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Not my Jewish Home

There is no room in the religious Zionism I know for any party that accepts Meir Kahane's racist doctrine
Jewish Home leader Rafi Peretz, right, with Itamar Ben Gvir, left, of the extremist Otzma Yehudit party on December 20, 2019. (Courtesy, Jewish Home, via The Times of Israel)

On Friday, Rabbi Rafi Peretz, leader of the Jewish Home party and the current education minister, signed a pact with Itamar Ben Gvir of the far right Otzma Yehudit party to run together in the upcoming elections for the Israeli Knesset.

I am a member of the religious Zionist community in Israel and try to steer clear of politics, but this time, I feel compelled to speak out.

I was born in 1961 into the reality of a Jewish home for the Jewish people. For me, the existence of a homeland for the Jewish people was always a given. It is now our turn to protect our Jewish home — the Jewish home in the deeper sense of the word, not the political party.

A “Jewish home” is not just a refuge for the Jewish people. It is not intended merely to save Jews from anti-Semitism. It is meant to enable the Jewish people to fulfill our unique destiny to be a chosen people that is a light unto the nations. Our “chosenness” does not make us superior or give us an elevated status; rather, it imposes a great moral responsibility on us.

A “Jewish home” is a place that remembers that we were a persecuted minority throughout our entire history and is aware of the fact that today we are a sovereign state that rules over minorities. This is the primary test for the Jewish state. We must vigorously protect the rights of all who live under the aegis of the Jewish state. Without any discrimination.

A “Jewish home” is a place that accepts all of its sons and daughters and allows them to live within it without feelings of alienation or persecution. Even if I myself live according to Jewish law and believe in strict observance of Jewish tradition, I will fight for the rights of all my non-observant brothers and sisters to feel at home here in Israel. That includes when they visit the Western Wall and when they register for marriage.

A “Jewish home” is a place that transmits its legacy to future generations. That legacy includes the memory of the founding fathers and mothers of the State of Israel, the covenant at Sinai, the inheritance of the land of Israel, and the vision of Israel’s prophets, who strove to guide the kingdoms of Israel and Judah and to provide them with a moral compass so that they would not lose their kingdom.

A “Jewish home” is not afraid of a multiplicity of voices and does not impose the opinion of one person on another. Educating our people toward tolerance and respectful disagreement adds an additional level to our multi-storied communal home.

The Jewish Home political party, however, has just made a public statement that it is not a home for the entire Jewish people; rather, it is a home for only one specific sector of the Jewish people — the sector that identifies with the racist doctrine of Rabbi Meir Kahane.

That is not a “Jewish home,” no matter what the name of the party may be.

Translated by Shira Pasternak Be’eri

About the Author
Rabbi Dr. Benjamin “Benny” Lau is the Director of the 929 Tanakh B'Yachad daily Bible study initiative.
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