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Title: Rabbi Meir Kahane: His Life and Thought, Volume Two: 1976-1983
Author: Libby Kahane
Publisher: Institute for the Publication of the Writings of Rabbi Meir Kahane

 

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“Exciting,” “gripping,” “spellbinding” are just some of the words I would use to describe the prose of Rabbi Meir Kahane. Only a few books in my life have grabbed my soul so completely that I found myself in a near trance when finally forced to stop reading and join the real world. Kahane’s Uncomfortable Questions for Comfortable Jews – which I chanced upon in high school – was one such book.

How does one write a biography of the man behind this captivating prose? How does one capture the spirit of this leader with a blazing passion for the Jewish state and its glorious potential?

In Rabbi Meir Kahane: His Life and Thought, Volume Two: 1976-1983, his wife Libby Kahane – perhaps deeming herself unequal to the task – sidesteps it. Instead, she plays the role of archivist, carefully documenting nearly every speech her husband gave and every protest he organized. Mrs. Kahane worked as a reference librarian at the National Library in Jerusalem for 27 years and the 180 pages of footnotes in this work (nearly one-third of the book) provides ample evidence of her skill in this regard.

Her approach has its drawbacks. The book does not always read smoothly and the electricity that surrounded her husband sometimes gets lost amidst the details of his daily activities which Mrs. Kahane so meticulously records. Yet, Mrs. Kahane should also be credited for making a very wise choice: She allows her husband to speak for himself in this book, filling it with copious quotes from his speeches, articles, and personal letters.

In this review, I aim to follow her example and let Rabbi Kahane speak for himself. But first, a word about the man:

As is clear from the book, Rabbi Kahane was far ahead of his time. Already in the 1970s, Rabbi Kahane warned that the Arabs posed an existential threat to the Jewish state; openly encouraged soldiers to disobey immoral orders (30 years before the Disengagement!); and proposed that a state of Judea in the West Bank be founded in the event that the government evacuate the area.

Perhaps unknown to some is that Rabbi Kahane was also enormously charismatic and influenced many young men and women to become observant and/or take pride in their Jewishness. “I wanted to climb on an airplane [and make aliyah] after listening to you,” a young woman wrote to him in 1981 (page 283).

Perhaps his most impressive trait – one I did not fully appreciate before reading Mrs. Kahane’s work – is the tirelessness with which he worked for his goals. Rabbi Kahane ran for Knesset three times before finally winning a seat in 1984. And then in 1988, with his popularity on the rise, the Knesset banned his party from running, forcing him go back to the drawing board and start from scratch. When reading this book, I thought of all the people who would’ve given up had they been in Rabbi Kahane’s shoes. After all, when you travel around the world for many years, give hundreds (thousands?) of speeches, appear on scores of TV and radio shows, and pay for countless newspaper advertisements publicizing your ideas, you expect to meet success.

But Rabbi Kahane didn’t. For his goal was nothing less than saving Israel, and some time in the early 1980s he realized that the only way he could do that was by becoming prime minister. Nothing else would stop an Israeli government which was – and is – determined to commit national suicide. And so he worked, and worked, and worked – indefatigably.

I believe he would’ve ultimately succeeded, and in his last book (Israel: Revolution or Referendum, to be republished later this year) he lays down a plan that likely would have propelled him to power had he lived into the Oslo era. Alas, an Arab assassin’s bullet fell him in 1990 at age 58. Now it’s left to us to take inspiration from his writings and finish the job.

And now, to fulfill my promise, here are Rabbi Kahane’s words themselves as recorded in his wife’s book:

  • “The ‘rational’ raise their eyes unto Washington and mumble: From Kissinger shall come forth my salvation. The ‘irrational’ stand with faith and trust in the Almighty and do what He demands” (p. 5).
  • “There will be no Nazi march in Skokie. We intend to bloody the Nazis should they try. I am not predicting violence. I am promising violence” (p. 79).
  • “If we have no right to Hebron, we have no right to Tel Aviv. Abraham did not sit in a café on Dizengoff Street” (p. 99).
  • “Peace now is tragedy tomorrow” (p. 108).
  • “[Some] say: Let’s not lower ourselves to their level – right, we’ll be six feet below their level” (ibid.).
  • In reference to Har Habyis: “One who loses his property and then unexpectedly finds it does not allow it to remain in the possession of another. He leaps upon it joyfully and cries out: ‘It is mine!’” (p. 160)
  • “It is not life that is important, but how you live it” (p. 194).
  • “If the world considers the territories to be ‘occupied’ it is because Israel’s policy gives that impression” (p. 195).
  • “Two things are Divine imperatives: 1. Throw the Arabs out. 2. Until then, let the government quietly and professionally create its own terror against terror. Let every Arab live in deadly fear” (p. 221).
  • “The greatest enemy of modern man is boredom” (p. 249).
  • “Some may nominate Arafat as the most dangerous threat to Israel. I suggest that they consider Israel TV” (p. 345).
  • “It is no wonder that my most appreciative audiences are gentiles. … They have no hang-ups. They have no guilt feelings, no complexes. Someone punches you, of course you punch them back… Only Jews have to agonize, ‘He hit me, what did I do to deserve it?’” (p. 358).
  • “To deliberately order soldiers to risk their lives to save those of Arab civilians is murder” (p. 360).
  • “Nothing Israel can do can make the world love it short of committing suicide” (p. 380).
  • From an article on a Kahane speech: “He explained his main argument for Eretz Israel in one brief no-nonsensical phrase – ‘It belongs to us’” (p.382).
  • “I am against killing Arabs. If stones are thrown from an Arab village, the entire village should be banished to Jordan” (p. 400).
  • “[W]e should not seek tranquility, but rather seek to serve Hashem, and as a matter of course we will find inner and spiritual tranquility” (p. 453).

“Rabbi Meir Kahane: His Life and Thought, Volume Two: 1976-1983” is available online at Amazon.com. The book is also available in Israel through Yeshivat Haraayon Hayehudi (02-582-3540) and Pomeranz Books (02-623-5559).

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Elliot Resnick is the former chief editor of The Jewish Press and the author and editor of several books including, most recently, “Movers & Shakers, Vol. 3.”
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