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April 18, 2014 / 18 Nisan, 5774
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Protesting the ‘Evil Decree’? Why Not a Counter Rally?

They can say all day long that they are not protesting Israel. The fact that they will be out there in the middle of Manhattan talking about 'gezeirot' says otherwise.
Haredi Protesting gzeiras

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I don’t know who is behind this rally. But it is quite clear that those who are sponsoring it do not have any warm or fuzzy feelings for the State of Israel. Yet on this day… when literally millions of Jews in Israel are celebrating the birth of their modern State, it has been announced via Matzav that a rally will take place this coming Sunday in New York City to say Tehillim about the ‘terrible’ gezeirah (decree) being enacted by the Israeli government. From Matzav:

Matzav.com has learned that feverish )arrangements are being made for an atzeres tefillah to be held this coming Sunday, April 21, on New York City in light of the gezeiros being enacted by the government in Israel, specifically the implementation of a draft that would remove bochurim from their yeshivos and place them in the Israel Defense Forces. With the threat of the mandatory draft hanging over the yeshivos in Eretz Yisroel, and the budget cuts that have slashed funding to mekomos haTorah, the Olam Hatorah in the Holy Land is facing daunting weeks and months ahead

“The gathering will not be a protest against the Israeli government,” an event organizer told Matzav.com, “but rather purely a tefillah gathering, for thousands of Yidden to beseech Hashem for mercy at this most trying time. It will not be a political event.”

A kol koreh signed by leading rabbonim and roshei yeshiva encouraging attendance at the atzeres tefillah is currently being compiled and will be released as early as later today.

The gathering, to be held in downtown Manhattan, will feature the recital of Tehillim, divrei hisorerus, and kabbolas ohl Malchus Shomayim. The exact time of the event has not been released, though it is expected to be some time in the early afternoon.

I have to marvel at the way this is being characterized by the organizers. They say it will not be a protest against the Israeli government while practically in the same breath they speak about gezierot ( …as in ‘evil’ gezeirot. In their circles when one uses that term, they do not mean it as a compliment.)

Although I have expressed disappointment and opposition to the way this is being handled by rabbinic leaders in Israel and even here, I understand their angst. And their desire to be spared this ordeal. Their emphasis on prayer to God to relieve them of this ‘burden’ is therefore understandable too.

Even though I understand it, I do not support it. Far from it. In my view doing this in the middle of Manhattan in broad daylight is still a loud and terrible statement to be making to the world. The world will not understand that they are not protesting Israel no matter how they parse it in statements like the above announcement in Matzav. They can say all day long that they are not protesting Israel. The fact that they will be out there in the middle of Manhattan talking about “gezeirot” says otherwise.

Had they done so indoors in private setting it would be one thing. People can pray for whatever they want in private. Doing so in public does not add to their prayers. It instead speaks to their opposition to the State – protestations to the contrary notwithstanding. Actions like this speak louder than any explanation. And how will news of this feel to those IDF soldiers who risk their lives daily?

I don’t know who the signatories to this kol korei will be. But I would urge prominent rabbanim of any stripe not to sign it. I doubt that God will see any greater value of this prayer rally being done in public over being done in private. The only value it will have is to bring publicity to them. In my view very negative publicity.

Can it really be the case that rabbinic leaders think God will listen better to them if they do so in public? And how will it be seen by the New York City public that will be forced to be inconvenienced by the almost certain traffic jams this rally will cause? Is unnecessarily inconveniencing the public – and making them angry at us – the way to God’s “heart”?

If the streets are going to be blocked off for this prayer rally anyway, I would love to see a counter rally in close proximity held by members of mizrachi where there will also be Kabbolas Ol Malchus Shamyim. But the Divrei Hisorerus and Tehilim will be said for the safety of IDF soldiers instead.

There should be nothing negative said against the other rally. There should be no bashing of the other side at all. Just a pro Israel rally for the troops and a lot of flag waving… Israeli flags, of course.

This would speak volumes to our brothers and sisters in arms across the ocean risking their lives daily to fight our enemies while protecting our country. Wouldn’t it be nice if some of those attending the other rally would come over and join? That would be a Kiddush HaShem in my view. Frankly I think God might better appreciate those prayers than the other ones.

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About the Author: Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at hmaryles@yahoo.com.


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Binyamin and Chaya Maryles, uncle and aunt of Emes Ve-Emunah author Harry Maryles.
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