would not live in peace with Israel but would seek to make life unlivable in the Jewish state.

On the night of February 26, hundreds of Israeli Jews living on the West Bank descended on Huwara and nearby Arab villages and burned cars, set fire to homes, and attacked people. Clearly their goal was revenge and a form of collective punishment that would terrorize the Palestinians. General Yehuda Fuchs, head of the IDF Control Command, described the rampage as a ‘pogrom’ designed to spread terror among the Huwara population. He confirmed that the IDF was unprepared for the size and scope of the attack, and therefore failed in its task of preventing terror.

We condemn the barbaric attack on Huwara. Neither seeking revenge nor anger at murder nor loss of self-control justifies those Jews who acted reprehensibly. They violently trampled the ethical values that have guided Israel’s response for 74 years in its fight against those who seek to destroy the Jewish state.

Adding to our anguish, important Ministers and MK’s in the present Israeli government expressed sympathy for the vigilante actions. Minister of Treasury Bezalel Smotrich said that “Huwara needs to be wiped out” but the State of Israel should do this, not private citizens. This comment is even more ethically shocking because Minister Smotrich presents himself as a religious, observant Jew. He knows that the Torah prohibits acts of revenge. He knows that he is proposing a war crime. While he has tried to modify his meaning and soften his words, he has not had the decency to denounce the evil actions themselves.

His remarks are a classic case of supporting evil and causing a chillul Hashem – desecration of God’s name. The Talmud describes chillul hashem as an unforgivable sin — because the action is so repellent that people will say I want no part of a God who, or a Torah which, inspires such behavior. We are saddened that Prime Minister Netanyahu is so constrained by his present governing coalition that he could not repudiate such behaviors and comments directly but only called on people not to take the law into their own hands. Only now has he called the remark “inappropriate” — an inadequate response to malevolent words.

Finally, we turn to the Orthodox Union, a leading organization in the American modern Orthodox community. We express our deep disappointment that it announced that it would meet with Minister Smotrich – notwithstanding that many other Jewish organizations declined to do so. The O.U. itself condemned the vigilante actions which Smotrich ‘liked’ and publicly suggested that the government of Israel should act in like fashion. Normally we agree that we should show our respect for the State of Israel by meeting with its representatives even when we disagree with the policies they support. However, Smotrich’s comments were so lawless, repugnant and morally irresponsible that Orthodox organizations especially should dissociate themselves from him. By failing to dissociate, we become guilty of the sin of bystanding and of associating with wickedness.

We call on all our fellow Orthodox Jews to speak up against those who act in unworthy fashion to turn the Torah from a life-giving medicine to a death-dealing potion [Yoma 72B].

Our love for Israel and commitment to its right to live and flourish make it all the more painful to issue this statement which conceivably can be used, out of context, to attack the Jewish state. We speak out, nevertheless, to protect Israel’s good name, out of honoring its 74 year record of maximum moral use of its power and to strengthen the hands of those leaders, especially in the IDF, who have made clear that they will fight any attempt to politicize or undermine the IDF’s steadfast commitment to “purity of arms”; and just treatment of all populations under its control.

Rabbi Dr. Yitz Greenberg
Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz
Rabbi David Rosen
Rabbi Daniel Landes
Rabbi Dina Najman
Rabbi Dr. Elie Holzer
Rabba Dr. Lindsey Taylor-Guthartz
Rabbi Dr. Mel Gottlieb
Rabbi Isaac Sassoon
Rabbi Asher Lopatin
Rabbi Yehoshua Engelman
Rabba Dr. Carmella Abraham
Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller
Rabbi Marianne Novak
Rabbi Zach Truboff
Rabbi Dr. Mira Neshama Weil
Rabbi David Jaffe
Rabbi Dr. Eliezer Finkelman
Rabbi Gabriel Kretzmer Seed
Rabbi Shayna Abramson
Rabbi Hayim Leiter
Rabbi Avraham Bronstein
Rabbi Tyson Herberger
Rabbanit Tali Schaum Broder
Rabbi Dr. Michael Chernick
Rabbi Avidan Freedman
Rabbi Shalom Schlagman, MD
Rabbi Ariel Goldberg
Rabbi David Kalb
Rabbi Avi Orlow
Rabbi Dr. Jeremiah Unterman
Rabbi Steve Greenberg
Rabbi David Fain
Rabbi Ben Greenfield
Rabbi Frederick Klein
Rabbi Barry Dolinger
Rabba Amalia Haas
Rabbi David Kasher
Rabbi David Bauman
Rabbi Shimon Brand
Rabbi David Glicksman
Rabbi Loren Berman
Noam Zion
Rabbi Daniel Vaisrub
Rabbi Avram Mlotek
Rabba Aliza Libman Baronofsky
Rabbi Eitan Gavson
Rabbi Yitzhak Ajzner
​Rabbi Daniel Silverstein
Rabbi Shamir Caplan
Rabbi Leah Shakdiel
Rabbi Alana Suskin
Rabbi Wendy Zierler
Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo
Rabbi Avram H. Herzog
Rabbi Jair Melchior
Rabbi Ari Hart
Rabbi Max Davis
​Emily Goldberg Winer
Rabba Claudia Marbach
Rabbi Daniel Geretz
​Rabbi Hody Nemes

About the Author
Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz is the President & Dean of the Valley Beit Midrash (Jewish pluralistic adult learning & leadership), the Founder & President of Uri L’Tzedek (Jewish Social Justice), the Founder and CEO of Shamayim (Jewish animal advocacy), the Founder and President of YATOM, (Jewish foster and adoption network), and the author of 22 books on Jewish ethics. Newsweek named Rav Shmuly one of the top 50 rabbis in America and the Forward named him one of the 50 most influential Jews. The opinions expressed here represent the author’s and do not represent any organizations he is affiliated with.
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