Photo Credit: Miriam Alster/FLASH90
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with UTJ MK Israel Eichler, June 17, 2015.

MK Israel Eichler is my favorite Israeli lawmaker – a straight shooter, friends with most MKs, including the Arabs, and a serious critic of the country’s political history. Having said that, I believe he should have probably kept his mouth shut on PM Netanyahu’s travel advisory for Uman.

On Sunday, the cabinet approved a resolution tasking the Minister of Jerusalem and Jewish Tradition, Meir Parosh (UTJ), to formulate an action plan to assist and ease the conditions at the land border crossings for Breslov Hasidim traveling to Uman ahead of Rosh Hashanah. The plan will be formulated in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which will carry out the necessary coordination with the governments of Ukraine and the relevant transit countries.


Sunday afternoon, Netanyahu issued a statement titled, “Israeli Citizens Traveling to Ukraine need to act Responsibly,” explaining that in his conversation with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the latter had made it clear that there are not enough shelters in Uman for the local residents, let alone foreign tourists. Having said that, the PM continued:

“Israeli citizens who are traveling to Ukraine need to act responsibly regarding their trips at this time. The Holy One has not always protected us, both on Ukrainian and other European soil. It must be understood that in the State of Israel, when missiles fall on us, citizens enter shelters and there is protection. But over there, there are no shelters and no protection.”

You get the point, right? Netanyahu, ever the consummate realist, suggested that God, blessed be His Name, abandoned His people in Ukraine from 1941 to 1944, where more than a million Jews were slaughtered.

That was the point where MK Eichler should have let it slide. The coalition government is having enough trouble as it is, what with three Supreme Court assaults on democracy and the sovereignty of the voter through his representatives that are scheduled for this week, and the Haredi draft bill which is difficult enough to forge as it is – this was not the time for a theological clash of the Titans.

Wasn’t going to happen.

He dubbed his angry retort, “MK Rabbi Israel Eichler on Netanyahu’s words of ignorance.” Here goes:

“For more than a century the God of Israel has been saving the Land of Israel from the idols of power, evil values, and the assimilation of the secular regime. The Zionists and the partisans did not prevent a holocaust in Europe. The Germans were stopped on the way to conquering the Land of Israel by miracles and not because of the Zionists.
“The Zionists were alienated from the Jews of the Diaspora. Some members of the Judenrat collaborated with the Nazis. Some of them traded and sold the Diaspora Jews. The Zionist leadership in Israel refused and sabotaged the ‘rescue plans (Eichler cited several known historians on this painful chapter in history).’ Some Zionists even called the Jews of the ghettos ‘Human dust – let them go to their fate.’
“After the Holocaust, all the Jewish immigrants in the Diaspora have lived in relative peace and quiet. Only in the Land of Israel has Jewish blood been shed like water, from then until now. The danger of nuclear annihilation threatens only the State of Israel.
“Recently, the incompetence and lowliness of the false idols of power, and the failures of the government were revealed in the Yom Kippur War of 5734. The former ‘generals’ are today’s ‘rebels,’ and are inciting a bloody war inside the Jewish ghetto in the Land of Israel. When you see who those generals were, you realize that only through the miracles of Hashem, the God of Israel, do we survive.
“The leaders of the High Court’s war for dictatorship have become snitches against Israel all over the world and accuse it of apartheid and war crimes equal to our worst Muslim enemies. Be silent when you blame the God of Israel for your failures and crimes.
“At a time when terrorism is rampant and the streets are burning, we should pray to the Guardian of Israel. If not for the merits of Torah keepers, the State of Israel would have been erased from the map of the Middle East a long time ago. The Keeper of Israel will keep the remnants of Israel who say Shema Yisrael (this last line is said after the Amidah prayer and before the Kaddish).”

Having interviewed MK Eichler, I am aware that he is keeping a lot of quiet rage in his belly, and much of it is directed at the Zionists, secular and religious alike. Like the vast majority of Haredim the world over, Eichler does not believe the State of Israel is the beginning of salvation – as do the national religious Israelis. He cares for Israel because it is a large Jewish center, not because it is a manifestation of Mashiach.

Still, he should have kept his mouth shut.

Reaction from Eichler’s coalition partners was fast and furious. Likud Education Minister Yoav Kisch tweeted: “I call on MK Eichler to retract the anti-Zionist slurs he wrote. As the grandson of Brigadier Kisch who fought the Nazis, as a Zionist, as a Jew, and a soldier in the Israel Defense Forces who fought against our enemy, I am ashamed of the things you wrote.”

MK Dan Illouz tweeted: “MK Eichler – I am shocked by your words. Just a few days before Judgment Day, I would suggest that we focus more on the love of Israel than baseless conspiracies inciting against entire communities.”

Deputy Finance Minister Michal Woldiger (Religious Zionism) tweeted: “The many hardships our people went through proved that only in an independent state will both Judaism and the Jewish people prosper. Yes, there are wars and failures and disputes, ‘but these are not just thorns,’ as the late Lieutenant Uriel Peretz wrote, ‘these are the thorns of the Land of Israel.’”

Shas rebuked Netanyahu’s theological assertions, and declared: “God has always protected the people of Israel through all the exiles and persecutions, and this is why the people of Israel are the only ones that have miraculously survived for thousands of years.”

Well, the Romans estimated that about six million Jews were living in the Known World around the turn of the first century CE – out of a general population of between sixty and a hundred million. Seeing as the population of Europe, Asia, and North Africa has since reached close to five billion, while Jews remain at around sixteen million, something has to be off in the Shas math (this may not be the best time to bring up core curriculum studies). There are viable theological explanations, most notably that this is the Will of God, who on occasion refrains from saving his children.

Here’s the problem: The editor of the Haredi magazine “Family,” Aryeh Ehrlich, wrote that Netanyahu was “Insolent, impudent, and rude,” and then added that “Gantz’s time has come.”

Yes, brothers and sisters, MK Eichler should have kept his mouth shut.


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