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Why rabbinical courts should oversee government funding in the Start-Up Nation

Holocaust surivor Tova Pollack spent the last days of her life begging to be relieved from excruciating pain, but was denied morphine because of government rules relating to the war on drugs
Illustrative: A Filipina caretaker with an elderly Israeli woman on the Tel Aviv boardwalk (Moshe Shai/Flash90)
Illustrative: A Filipina caretaker with an elderly Israeli woman on the Tel Aviv boardwalk (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

Are the ‘Left’ and the ‘Right’ equally to blame for a lack of unity? Was the life of Holocaust survivor Tova Pollack in vain?

Holocaust survivor ends her life in excruciating pain as a result of inane regulations

That the ethics of Judaism and Zionism should overrule those of both crass materialism and atheism is made abundantly clear by the case of Holocaust surivor Tova Pollack. She spent the last days of her life begging to be relieved from excruciating pain, but was denied morphine because of government rules relating to the War on Drugs. The hospital stopped giving her morphine because of regulations which make no sense at all.

Judaism allows the use of ‘drugs’ when they serve as beneficial medicines

During the Havdalah service which concludes the Sabbath we recite the blessing of incense and inhale the spices.

Nachmadis, a 13th century ‘Zionist settler’ most commonly known as the Ramdan, was one of the most important commentators of the Torah (Old Testament). He provides interpretations of references in the Torah concerning incense and spices (drugs) – פסוק ו. His comments relate to the play on words between spices and drugs, Heaven and knowledge. The Ramdan concludes that in many cases the spices (drugs) can be beneficial.

Official Israeli government policy relating to drugs is based to a large extent on the United States’ War on Drugs, whose origins can be traced to the Right Reverend Charles Henry Brent. The celibate Episcopal Bishop arrived in the recently-occupied Philippine Islands in 1902 (the mostly Roman Catholic islands had been seized from Spain in 1898) with the intent of converting the territory’s main non-Christian groups to what he believed was the true faith. He saw himself as a prophet and one of his major missions was to rid the world of opiates.

British Empire and the War for Drugs

As we have learned in history classes, the British Empire and European powers fought two Opium Wars in the 19th century so that the British Empire’s largest source of earnings (the sale of Indian opium) could corner the Chinese market. By the end of the 19th century some 20 million Chinese and many millions of other Asians were addicted to opium. The view that the poorest should subsidize the richest can be viewed as the monetary ‘stream up’ theory, whereby those who monopolize finances and power make sure they hold on to it. According to more modern theories of capitalism there should be limits (סיג) on monopolization.

Bishop Brent plays primary role in banning opium in the US and worldwide

The First Missionary Bishop of the Philippines Islands was instrumental in convincing US politicians to join in his campaign to outlaw opium and represented the US at the 1909 International Opium Conference in Shanghai. This was followed by the International Opium Convention in The Hague in 1912, whose treaties were incorporated in the 1919 Treaties of Versailles. These international regulations are now known as the worldwide War on Drugs.

Some one hundred years ago a few hospitals in the United States would deny morphine to terminally-ill patients in excrutiating pain with the argument that “no patient of mine is going to heaven while on drugs”.

War on “drugs” based on bias, assumptions and power games

The international treaties were based on assumptions and bias and had nothing to do with scientific research. The US Assessor to the League of Nations Opium Advisory Committee Elizabeth Wright was described by the British Foreign Office as “incompetent, prejudiced” and “ignorant”.

New theories and findings

Opiates may play a major role in solving a missing link in human evolution. According to recent archaeological findings, poppy seeds were first introduced in Israel more than 3,000 years ago. Poppy seeds and other plants (Aloe vera) may have made major contributions to human progress, both physical and spiritual. These theories and discoveries tend to support the Torah and commentaries (Tanakh).

Judaism offers moral alternatives

Boasts by Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte that he would be happy to resurrect Auschwitz to slaughter three million drug addicts (by police and military forces which are often the very people responsible for the drug trade) demonstrate why ethics should be decisive in health issues instead of political and financial concerns.

According to the first and third ethical rulings in the Chapters of the Fathers of the Mishnah (פרקי אבות) one should be moderate in passing judgment and place limitations on the passing of judgments (הוו מתונים בדין – ועשו סיג לתורה).In other words, not allow laws to be implemented without thinking over all sides of the issue and not allow fanatics to do whatever they wish because they have the means to do so.

A rabbinical court would also deal with other social issues such as housing, transportation and immigration

Decisions would not be made according to what best serves interest groups on the ‘Right’ or the ‘Left’. The ‘Left’ tends to ignore the role of Judaism and the need to defend Jews from their own goodness and gullibility, while the right tends to thrive on power and money – which is also a necessity – to the detriment of ethics, Neither represents Judaism and Zionism, while both play to the lowest common denominator in the belief that they should appeal to the stupidity of the electorate, which is not the case.

About the Author
Asaf Shimoni is an author, journalist and translator who returned to Israel in 2016 after spending 40 years abroad, most of them in the Netherlands. He grew up near Boston, made aliyah while living on a kibbutz (from 1973 to 1976), and graduated from Syracuse University in 1978. He also lived some 5 years in Sicily. He believes that the media should be as critical and truthful as possible.
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