Yuval Krausz
Yuval Krausz

You don’t get to tell me

I watched a news brief yesterday and heard Rabbi Dov Halbertal, the former head of the Office of the Chief Rabbi Of Israel proclaim that I should live in Gaza or in Palestine or in Miami Beach.  He went on to tell me that I’m not a Jew.

Rabbi Halbertal has commented that women have no place in the IDF.  He has made other comments to the effect that only the Orthodox Jews may define what I can or cannot do, only Orthodox Jews may define what role women can or cannot play in Israel, or for that matter in the world of Judaism in its entirety.

Sorry, Rabbi Halbertal, YOU DO NOT GET TO TELL ME who is or is not Jew enough to live in Israel, to be a Jew, or anything else for that matter.  There are some places in this world where you can get away with that crap, like Iran and Afghanistan.  The Taliban would welcome your ideology, but sadly you are the wrong religion.

Too many of my family went up in smoke, up the chimneys of the Murder Camps created by Hitler and his Nazi henchmen.  They certainly didn’t care whether we were secular, Reform, Conservative, Orthodox or Ultra-Orthodox.  They could care less if we were Hassidic or students of modern art.  But it seems that you, Rabbi, have taken it upon yourself to determine that I am not a Jew.

Where were you, Rabbi Halbertal, on October 6th 1973?  I know where I was.   I was busy saving the likes of you from the murderous Syrians who invaded Israel by the tens of thousands.  My brothers-in-arms, most of them secular or traditional Jews fighting for the very survival of our nation didn’t ask if I was Jew enough to lay down my life in defense of the MOLEDET.  You, however, want me to go to Gaza.

I have news for you, Rabbi Halbertal.  I patrolled Gaza, and the surrounding towns and camps populated by Palestinians and Jews alike prior to 2005.  Until 1991 I was in Hebron and the Gaza Strip and along the border with Egypt, in the Sinai, making sure that no infiltrator would harm the lives of any Jew living in Israel.  Where were you, Rabbi Halbertal?  Did you pray for us?  Were you busy arguing the finer points of the Torah while my uniform could stand up by itself, so soaked with sweat and salt from the desert heat?

Did you lose your hearing while on military exercises inside a T-55, firing shell after shell until the ringing in your ears would NEVER stop?  Did you wake up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat because you saw your platoon medic’s head come off his body with a shell fired by Syrian artillery?  Well Rabbi?  Did you?

And, Rabbi, perhaps your daughters did not serve our nation of Israel, but mine did.  And your son? Did he sign and serve for 25 years, retiring recently from a career as an IDF officer?  How dare you preach your narrow-minded version of WHO may be a Jew and WHO may marry and WHO may die.  How dare you preach your myopic vision of our great people, a people who have accepted more than have rejected.  How dare you, Rabbi Halbertal!

Is our way of celebrating the Shabbat worse than yours? When we harvest the wheat and bring the first fruits in a procession of beautiful children with garlands of flowers on their heads a bad way or a wrong way to celebrate Shavuot?  When our artists perform and paint and sculpt to create a distinct Israeli art and tell a story that is as much the story of the Jew as yours, will you condemn us?

And, Rabbi Halbertal, why can I and do I respect your way of being a Jew and you do not respect my way?  Why do I not drive in Bnei Brack on Shabbat or on Friday afternoon?  Why do I respect the Eruv?  Why do I put a Kippah on my head when entering a Synagogue or when praying Kaddish over a murdered friend’s grave?

You don’t get to tell me, or my family, or my friends, Rabbi.  You didn’t free the old city of Jerusalem, you were not among the paratroopers who wept while proclaiming  הכותל בידינו (The Wailing Wall is in our Hands).  And, Rabbi, you will NOT get to tell me when I or anyone else may or may not visit that Wall, how I can honor it, or pray at its side, or express my love for our people and our history.

Your views are anathema to me, and likely to many other Jews and Israelis.

About the Author
Born in Israel, Yuval emigrated as a baby to Austria and then Canada. He returned to live in Israel in '71 until '91. His military service was in Golani Brigade's 13th Battalion (including Yom Kippur War) with reserve duty as a tank commander and later a liaison officer in the IDF Liaison Unit. He now resides in Pennsylvania, USA.
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