Beginning on Thursday June 8 and
concluding on Sunday June 18 a four man delegation
of Neturei Karta International visited Iran. Their
goals were to lessen anti-Jewish sentiment among
the Islamic population, bring chizuk to the Jewish
community and alleviate the plight of thirteen
Iranian Jews charged with espionage. This visit
elicited an emotion charged critique, "That
Infamous Road Paved With Good Intentions",
in the 20 Sivan edition of the Yated Ne'eman.
NKI has been denied the opportunity to respond
to this article in the Yated. What follows is
an attempt to correct the errors of that article
and explore some of the underlying issues which
it touches on. Much of the discussion to come
explores topics that are often subject to more
heat than light. It is the author's hope that
the reader will approach this work with objectivity
and a willingness to examine questions that the
dominant forces of our age have long since declared
The Yated Ne'eman strives to perform an important
function in the Torah community. It allows its
readers to keep abreast of developments in the
Torah world and the world in general without having
recourse to other media sources whose philosophies
and standards are antithetical to Torah. In addition,
it alerts its readers to assorted forms of heresy
or quasi heresy which stalk the Jewish community
in this trying period in our people's history.
Lastly, it provides inspiration via mussar and
tales of the righteous in order to spur us on
in G-d's service.
It comes as no surprise, historically, that the
Yated's editor has served ably to spread the above
mentioned messages. It was in the tale end of
the nineteenth and early parts of the twentieth
century that his ancestor, R. Yaakov ha-Levi Lipschitz
(1838 - 1921), was in the forefront in the struggle
against assorted heresies in Lithuania.
One of the foremost dangers which R. Lipschitz
pointed out was Zionism, a new movement at that
time, but one which he saw had great potential
to do bad. A scholar and writer of renown, he
worked together with the likes of R. Chayim Soloveichik
of Brisk, R. Eliezer Gordon of Telz, R. Eliyahu
Chayim Meisels of Lodz, R. Chayim Ozer Grodzinski
of Vilna and the Lubavitcher Rebbe, R. Shalom
Dov Ber Schneersohn (may their memories be blessed),
to combat the early flowerings of Zionist thinking.
It is thus particularly disturbing and painful
to note that the Yated frequently evidences a
profound lack of understanding as to what Zionism
is and what danger it represents. The editorial
memory of the Yated seems quite short and, hence,
incapable of remembering the very ideals and first
principles which motivated the Torah leaders and
journalists of a century ago.
Our spirit in what follows is not contentious.
We respect what the Yated has accomplished in
the Jewish community. We hope, with Hashem's help,
to offer a bit of respectful reproof.
The "Paved Path"
The Yated of 20 Sivan 5760 featured a lengthy
article denouncing a group of Jews who traveled
recently to Iran on a mission of mercy. The group's
aim was to lesson anti-Jewish feeling in Iran
and to attempt to achieve some degree of mercy
for the thirteen imprisoned Jews accused of espionage.
None of these intentions, however, impressed the
article's author, Mr. Avi Yishai. His writing
was vicious in its uniform criticism of the group.
Words were not spared. The trip was "something
evil", "malignant", "ill-fated"
"doomed" and "bizarre".
The writer, Mr. Avi Yishai, leaves little room
for doubt in his readers' minds. Although he acknowledges
the possibility that the delegation's "intentions
were good" the "evil" they worked
and "damage" they did can only be erased
by "rachmei shomayim." In the title
of the article, "That Infamous Road Paved
With Good Intentions," we may infer that
the delegation is, indeed, headed for eternal
The Torah Opposition to Zionism
In order to understand the basic assumptions of
Mr. Yishai it is necessary to first analyze the
traditional Torah approach to Zionism. The past
half century has created much confusion in this
area and we must have a look at the first principles
There were many reasons why the Torah leaders
and masses of G-d fearing Jews opposed Zionism
down through the decades. In the rush to avow
and disavow party grouping and labels some of
the most elementary have been forgotten.
We will not concern ourselves with the fears Torah
Jewry had of Zionists' irreligiosity. Those were,
of course, legitimate and have been born out by
history. However, the Torah view of Zionism went
far deeper than this. It was an opposition to
the doctrines of Zionism not merely the actions
It was rooted in the belief that Zionism, by advocating
a political and, eventually, military end to golus,
was violating the Divinely ordained terms of exile.
Exile was always viewed by the Jewish people as
a punishment for sin. Efforts to escape the state
of exile by this worldly strategies are inherently
doomed to failure. The only proper means of ending
the exile were Torah, prayer and penance.
On every yom tov during the Mussaf prayer we recite,
"Because of our sins we were exiled from
our land. . ." The desire to end this state
by recourse to politics or arms is indicative
of a lack of faith in the Divine Governance of
human affairs. It is for this reason that the
Zionist ideology was conceived among non-believers,
far removed from their faith.
In the words of Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch, "We
mourn over that which brought about that destruction
(of the Temple - author), we take to heart the
harshness we have encountered in our years of
wandering as the chastisement of a father, imposed
on us for our improvement, and we mourn the lack
of observance of Torah which that ruin has brought
about. . . It (this mourning - author) obliges
us to allow our longing for the far away land
to express itself only in mourning, in wishing
and hoping; and only through the honest fulfillment
of all Jewish duties to await the realization
of this hope. But it forbids us to strive for
the reunion or possession of the land by any but
spiritual means." (Horeb, 1981: 461
The opposition to Zionism was further concerned
that this violation would inevitably lead to conflicts
with other nations and (as foretold by Chazal)
these struggles would often be quite bloody. Human
affairs are forever governed by Divine Providence.
In the end, as the Psalmist tells us, "There
are many thoughts in the hearts of men but the
Counsel of Hashem -- it shall stand." Hence,
whether it pursues a path of war or peace the
state of Israel is doomed to a never ending agony
of violence. Events have validated this sentiment
of chazal over the past fifty two years.
Again Rav Hirsch, "During the reign of Hadrian
when the uprising led by Bar Kochba proved a disastrous
error, it became essential that the Jewish people
be reminded for all times (emphasis added) of
an important, essential fact, namely that (the
people of) Israel must never again attempt to
restore its national independence by its own power;
it was to entrust its future as a nation solely
to Divine Providence." (Hirsch Siddur, 1969:
On the most profound level -- besides destroying
the Torah view of golus and leading the Jewish
people into fifty two years of war with Arabs
and Muslims around the world -- Zionism replaced
G-d's service as the central purpose of Jewish
existence with a notion of peoplehood divorced
from G-d. Thus, the guide map of Jewish conduct,
the Torah, would now take second place to the
excesses and emotionalism of secular nationalism.
Questions concerning life and death matters would
be weighed by the secular desires of a land and
soil patriotism with little or no concern for
Doubtless, the Yated's editor would claim that
he is in agreement with all the above. However,
as we examine his high tempered denunciation of
those who visited Iran it will become painfully
obvious that his world view has suffered much,
albeit subconsciously, at the hands of an ideology
that his ancestors fought so valiantly against.
Approach to an Enemy
For example, Mr. Yishai asks, "How can Jews
present gifts to a sworn enemy who has just called
for the annihilation of Israel and all its inhabitants?"
We leave for the moment who and what this "sworn
enemy" is opposed to. We leave also whether
the quotes in question about "annihilating)"
Jews are accurate. Let us assume them all to be
true. The answer to Mr. Yishai is that by presenting
gifts to an "enemy" we are merely following
the path laid down by our forefather Yaakov in
his approach to Esau the wicked, which serves,
according to Chazal, as a model for exilic Jewish
conduct. Examples of this approach abound. One
of the most famous is that of R. Yochanan ben
Zakai who, in order to save the Torah sages, humbly
entreated Emperor Vespasian, surely a Jew hater.
Indeed, the only standard to be used in assessing
whether one should visit a "Jew hater"
and bring him gifts is whether or not it can alleviate
Jewish suffering. And, we know that in exile this
is the proper and most effective tactic.
Why then the rage on the part of Mr. Yishai? Why
does propitiating an "enemy" bother
him so? Is it not because he has absorbed willy-nilly
the Zionist notion that it is somehow demeaning
for Jews to be humble before their enemies? Has
he not, in effect, absorbed the Zionist dogma
that the correct response is always to fight -
verbally, economically, politically and, if need
Continues Mr. Yishai, "The painful truth
is that the visit of the delegation was akin to
shaking hands with the devil, for a most unworthy
But, Mr. Yishai should we not "shake hands
with devil" to lessen anti-Jewish sentiment
and possibly save Jewish lives? Is there any indication
that the demonization and ostracization of Iran
since the 1979 revolution has lessened anti-Jewish
sentiments in that country? Hasn't the Zionist
approach made things far worse? Why are you emotionally
linked to the policy of never speaking to an "enemy"?
Was that the approach of your illustrious ancestors
to the Czarist government?
Iranian and Islamic "Hate"
There is, of course, a certain degree of animosity
built into the very fabric of group relations
as Chazal tell us. Nonetheless, that animosity
varies throughout history depending on a host
By and large the record of Arab and Islamic countries
throughout the centuries towards their Jewish
populations has been far better than those of
European lands -- not perfect but far better.
The hostility in this century among Moslems is
the direct result of Zionism. A careful examination
of the attacks and pogroms of the pre-1948 era
inevitably reveals that they were in response
to Zionists plans and eventual actions to wrest
political sovereignty from the Turks or the English
by immigration and force of arms.
Thus, we have witnessed the fulfillment of that
which were foretold by Chazal. A violation of
the letter and spirit of exile has led to endless
bloodshed and hatred.
How better to lesson this hatred than by proclaiming
to the world that Zionism and Judaism are not
identical? How better to lesson Islamic hatred
for all Jews than by telling the Islamic world
that Judaism, in fact, condemns Zionism?
Let us turn once again to Mr. Yishai. The Iranian
government is accused of "implacable hatred
for the Jewish nation." Hasn't the editor
fallen prey to the foundation stone of Zionist
ideology that the Zionists are the Jewish people
and that modern Israel is "the Jewish nation"?
Among the sins he accused the delegation of is
that they functioned as a tool of those who would
"deligitimitize Israel", that they explained
to the Iranians that "Judaism and Zionism
are not synonymous'" and that "Jews
have no rights to Israel."
Mr. Yishai, do you think that the Brisker Rov,
Reb Chaim Ozer, Reb Elchanan, Rav Hirsch and hundreds
of others would have legitimized Israel? Would
they have wanted the nations of the world to think
that the atheistic creed of Zionism was synonymous
with Judaism? Would they have claimed pre-Moshiach
that the Jewish people have political and military
"rights" to the land?
Let us listen to Rav Hirsch. "For this (Messianic)
future which is promised to us in the glorious
predictions of the inspired prophets as a goal
of the exile, we hope and pray, but actively to
accelerate its coming is prohibited to us."
(Nineteen Letters, 1960: 108)
What would Rav Hirsch have said had a group of
heretical Jews "actively" accelerated
that which "is prohibited to us"? And
killed tens of thousands of Jews and Gentiles
in the process? And were committed to continuing
And publicly desecrated G-d's name every time
they entered the public forum by presenting themselves
as the leaders of the Jewish people without acknowledging
the G-d of Israel?
Hasn't Mr. Yishai been duped into forgetting the
cause for the turmoil in the Middle East? Hasn't
he forgotten the effects of violating the terms
of exile? Hasn't he simply forgotten the history
of Jews in Arab lands and how the terrible events
of recent decades actually came about? In essence,
isn't his reading of history essentially that
Indeed. Mr. Yishai quotes in a critical vein an
article which appeared in the "Iranian News
Agency" (the actual title is Islamic Republic
News Agency) describing the views of the delegation
as those who "consider the Zionist state
of Israel a violation of the basic tenets of Israel"
and have "strongly opposed Zionism since
the day this satanic cult started taking shape
What is there to criticize in this portrayal?
Doesn't Mr. Yishai see the spilling of Jewish
blood over decades in order to establish Jewish
political rule over the Holy Land as a "violation
of the basic tenets of Judaism"? Wasn't Zionism
which "started taking shape in Europe"
a movement advanced by Satan? Didn't it destroy
tens of thousands of souls? Hasn't it endangered
and caused the physical deaths of thousands? Is
that not Satanic? Do the Gedolim of Agudas Yisroel
disagree with this analysis?
Perhaps, what has occurred here is that decades
of participating in the affairs of the Zionist
state has rendered Mr. Yishai a bit forgetful
of these basic notions?
Mr. Yishai is very concerned that the delegation
to Iran proceeded without sanction of Rabbonim.
He accuses the group as "in no way reflect(ing)
the ideology of mainstream Yerushalmi Neturei
Karta leaders such as the esteemed Rav Aharon
Katzenellenbogen zt'l." He further asserts
that "this bizarre venture (was) launched
without the guidance or blessing of any recognized
Rabbinic leader and disavowed by the main body
of Neturei Karta in Eretz Yisroel."
It is, of course, difficult to respond to the
asserted "disavowal" devoid of attribution.
Perhaps, the Yated will eventually reveal its
source from "Neturei Karta of Eretz Yisroel"
for this is the second time in less than a year
that this wild accusation has been made without
supplying any source.
However, the rest of the statement is simply untrue.
Both Rav Katzenellenboegn and Rav Amram Blau zt'l
were on record as having supported efforts to
spread the message that Zionism and Judaism are
distinct amongst all peoples and particularly
among Islamic peoples. In fact, in a letter cosigned
by both Rabbis on the 17th of Iyar in 5731 (1971)
they wrote, "Those who are concerned about
the Honor of G-d's name should know that the Jewish
people has no connection with the Zionist heretics
and their state has no connection with am Yisroel.
It is proper to give these words the greatest
amount of publicity possible that they should
be heard throughout the world in every land and
among every nation."
We are encouraged that the Yated editor does not
limit his respect to Agudah leaders. He also regards
these earlier Neturei Karta sages as "esteemed"
and worthy of citing in order to denounce the
current mission of mercy to Iran. We are, thus,
happy to inform him of their true convictions.
Suerly future editions of the Yated will print
a retraction and clarification.
Actually, in Jerusalem the newspaper of the Aidah
haChareidis, Ha-Aidah, which represents those
"moderate" Jerusalem "Neturei Karta"
as well as the largest body of anti-Zionist Jews
in the Holy Land waxed eloquent in its praise
of every aspect of the mission to Iran in its
27 Sivan lead editorial. Similarly HaChomah, organ
of Neturei Karta worldwide, has enthusiastically
endorsed the trip.
Indeed, they were merely repeating that which
was obvious to all anti-Zionist leaders in Jewish
history. For example the Satmar Rov zt'l declared,
"In sum, the hatred against the Jewish community
is because it is said that those who are not Torah
observant, who are heretics are the leaders of
Jewry. The nations of the world are misled by
them and acquire a hatred of Jews. One of the
greatest commandments there is, to be observed
with utmost self-sacrifice would be to make known
to the nations of the world that they (Zionists
and irreligious leaders) are not the representatives
of the Jewish community. (And to tell them) that
observant Jews have no connection with them."
(Dibros Kodesh, 1986: 210-11)
Lastly, the trip was undertaken with Rabbinic
consultation and support. Among those who supported
the trip were HoRav R. Avrohom Leitner, HoRav
R. Yecheskel Gold, HoRav R. Yoel Morgenstern,
HoRav R. Lazer Chaim Blum, HoRav Simchah Yisroel
Blum, HoRav Mayer Yehudah Tannenbaum and many
We await the Yated's publication of the names
of those of "Neturei Karta in Eretz Yisroel"
who "disavowed" the pidyon shavuim effort.
It is worth noting in passing that Mr. Yishai
was working under a double disability in composing
his article. First, he failed to contact the participants.
Their names were known to him yet he never called
them to inquire about the trip. He writes, "Without
the benefit of a briefing from the five (four
- author) man delegation we are left in the dark
regarding the specifics of their intentions with
the Iranian authorities."
Quite so. But, why, then, did you not inquire?
Why did you not attend the press conference held
at a Manhattan hotel by the delegation despite
having been informed by fax that it was to occur?
Two, he deliberately omitted from his report quotations
from the same articles of IRNA (Islamic Republic
News Agency) which he referenced because they
wouldn't fit into the image he was trying to create.
In the quote which begins his article Mr. Yishai
attributes the following to the "Iranian
News Agency": "Hasidic and other Jewish
sects have strongly opposed Zionism since the
day this Satanic cult started taking root in Europe
. . ."
Surprisingly, when reading the actual release
we discover that the quote is not from IRNA. It
was IRNA quoting the Tehran daily Kayhan International.
The latter paper was, in fact, criticizing the
error of their own nation's leaders in ignoring
Here is the quote in full as it appeared in IRNA:
"Drawing a distinction between Judaism and
Zionism, the paper praised Rabbi David Yisroel
Weiss for emphasizing this important point in
his talks with Iranian media this week. 'Weiss
was not saying anything new,' it pointed out."
"In fact, 'he was only repeating certain
obvious facts which the Muslim world has been
slow to grasp,' it added."
"It moreover shows the 'inability in our
political and diplomatic circles to focus on the
reality of Hasidic and other Jewish sects which
have strongly opposed Zionism since the day this
Satanic cult started taking shape etc.,' "
So enthused was Kayhan as reported by IRNA that
it hoped that " 'the arrival of the Rabbis
in their traditional robes and the headlines they
have made should not be relegated to the background
as those influenced by the U.S.-Zionist propaganda
are trying to do.' "
What was significant in the visit? Kayhan wrote
and IRNA reported, "the visit has 'busted
the myth that Judaism and Zionism are synonymous
with each other.' "
Mr. Yishai actually describes his quotation fragment,
extracted from the middle of the IRNA report as
follows: "So begins a June 13 report published
by the official Iranian news agency . . ."
A simple untruth and a most significant one for
it omitted entirely the respect accorded Judaism
in both Kayan International and IRNA and their
criticism of the Islamic world for not distinguishing
between Judaism and Zionism.
We find a similar resort to selective quotation
by Mr. Yishai in his report of the delegation's
visit to the Ayatollah Taskhiri. We will deal
with what is accurately quoted later. At present
let us present the words of IRNA that the Yated
"Expressing satisfaction with the visit made
by the intellectual Jewish clerics to Iran, he
said that it was his hope that a unifying movement
as well as greater cooperation can be achieved
for the benefit of mankind. . ."
This statement was of no significance to Mr. Yishai.
Nor was the following: "He told the visiting
guests that their movement is a noble and a sacred
one which can open doors to greater understanding
between the two religions."
Indeed the Ayatollah's exact words appeared twice
in the article. Mr. Yishai chose one and ignored
the other. The latter read: " 'Judaism is
a divine religion and its teachings are divine,'
remarked the Ayatollah, adding that the numerous
crimes of Zionism have distorted the image of
Of course, offering the Yated readers these quotes
would have made for a more complicated and nuanced
article and wouldn't have fit the image of Iranian
"bottomless cruelty and irrational hatred'
of Mr. Yishai's imagination.
Or, is the imagination Mr. Yishai's? Is he not
actually parroting the cliches and stereotypes
that Zionism has advanced for the last century
instead of examining the facts?
From a Tactical Perspective
The fundamental thesis of Mr. Yishai's attack
is that the delegation's presence in Iran made
things worse for Iranian Jewry and also endangered
Jews living in Eretz Yisroel. It "severely
heightened the danger for the Iranian Jewish community"
and it encouraged the Iranians in a "fundamental
Islamic article of faith that Jews have no right
to Israel." Further it "forment(ed)
more of what the Iranians regime is so adept at
-- implacable hatred of the Jewish nation."
First, the minor inaccuracies: 1) There is no
"fundamental Islamic article of faith"
which governs contemporary geopolitics in the
Middle East. Clearly, unlike the stereotypes of
Mr. Yishai's creation, there is much disagreement
among Muslims throughout the world on this matter.
We would be most interested in the Yated's source
for this bit of information on Islamic theology.
2) Does the Iranian government have a "hatred
for the Jewish nation"? Or has the Yated
once again fallen into mouthing the fundamental
article of Zionist faith, that the state of Israel
and the Jewish nation are one and the same?!?
As regards the vital question of the effect the
trip had on Iran's Jews, Mr. Yishai is once again
operating from the self imposed disadvantage of
failing to pick up the telephone and call those
who were there. In the first place the group were
frequent visitors in the synagogues of the country.
These were always highlighted by a talk given
by one of the guests given to the Jews who invariably
flocked to the shuls. The subject matter was the
same -- basic Judaism, Sinai, Torah and mitzvos,
Shabbos, kashrus and the like. Everywhere the
people couldn't get enough of their esteemed guests.
Specifically, on the morning of Thursday June
8th they davened at the Abrishami Synagogue in
Tehran which filled to overflowing in honor of
their visit. After shacharis a member of the delegation
addressed the masses assembled. Thereafter they
visited and spoke freely with the Jews at Tehran's
Jewish Community Center and were shown by their
Jewish hosts the library and computer center.
In the afternoon they toured the Dr. Sapir Jewish
hospital and spent time with the patients, Jewish
and non-Jewish. Late afternoon found them at a
conference with Rabbi Yousef Hamedani, Chief Rabbi
of Tehran, where they discussed at length matters
of halacha, world and Iranian politics.
On Shavous night (Thursday the 8th) they davened
at the Pesyan synagogue in Tehran and spoke afterwards
to the tsibur. Including questions and answers
after the talk this event took over four hours.
Once again on Shabbos they spoke in the Pesyan
The following week they visited Isfahan City,
where they prayed with the tsibur, spoke to a
full and enthusiastic shul and went to the community
Lastly, on their final motzei Shabos of the two
week tripin they visited at the Pesyan synagogue
where a gala farewell was prepared for them. They
spoke yet again and the Iranian Jews entertained
them with having many of their children recite
their recent selections from Chumash, Ani Maamin
and aseres ha-dibros. This last event which began
at midnight was attended by over six hundred Jews.
Besides these religious visits and talks the group
also met at length with the Iranian Jewish members
of Parliament, assorted communal and student leaders
with whom they had wide ranging discussions concerning
the spiritual and material situation of the nation's
At no time did the government tell the delegation
what to speak to the Jewish community about. Their
remarks, all of which emphasized the need to maintain
loyalty to the Torah, were allowed and encouraged
by the government. There was no censorship either
before or after the delivery. This writer has
seen video tapes of all the non-Shabbos visits
and can verify that the visitors brought the message
of Torah to thousands of Jews eager to hear it.
Only the most preconceived spirit of resentment
could judge this unprecedented kiruv mission as
in some way endangering Iranian Jews. The entire
visit was an enormous source of chizuk emunah
Mr. Yishai, of course, knew none of this and evidenced
no interest in finding it out. To him "what
we do know (about the trip) is enough."
And, what precisely did he know? "We know
that the unfortunate visit took place, and that
it was pounced on and exploited by the Iranian
Here we arrive at the heart of the Yated critique.
Even if Mr. Yishai now knows that the trip was
a great source of chizuk for Iran's Jews and that
it in no way endangered that community he would
still maintain that it was bad because it endangered
Jews living in Eretz Yisroel.
Let us analyze this proposition. There is little
doubt that the overall effect of the visit on
Iranian attitude to towards Judaism and Jews was
positive. The delegation pointed out that the
aspect of "Jewish" behavior which has
alienated the Iranians over recent decades, namely,
the actions of the state of Israel are not those
of Jews loyal to G-d and Torah. They welcomed
this message and proclaimed that there was and
is no quarrel between Islam the religion and Iran
the state with the Jewish people. Let us imagine
for a moment that a large group of non-believing
Jews elsewhere in the world was fighting needlessly
with a non-Jewish people. This, in turn, had led
to animosity and violence directed at all Jews,
not just those responsible for the trouble. Wouldn't
Mr. Yishai grant that it is a high priority to
inform that nation that the real Torah people
have no quarrel with them and that the negative
acts are those of a group pledged to anti-Torah
values. Why shouldn't non-Jews identify Jews and
Judaism with the peaceful and G-d fearing non-Zionists?
Will this heighten or lessen anti-Jewish thoughts?
In Iran, at least, it clearly lessened them. Dozens
of Islamic groups visited with the delegation.
They spoke repeatedly to the media, at two Universitys
and with many government and religious leaders.
Everywhere the response was the same. "It
is an honor that you are here." "We
are longing for dialogue with Jews." "Our
quarrel is merely with Zionism." "We
respect the Jewish faith."
Now, it is true that the Iranian government and
most of its people would like to see the end of
the state of Israel. It is false, though, that
they advocate "the annihilation of Israel
and (italics in the original) all its inhabitants."
The delegation to Iran believes, as did the Satmar
Rov and many other Gedolim that the state of Israel
should and eventually will cease to exist. Only
then, when the proper Jewish approach to exile
is followed, can we hope for peace in the Middle
East and for Jews throughout the world
In 1948 some leaders of Agudas Yisroel believed
that participation in the Israeli government would
allow them to best serve the interests of the
Jewish people. They had no illusions about the
appropriateness of taking arms without Divine
sanction, to kill and be killed.
And, what has been the record of 52 years of the
state which the Yated equates with the Jewish
people? A perpetual war, never ending terror in
the Holy Land and around the world and an inability
to ever make peace have all resulted. This is
the record of Zionism materially -- a failed enterprise
if there ever was one. Is there a land in the
world today where Jews fear for their lives as
they do in the Holy Land? All this need not surprise
anyone for it is the inevitable result of abandoning
the spiritual tasks of exile. We, of course, make
no mention of the thousands lured away from Judaism
due to this "faith."
What policy would the delegates and anti-Zionists
Jews advocate toward the state?
There is nothing that is original in their approach.
They would emphasize that we must go about the
proper fulfillment of exilic task by sanctifying
Hashem's Name as we serve Him, that we inform
Jews and non-Jew that deniers of G-d cannot speak
in the name of the Torah nation and that the hatreds,
wars and secularization caused by the Israeli
state are simply a bizarre distortion of Judaism.
They advocate that the state be dismantled. Of
course, this does not seem possible in the foreseeable
future. Nonetheless, they pray that it should
happen and that no innocents be hurt in the process.
In the hands of G-d even this seemingly difficult
task is possible.
Because of their efforts in Iran a nation of some
sixty million now sees Judaism in a new light
and no longer has a monolithic hatred of world
The Iranian government also welcomes an end to
the Israeli state. Here, at least, the Yated correctly
quoted Ayatollah Taskhiri who predicted the "annihilation"
(actually a parahrase) of Israel. However, it
is clear that he was not calling for the annihilation
of all those living there at present. "Annihilation"
politically. Yes, the Iranians support those engaged
in the military struggle as well. Does this represent
a danger? Obviously. The key question, though,
is how best to mitigate it?
Let us ask Mr. Yishai whether anything he or anyone
else has done by way of supporting Israel and
identifying that government's deeds and very existence
with the beliefs of world wide Jewry has increased
Jewish safety in the Holy Land? Hasn't this policy
truly endangered the Land's inhabitant and Jews
elsewhere as well.
Logically if one used to view all Jews living
in Eretz Yisroel as Zionists and therefore bad
and then discovered that hundreds of thousands
of them are actually anti-Zionist would this realization
make you more or less apt to hate them as a monolith?
Would it make one more or less apt to engage it
or support across the board military action?
Surely the point is, at very least, debatable?
Mr. Yishai has chosen to link our fate to the
ideas and actions of the Shamirs and Baraks of
the world. May we not opt out of his alliance
without being doomed to hell?
There was one point in Mr. Yishai's article where
he accurately reported what had appeared in IRNA
and was justly angered by it. However, here IRNA
misquoted Rabbi Weiss and in a later story retracted
their original report. The first report claimed
that the Rabbi had said "any punishment in
the conviction of the 13 Iranian Jews . . . will
deter the gullible from falling pray to the Israeli
bait. . ."
In truth, Weiss never made that statement which
implied that the 13 were guilty. What he did say
was a well thought out statement on the matter
of the trial which was a plea for mercy. He also
submitted a lengthy staement to the Judge, the
Iranian President Khatami and the Ayatollah Khameni
in order to achieve this goal.
It is inconceivable that Mr. Yishai actually believed
that Rabbi Weiss welcomed convictions and punishments.
Of course, if he had read the Iranian press after
his original article he would have seen the retraction.
Alternatively, he could have picked up the phone
and called Rabbi Weiss.
Yet, he chose to do neither.
The inevitable conclusion is that Mr. Yishai has
forgotten some the holy traditions of the Gedolei
Lita and their passionate opposition to Zionism.
He has, unwittingly adopted some of the basic
assumptions of Zionist ideology. He has subconsciously
absorbed these teachings to the point where he
is incapable of understanding or even tolerating
the traditional view. In his zeal to promote his
ideology he denies his adversary the courtesy
of a call and allows sloppiness and omission to
color his reporting.
When the Yated was contacted by phone on some
of the above distortions and a request was made
for the ability to reply this was refused by the
paper's editor. It is for this reason that we
have chosen this pamphlet as a means of reply.
However, unlike Mr. Yishai we are not so bold
as to suggest the whereabouts of his neshomah
after it leaves this mortal realm (after 120 years).
In fact, we wish him well then and in this world
as well. In fact, we are confident that in the
future the Yated will adequately reflect the mesorah
of Lita, the pursuit of truth, the spirit of fairness
and the centrality of Torah in all its writings.
We were called upon by the Creator at Sinai to
function as "a kingdon of priests and a holy
nation." Part of our task as a people is
to serve as a "light unto the nations."
This involves centering our actions and thoughts
on G-d's service via Torah study, prayer and kind
This imperative demands that we practice scrupulous
honesty, exemplary manners, embracing compassion
and modesty in all our affairs.
We are to live first and foremost as "a people
alone." Yet, our lives will inspire others
and glorify the Name of Hashem if we live up to
the Torah's standards.. Similarly our excursions
into the public realm should be to emphasize the
G-d centeredness of all human endeavor and the
need to judge policies by the standards of Eternal
In the words of Rav Hirsch: "Picture every
son of Israel a respectful and influential priest
of righteousness and love, disseminating among
the nations not specific Judaism - for proselytism
is forbidden - but pure humanity. . . .How impressive,
how sublime it would have been if in the midst
of peoples that adored only power, possessions
and enjoyment there had lived quietly human beings
of a different sort, who beheld in material possessions
only the means for practicing justice and love
towards all, a people whose minds imbued with
the wisdom and truth of the Law, maintained simple,
straightforward views, and emphasized them for
themselves and others in expressive, vivid symbolic
acts." (Nineteen Letters, 1960:108-9)
We are ill suited for the role of perpetual antagonist
in the Middle East. The flowering of religion
in the Islamic world is a challenge to a desacralized
West. We should be in a position to offer a conditional
welcome to the former and a grounded critique
to the latter. Due to Zionism many in the Torah
community can do neither.
Modesty, honesty, prayer and Torah are our agenda
-forever striving for awareness of and closeness
to the Creator is its purpose.
There is no room in this, the true agenda of the
Jew, for endless violent struggles with Palestinians,
for shrill demands for reparations from all European
lands, for support of politicians who advocate
the tidal wave of immorality which inundates Western
lands simply because they are pro-Zionist or offer
large sums of government money.
The call of "Kedoshim tihyu" demands
an very different orientation.
In Iran there was a glimpse of this alternative
path. The delegation visiting and comforting the
sick of all faiths was a view of something better
than that of soldiers ruthlessly policing Gaza.
The sense that Orthodox faith may serve as a basis
for a common critique of modernity was a view
of something better than Jew and Moslem forever
at war. The faces of the hundreds of Jews who
crowded the shuls to hear of their Torah heritage
was a window to somethng better than that of Orthodox
political partys groveling and jockeying for monies
dispensed by heretics.
The Iranian trip was something better than Torah
Jews hitching their wagons to the failed Zionist
Mr. Yishai, do you hear us?