Further Comments from Rabbi Reichel
Concerning my op-ed (April 7) about the demonstrations rocking Israel to its core, recently the pro-government supporters staged a rally of their own, leading many people to compare the demonstrations or minimize their significance. In fact, there were superficial similarities, but a case can be made that their differences go deeper than most people realize.
First, a preliminary personal observation: It is true that I wrote that I was not taking sides, but it is also true that it is possible to subtly (or not so subtly) support the substantive merits or demerits of one side (whether or not I did this) while at the same time refraining (as I did) from availing oneself of the opportunity to argue the merits of that position. The thrust of the article was against the manner and tenor of the demonstrations, not their underlying arguments, and that the Daf Yomi at the time the article was written presented a more positive template to replace intemperate demonstrations with constructive negotiations in good faith.
The arguments cut both ways, now that the supporters of judicial reforms have recently staged their own mass demonstration, although the disruptions caused by one demonstration (by the pro-reformists) to make a point – or a counterpoint – can’t compare with the many demonstrations against the reforms and the government made long after their point was made but arguably designed to intimidate the supporters of the reforms and to sow seeds of contempt and distrust of the government in the eyes of people inside and outside of the country.
Another stark contrast with the chaos-inducing street blockages by the anti-reformists in defiance of the police was that the pro-reformists sought to minimize disruptions and chaos and did not block crucial roads (as noted by a leader of Israel’s Media Watch in an email to this writer a few hours after the pro-reformist demonstration ended) and did not include violence – except for physical violence by anti-reformists (in the name of “democracy”) against prominent leaders of the pro-judicial-reform movement.
The pendulum had arguably gone too far in favor of the Supreme Court’s arbitrary exercises of discretion and its ability to perpetuate itself and its attitudes, while some on the right may have gone too far in calling for blanket override powers of the legislature over the court (even if in reaction to past and continuing existing excesses by the undemocratically appointed members of the judiciary), and calling for unjustified military operations of the military over civilian cities (even if only theoretically), but there is room for negotiating a resolution that will satisfy most reasonable and informed people.
My opposition was and remains to demonstrations that intentionally prevent Hatzalah volunteers and other first responders from being able to reach their destinations in a timely fashion. My opposition is also directed to those who prevent, honest apolitical people from being able to earn their living at all times except Shabbat, and to the reservists who refused to serve to defend the country of Israel.
Many people are familiar with the basic proposals for and against judicial reform, but “the devil is in the details,” and the people who interfere with the safety of Israeli civilians and with the military are doing the devil’s work.
Even if it is true that the protests have been mostly nonviolent, preventing ambulances and patients from reaching their destinations results in injury and death, no less than do missiles and bullets, and not allowing the army to fulfill its missions can result in injuries and deaths no less than missiles and bullets.
The demonstrations and traffic disruptions also cause untold hardship to hundreds of thousands of people who can’t carry out their lives as planned, not to mention the havoc to people who have weddings, circumcisions, funerals, or other once-in-a-lifetime (or death time) rites of passage on schedule (or even within a reasonable range of a schedule) and with the participation of all the primary parties, let alone all the other participants and guests.
Many people do not realize that many people rely on essential bus services that were disrupted even in parts of the city far from the demonstration, since a tiny sliver of various bus routes may border on the demonstration site.
Similarly, a mother may be taking care of various “short” errands and can’t get back home to her children as planned to ensure their safety and to prevent traumatic anxiety, or worse, because the bus service was temporarily disrupted and discontinued.
The disruptions caused by these repeated demonstrations clearly cause irreparable harm. Judicial procedures may do so as well, but these can be overturned as judges and governments change, but the harm caused by the demonstrations often can never be undone.
If people really care about the well-being of their fellow citizens and their ability to function without devastating disruptions, they would refrain from calling illegal strikes that cause many hardships, and they would arrange for their mass rallies to take place in open fields, plazas or stadiums. Backups that tie up city streets can backfire on the people whose rights the rallies are meant to protect.
Finally, I submit that when painting a picture of what is happening on the streets of “Jerusalem of Gold” and on other major thoroughfares of the country, it is wrong and counterproductive to smear the opposition with false allegations that they are against democracy, thus causing irreparable harm thereby to Israel’s civilians, security, military, economy and political standing in the world, when most (surely many) of the advocates of judicial reform simply want to add checks and balances and reject extremism in either direction.
Rabbi Aaron I. Reichel, Esq.
Rabbi Reichel has participated in a fair share of demonstrations over the years, though never designed to block traffic or overthrow a government. Most of his demonstrations have been by means of written discourse, not on a public concourse.
Jews in Hiding
I read with great interest the article (“ZOA Slams Anti-Israel Letter Co-Led by Bernie Sanders,” April 28) regarding a letter addressed to President Biden castigating Israel; of course, in the letter there is no mention of Arabs killing Jews.
What I would like to know is what makes a Jew like Sanders so recalcitrant at being identified as a Jew. Has he been so indoctrinated as to think that being Jewish is of no consequence? I know that many other senators keep silent in the face of anti-Jewish statements and sentiments so that they too are complicit in denying their Jewishness. I am assured that gentiles of all persuasions know who is, and who is not, Jewish. One cannot hide from the Hebrew legacy.
I never “looked” Jewish as a fair-complexioned and featured blonde. However, I subtly indicated my being Jewish and it was known that I am a Jew. I did not wish to hear antisemitic comments and embarrass anyone who said them in passing without really meaning it. My name gave me away, however; seeking a job sixty years ago, I was denied the job because I was Jewish. I did not realize that this was the reason since the interviewer said he liked me (but could not hire me). Ironically, as the decades passed, so many of the CEOs have been Jews. I could have passed in the gentile world easily, but I never did; it would have been a sin against the G-d of Heaven and Earth. My consternation is with Sanders and other persons who are in public office who make sure that they are not overtly and overly identified as Jews, so they do nothing in the face of insults.
Is being the Jew to them so shameful?
Out With the Old
A national nightmare now looms: a 2024 Biden-Trump rematch. It would unleash long-lurking furies in an evenly divided American electorate. Both men are deeply unpopular. The visceral hatred of Trump on the left is palpable. Given his age and increasing debility, even most Democrats don’t want Biden to run. The contest would largely revolve around those personalities, avoiding debate about the enormous issues facing the country. Whoever wins, the loser would be the nation.
The “job” Biden evidently wants to “finish” is the devastation of the American economy and the total diminishment of American influence worldwide. Having run as a moderate, expected to unite the country, he has instead pursued a far-left “woke” agenda, deeply alienating much of the country. He has verbally savaged his political opponents. Waiting in the wings: a vapid vice president. While Trump’s administration was largely successful, his post-election antics should be disqualifying. He would bring raging vindictiveness, beyond erratic and buffoon behavior, to the Oval Office. Worse, he is now a proven loser. Almost all of the 2022 Congressional candidates he supported lost, washing out an expected “red wave.” He is a “gift that keeps on giving” to Democrats.
Where are the wise elders in both major parties? The country needs new and different leadership. It awaits a positive, politically palatable vision, one that would halt the country’s now rapid downward spiral. It is urgent that other candidates now step forward to challenge the current frontrunners. Primary voters must coalesce quickly around a preferred alternate nominee. The fate of the Republic desperately depends on that.
Richard D. Wilkins
Should Be Biden’s Swan Song
In 1968, when CBS Evening News anchor Walter Cronkite declared that the Vietnam War was unwinnable, President Lyndon B. Johnson knew that he had lost the support of middle America. He subsequently announced that he would not run or accept his party’s nomination for a second term. Similarly, the New York Times and many media commentators across the political spectrum have questioned President Joe Biden’s announcement of a re-election bid for a second term. He should heed the words of Kenny Rodgers in The Gambler, “You’ve got to know when to hold em, know when to fold them, know when to walk away and know when to run.”
Great Neck, N.Y.