Yori Yanover recently posted Rabbi Meir Kahane’s speech at the National Press Club in 1985. Last week, I had an interesting discussion with a couple of friends about whether Rabbi Kahane’s views on Zionism and aliya would have changed had he lived through the Oslo Accords and subsequent disasters.
On the one hand, this was the man who made aliya with his family in 1971 and wrote books such as Time to Go Home (1972) and Our Challenge: The Chosen Land (1974). This was the man who wrote in The Jewish Press in 1979 that “Zionism is Judaism, because it was not Herzl who created Zionism, but the Holy One, Blessed Be He.” (Unless otherwise indicated, this quotation and subsequent ones are from Rabbi Kahane’s collected articles in the Beyond Words series.)
Rabbi Kahane wrote a lot more than that about Zionism, however.
In 1985, he described programs of “secular Zionist gentilization” designed by the Ministry of Education that involved children temporarily living with non-Jewish families, mixed summer camps, etc. Rabbi Kahane wrote the year after in “Fear, the New Zionism”:
“…Israel is in the process of creating a new Minsk, Pinsk, Sa’ana and Brooklyn. Fear has become a permanent resident of Israel, moving into the hearts and minds of hundreds of thousands of Jews who fear the night…fear to allow their children to play alone in the streets.”
On Yom Ha’atzmaut in 1989, Rabbi Kahane similarly reflected on Israeli society:
“I stood in broad daylight on Jerusalem’s Jaffa Road, where two Jews had been murdered in cold blood and considered the fraud of the words of Hatikva, ‘To be a free people in our land’! Free people? Say, rather, a terrified people. Terrified of being murdered in our capital city, in broad daylight. Terrified of walking in the eastern half of our Jerusalem. A ‘free people’? Hardly. And ‘our land’? Every day, it becomes a little less than that.”
The previous year, Rabbi Kahane wrote the following startling words a few months before the “High Court” upheld the Central Election Committee’s banning of the Kach Party, in the context of leftists whose objective is “the un-Jewing of Israel” (sounds like a certain former failed kickboxer):
“Clearly, that means the turning of Israel into a state that is so lacking in special Jewish meaning that not one sane, rational Jew would ever wish to give up the luxury of a wealthy, comfortable non-Jewish state called America, Canada, England, or Australia for the problems and burdens of a tiny, poor non-Jewish state called Israel.
And clearly, that means turning Israel into a state that is so lacking in any Jewish and Zionist content that only the legendary frayer [sucker] will find any reason to suffer in it when he could find comfort and respite from army duty and taxes and constant tension, in London, New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Toronto, or Melbourne.”
One way to describe this evolution of thought would be a shift from Zionism to what might be called Judeanism, referring to Rabbi Kahane’s announcement in 1989 of forming in Yehuda and Shomron a State of Judea (wherein he described Kiryat Arba as “the Jewish ghetto that overlooks the city of Hebron”). His ultimate goal with this project was that it would “push and drive Israel into annexing the territories. On that day, Judea will quietly integrate into the State of Israel and cease to exist as an entity.”
In a speech on the State of Judea where he talked about the growing fear in Israel and the government’s failure to protect citizens, Rabbi Kahane discussed aliya in prescriptive but realistic language:
“If you think that aliya from this country [America] to Israel without a change in Israeli policy is going to make things better, it’s not so. It’s not true. Indeed, one of the reasons why there is such a paucity of aliya is because a state which was once such a great, great dream is now a kind of a nightmare.”
A similar bluntness characterized Rabbi Kahane’s remarks on aliya in an interview from 1987: