When Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had to justify his decision to free rogue Israeli businessman Elchanan Tannenbaum from Hizbullah captivity (a move for which the State of Israel paid a steep emotional and human price), he used the term “Jewish sentiment” – one of the rare occasions in Israeli history that this forgotten ideal had been brought to the fore.

It was a pronounced tendency for Israeli society during the country’s early years to distance itself as much as possible from the concept of “community” in order to exalt the status of “state.” But that tendency is still rampant in 2008. Does anything still exist in the Israeli DNA harking back to the ancient concept of mutual responsibility that burned in the hearts of Jews throughout the ages?


On a personal level, I have been fortunate to witness the essence of community among different tribes in modern Israel. As a lawyer who regularly deals with trying to free Israelis imprisoned in foreign countries, I was recently hired to deal with two cases outside of Israel – cases that have come to occupy most of my time and efforts.

Several weeks ago, three naive youngsters from Israel’s Satmar chassidic community were caught and detained in Tokyo on suspicion of smuggling Ecstasy pills. Their families engaged my services to set them free.

This case found me just as I was at the peak of strenuous efforts to attain the release of another, much more famous, Israeli – IDF (reserve) Lt. Colonel Yair Klein, who is rotting in a Moscow prison cell and in dire danger of being extradited to Colombia, where he has been declared an “enemy of the state.”

Though there are wide differences between these two cases, they can teach us something about the concept of community.

In the case of the three Satmar youngsters, it seemed as though almost every Satmar chassid in Israel and the U.S. – including the Satmar organizational establishment and the Admor of Satmar himself – felt the need to assist in some manner. They have done their utmost to try to free these youngsters by activating the global Satmar community. Their efforts have allowed me to move this case along expeditiously and to realistically hope for positive results.

As for Colonel Klein, a decorated combat hero who has saved many men with his bare hands, no one doubts his merits, but almost no one is willing to budge. Not the Israeli establishment, not the IDF senior staff, not most of his comrades, and of course not the Foreign Ministry (which claims “he has no extra credits”).

When it came to the Satmar youngsters, direct and organized influence from the community resulted in Japanese authorities allowing the youngsters tefillin for davening as well as matzot for Pesach. (Yes, they spent Passover in jail.) Did Klein get this type of treatment from his fellow Israelis? Perish the thought.

Yes, Colonel Klein has been embroiled in “incidents” during his controversial business career. However, the “justice” that awaits him in Colombia, a third world state with an allegedly corrupt government and legal system, is disproportional.

Does Klein not warrant the support of Israel, as well as his influential army comrades, in order to find a better solution? Does he deserve anything less than the three Satmar youngsters, who had an entire community motivated and willing to assist them, even though few people in the Satmar community had ever actually met them personally? Is there no such thing as an “Israeli community”?

This attitude should worry all Israelis who believe they live in a strong country that will exist forever. This small story proves that modern Israeli society is missing the – for want of a better phrase – genetic glue that bonds a society together. In the absence of a cohesive community, the fabric of the state begins to fall apart. The Klein case represents the perfect example of what Israel has become.

Therefore one must recommend to every current and former Israeli soldier: if you are about to get entangled in some matter and fear you will need assistance, better you should remove your ranks, badges and ornaments and sell them to the highest bidder. With the money you receive, buy yourself a beautiful shtreimel and kapota and become a member of the chassidic community. The chassidim have proved themselves to be faithful to the causes of their Jewish brethren, wherever they might be.

Share this article on WhatsApp:

Previous articleKosher Tidbits from around the Web – June 12, 2008
Next articleThe Emerging Reagan Consensus