Arafat vs. Chief Rabbis
let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech—Genesis 11:7
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Afterwards, still early in the morning, he sent a copy of the letter to settler Channel 7, in order to sweeten the prominent rabbis' first cup of coffee. Days after it was disclosed that only four out of the ten candidates had completed their rabbinical studies, this was a calamity.
A Day Late and a Dollar Short
On March 24, 2013, expired the term of the current Chief Rabbis. The delayed elections are scheduled for July 24, but following the recent events, they may be delayed again.
The election of Chief Rabbis is not a public event; it takes place within the secretive corridors of the Ministry of Religious Services and the Rabbinate. Until now, both posts (Ashkenazi and Sephardic) were occupied exclusively by Ultra-Orthodox Haredi rabbis.
The delay and the dirty war we are witnessing may be the result of Netanyahu's new coalition attempt to change the Haredi dominance. Haredim are not in the new coalition. A key partner of the current government is the Jewish Home, the settlers' Religious Zionist party.+ One of their goals is to create a substantial change in the Chief Rabbinate structure by placing at the top a non-Ultra-Orthodox candidate.++
After their candidate reached the final stage without real chances of winning the post, they started a smearing campaign against the Ultra-Orthodox candidates. In its final step, they got unexpected help from Mr. Arafat.
The institution is in charge of personal status issues, like marriages, divorces, burials, conversion to Judaism and other more esoteric issues like kosher certification. It is divided into Ashkenazi and Sephardic sections. This division was imposed by the secular authorities of the State of Israel and is the source of the urban legends abounding on the topic.
It is impossible to divide Judaism only in these two categories. Mountain Jews, Yemenite Jews, Iraqi Jews belong to their own liturgical groups. In the Netherlands, there is a large concentration of Sephardic Jews (the Haredi professor described in The Cross of Bethlehem was born to such parents). There is a clear division between European and Russian congregations. A plethora of hidden subdivisions.
Yet, the State divided the complex situation according to just the two leading liturgical traditions. By mixing up different traditions, it unwillingly reenacted the Tower of Babel: "let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech"—Genesis 11:7. Congregations were assigned to one of the two rabbinate's sections according to a geographical reasoning. To their astonishment, Yemenites and Mountain Jews found themselves classified as Sephardic ("Spaniards" in Hebrew) while they are utterly disinterested to know even where Spain is. Cyprus is not too shabby for their vacations.
In all synagogues, services are conducted in Hebrew, but intonations and chanting vary. Yet, humanists invariably claim to possess the ultimate truth; please don't argue with them because they are violent. The State of Israel divides in two because it wants to, it is easier for them to run the country; that's it, shut up.
This weird organization of religion by the State is the basis for the current situation. Recently, a rabbi accused of bribery was appointed Head of Jerusalem Rabbinical Court, a rabbi laid down the religious basis for an attack on Syria, and for a while, Israel's Sports Ministry acquired authority for nominating rabbis. I described other atrocities in Monster Rabbi and other articles.
Israel's religious authorities are subjugated to a secular organization, the Ministry of Religious Services. As a consequence, rabbis are tempted to ignore moral behavior; after all, humanist government ministries judge events according to financial considerations; in their eyes, "good" and "evil" are nonsense.
Luckily, one doesn't need to understand what good is to become a rabbi. Government approval stamps are available for $1 at the nearest street market. Alternatively, you can be born to right father. Unlike the retroactive laws& favored by Israel, this one is tricky to perform.
Four candidates are sons of former chief rabbis (Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, Rabbi David Lau, Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef and Rabbi Yaakov Shapira). Three of them received their rabbinical certificate at the time their fathers headed the system supervising the ordination$ and were exempted of exams.
Allow me to skip a detailed list of the candidates' cheap virtues, and reach the crux of the matter.
Arafat vs. Eliyahu
Veteran readers of this site may remember Shmuel Eliyahu from an article named Racist Rabbis. As City Rabbi of Tzfat, he issued a decree instructing residents not to rent rooms or houses to Palestinian Israelis. The last are full citizens of the State of Israel.
Subsequently, posters appeared all over the town, saying: "Don't rent rooms to Arabs. Don't give work to Arabs. Don't give Arabs any foothold in our community." Jews renting rooms to Palestinians with Israeli citizenship got telephonic threats. One such a case was of Eliyahu Zvieli (then 89, survivor of WWII) who rented rooms to three Palestinian students. He reported "People have called the house and threatened to attack, they said they would burn it down if we don't leave."
Advocate Arafat mentioned that and asked the Attorney General to check out other racist decrees by the Eliyahu. "Can a racist be Chief Rabbi?" is Arafat's question. In the letter reproduced above, he quotes:
If accepting the claim, the Attorney General can thwart the nomination of such candidate by beginning a legal process against the racist. If rejecting the claim, he will prove that the State of Israel is openly racist. If Eliyahu falls, other candidates will fall with him. Bravo, Arafat!
Fanatic Humanism's Boomerang
Truth is simple. When the rabbinical system recognized the authority of the State to get involved in its internal issues it became nothing but a servant of Humanism Fanatics organized as a Westphalian state with a Walsingham-style surveillance system. They can't be faithful to God in such hostile environment. Yet, they don't care, State certificates are cheap.
There can be neither compromise nor solution to this conflict. Simply, no state can impose religion upon its citizens, this is a private issue between each one of them and God. Israel is trying to impose not only this, but also the specific worshipping ways allowed to every person. It tries to impose the way one will be received into this world (including forcing mutilations), the way one will marry and with whom, and the way one should be buried. These are not roles of the State. The Humanist states imposed these days on people are nothing but unintelligible Towers of Babel set to fall into the deep waters of eternal oblivion.
* Nazareth Illit—Upper Jerusalem in Hebrew—is the Jewish settlement next to Nazareth. It often reaches headlines due to its awful treatment of Palestinians, see Jewish Mayor: I've been called "Fascist, Thug, Racist"
** Attorney General of Israel (HaYoetz HaMishpati LaMemshala, literally The Legal Advisor to the Government) is the head of the executive branch legal system.
+ Likud and Labor are nationalistic and secular parties. Haredi parties are religious and non-nationalistic or slightly nationalistic. For many years, the National Religious Party was the bridge allowing the unholy alliance between Zionism and ultra-Orthodox Judaism. Their most visible characteristic is a "Kipah Sruga" (handwoven skullcap) in contrast to the black skullcap used by the Haredim and Hasidim. In 2009, the party was dissolved, and most of its former members created The Jewish Home. In the 2013 elections, it got 12 seats in the Knesset (out of 120), getting substantial power and becoming a central member in the government.
+ In February 2013, a public campaign promoted Rabbi Stav, one of the founders of Yeshivat Hesder Petah Tikva, to be nominated as Chief Rabbi. "Yeshivat Hesder" is a generic name for religious colleges that combine Talmudic studies with military service in the army; they belong to the Nationalistic Religious framework. Most religious Jews are exempted from military service; the new Conscription Law was one of the main reasons leading to the 2013 early elections.
& An ex post facto law (Latin for “after the fact”), or retroactive law, is a law that retroactively changes the legal consequences of actions committed prior to the enactment of the law. Ex post facto laws are expressly forbidden by the United States Constitution, though some countries accept them.
$ The Chief Rabbinate's Exams and Ordination Department grants three classes of titles. "Yoreh Yoreh" certificates to recipients recognized as Halacha teachers. City Rabbi certificates to those who took tests on additional issues. "Yadin Yadin" certificates, the most important title, to those about to become religious judges.
% Hebrew uses acronyms extensively, though in a fashion different than English, favoring the creation of words, or the matching of existing words. AKUM stands for "worshippers of stars and horoscopes," thus being the definition of "pagans." However, as a word, AKUM means "bended," adding the meaning of "wrong" to "pagans."
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