Featured Post

Jewish State bill is precisely what makes the prophets weep

The 'Jewish State' bill violates the prophetic words, 'Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit...'

The Prime Minister is convinced that he is acting to strengthen the Jewishness of the state. His supporters extol and praise him. Those who oppose him criticize him for the same reason. Only I feel like the little boy who is challenging the basic theme and saying out loud: “The emperor has no clothes!” There is nothing in this motion that resembles Judaism. It’s not only that this bill grossly crushes the democratic basis of the state, it is damaging — yes, damaging — our Jewish basis.

Of all the mitzvot (religious laws) in the Torah, Hillel the Elder chose to tell the convert, while he was standing on one foot, that the entire Torah in a nutshell comes to: “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow.” Haven’t we learned anything from that? The attempt to oust the other — the Arab minority — from Israeli democracy is not a question of nice clothes or ugly clothes. It’s just not clothes at all. And it’s not only the mitzvot in the Torah that teach us that this motion is anti-Jewish. Jewish history itself, in which the Jews lived as a minority in lands not their own, shows the way, beginning with: “Love the stranger: for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

And if this was said regarding the Israelites in Egypt, then it is all the more true regarding Arabs in Israel who are a part of this place. Here is their home and here is their future — along with us. That is why I maintain that the “Jewish State bill” is a ringing slap to any Jewish basis of the state.

The gravest warning that Moses gave the Israelites on the verge of entering the Promised Land was against worshiping “my strength and the power of my hand.” I live amongst my people, and it is clear that sometimes there is a need to use force in order to protect life, but this is not a case of “Kill or be killed.” This is about exerting power in order to bend, humiliate and crush the other. This is a power play. This isn’t Judaism.

And thus said the prophet:

Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the Lord of hosts. (Zacharia, 4:6)

About the Author
Rabbi Michael Melchior is a leading advocate for social justice in Israel, education for all, Jewish-Arab reconciliation and co-existence, protection of the environment, and Israel-Diaspora relations. Through his work, Rabbi Melchior seeks to strengthen Israeli civil society so it may catalyze significant social change in the State of Israel. He was a member of Knesset for the Meimad Party. Rabbi Melchior continues to hold the title of Chief Rabbi of Norway.