Meir Panim’s Tiberias Free Restaurant not only provides warm meals, but the opportunity to socialize as well.
Imagine, just for a moment, that a leftist prime minister of Israel (say, Ehud Barak) had
presided over a government that oversaw the greatest decline in personal security in Israel’s
history, with the terrorist murders of more than 1,000 Israelis. We would be up in arms, taking to the streets to call for his resignation.
Imagine further that this leftist prime minister (say, Chaim Ramon) had presided over a
government that oversaw the worst recession in Israel’s history – one that stifled the economy,
produced records rates of unemployment, and drastically reduce support payments for the
indigent. We would be demanding the replacement of such an incompetent.
Imagine then that this leftist prime minister (say, Shimon Peres) concocted a scheme to
unilaterally and forcibly transfer Jews from their homes, without even a pretense that this would
somehow improve the security of Israelis – the very scheme, it should be added, that he
ridiculed and castigated when his election opponent had proposed it several months earlier. We would be insisting on the need to remove such a fraud from office.
Now imagine that this leftist prime minister (say, Yossi Beilin) had presided over a government that allowed (or encouraged) the closure of the voice of religious, nationalist Jews in Israel (Arutz-7, for example) permitting no broadcast outlet for the natural base of opposition to
his political and military machinations. We would be screaming that such a despot had no choice but to step down.
Imagine even more that this leftist prime minister severely slashed funding to yeshivot and religious institutions, closed down the Religious Affairs Ministry, stopped salary payments to
religious functionaries (kashrut supervisors, mikvah attendants, chevra kadisha members, etc.)
for months on end. We would be insisting that such a hater of Torah, trying to bankrupt Torah
life, is unfit to serve as prime minister of Israel.
And what would happen if such a leftist prime minister fired cabinet ministers at will in order to stifle discussion, intimidate dissidents, and create an artificial majority for his views; then held a referendum of his party members on his plans, lost the referendum, and announced he was ignoring their voices; and then sought support in his party’s Central Committee for his corrupt policies, lost that vote too, and announced that he could not be bound by the decisions of
We would say that such a leftist prime minister had such dictatorial, anti-democratic tendencies that it would be dangerous to have him serve even a moment longer.
Fortunately, such a scenario is impossible to imagine with regard to a leftist prime minister, for it would be intolerable and unacceptable.
Yet, such a state of affairs is precisely what has unfolded in the Israel over which the “rightist” prime minister, Ariel Sharon, presides: an Israel with a fatalistic sense of individual vulnerability, an Israel of recession, high unemployment, and chronic poverty, an Israel in which Torah is under siege and the religious infrastructure is collapsing, an Israel whose vision of its future consists of expelling Jews ? men, women and children ? from their homes that will be turned over to their murderers, and then cowering behind a big wall in hopes that the enemy – gives up? Goes away? Loses interest? Can’t figure out how to dig under the fence or shoot
mortars and rockets over it?
What am I missing? Is there one thing Sharon has done as prime minister that, had anyone else attempted to do the same, would not have caused the streets of Israel to erupt in protest? Why have we surrendered to this man, who has grievously – perhaps irrevocably –
harmed the right-wing political movement in Israel, and exposed the sheer emptiness of its values and the vacuities of its policies?
Surely others have recognized that Likud in power often implements the Labor platform.
So why is there a need for a Likud? For how long can Israel endure a process of “Labor suggests and Likud divests”?
Remember, it was Likud – and Sharon – that surrendered Sinai and expelled its Jews, and Likud that surrendered Hebron. Do Israelis unthinkingly support a political party as if it were
a football team – “my team, right or wrong”? Why is there is a fear of toppling this man, having
new elections with an honest airing of two views – strength vs. appeasement, Zionism vs.
surrender? Are we still honoring his military service of 30 and 40 years ago? What am I missing?
Perhaps the unspoken fear is – who will lead? Who today in Israel can articulate a vision of strength, hope, confidence, love of Torah and love of land? The party system is bankrupt, but
the prevailing sentiment is that a strong leader with true Jewish values could never get elected in Israel. But that same sentiment once prevailed with another strong leader of definite opinions
named Ariel Sharon, who was also deemed unelectable, until a few months before his election.
Sharon has been a masterful tactician and, as always, a poor strategist. He has made
everyone indebted to him, fearing for his or her political existence. He knows how to suppress
Arutz-7, control the religious parties, and even toss a few bones to the anti-religious Shinui party. He holds the Arutz-7 card, the “payoffs to the religious parties” card, and the “playing one party off another party” card. Each party is afraid it will be left out and be unable to drink from the public trough. But they can all get together and say “Enough is enough.”
The time has come to lawfully topple the Sharon government. No self-respecting Jew can
afford to remain in this cabinet or government even a moment longer, or vote in the Knesset to
prop it up. There is no justification of “fighting from within” against a leader who makes no
pretense of his contempt for democratic norms. We are already sliding down the slippery slope – first Gaza, then Shomron, then Yehuda, then Yerushalayim, because “if not, the world will apply so much pressure.”
It is time to end the tragic comedy of “Labor proposes and Likud disposes.” It is time to
end this pathetic retreat from sanity before the Army of Israel turns against the People of Israel, with devastating consequences for Israel’s future. It is time to elect a government of proud Jews whose voice is not suffocated by politics or money or fear.
It is time to democratically bring down the government of Ariel Sharon. Let history be the
Rabbi Steven Pruzansky is spiritual leader of Congregation Bnai Yeshurun of Teaneck,
About the Author: Rabbi Steven Pruzansky is the spiritual leader of Congregation Bnai Yeshurun of Teaneck, New Jersey, and the author most recently of “Judges for Our Time: Contemporary Lessons from the Book of Shoftim” (Gefen Publishing House, Jerusalem, 2009). His writings and lectures can be found at www.Rabbipruzansky.com.
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The more severe scenario of a nuclear Iran is that the Iranians will not even need to go to war.
For states, as for individuals, fear and reality go together naturally.
I first met Mandela in Geneva in 1990 as part of a delegation of American Jewish leaders.
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In the wake of the presidential election, American Jews must once again ask a fundamental question that seems to defy both societal trends and a clear resolution: why do Jews overwhelmingly support the Democratic candidate, year after year, election after election?
The notion of the “Reagan Democrat” is one cliché that should be permanently retired.
The forthcoming debate over an updated Tal Law – the parameters for service by haredim in the Israel Defense Forces – is liable to become heated and nasty. Mutual accusations will be hurled, with one group asserting that mandatory military service is part of an ill-disguised war against Torah and the other side seeking an equal sharing of the defense burdens that fall on most other Israelis.
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Consider the absurdity of the following statement: “I know an Orthodox Jew who works on Shabbat, eats pork regularly, never wears tefillin or prays or learns Torah, is unfaithful to his spouse, walks bare-headed in public, and eats on Yom Kippur.”
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