As a rabbi, I prefer not to get involved in politics and my opinion is that a politician should not interfere with religion. But where does politics start and where do rabbinical matters end? Is euthanasia a religious matter or a political problem? And who decides how far freedom of education extends?
That difference is even more unclear in Israel, because: “Israel without Torah is like a body without soul”, one can’t separate the State of Israel from Judaism. And therefore, we see in the Knesset politicians with rabbinical opinions and rabbis as politicians.
But even the Jew who is not an Israeli resident has the conviction that he may state his opinion and interfere with Israeli political decisions because, he argues, without centuries of daily prayers in which we asked G’d to allow us to return to Jerusalem, Israel would not be today an Independent State. However, my opinion is that just as the Israeli citizen does not make statements about the Dutch Prime Minister, Rutte, we, not living in Israel, shouldn’t interfere in internal Israeli politics.
However, non-Jewish society sees us as an extension of Israel. Over and over again, I have to explain that I am Dutch and that the compliment that my Dutch is so fluent, is misplaced. You’re not going to give that compliment to the bishop or the preacher, do you? But in according with their opinion “the Jew is Israel and Israel is the Jew”.
And yet there is a heart of truth in their falsehood, for Jews know themselves interconnected by Jerusalem, our capital, where one day the Third Temple will rise when the ultimate peace will be there “for all inhabitants of Your earth.”
And until then? When Netanyahu called upon French Jews to emigrate to Israel because of anti-Semitic violence, I was pushed in front of a journalist’s microphone and was asked, “Rabbi, what do you think of Netanyahu’s call? Do you really believe that there is no place for Jews in the Netherlands anymore?” Wow, I thought, that’s a tricky one. It is not possible to request time for reflection, to say that Jews no longer belong in Europe is unwise and disagree in public with Netanyahu does not seem right. And therefore, my diplomatic, rabbinical and politically coloured answer was: Great we have got Israel for all those who must escape anti-Semitism. My parents had nowhere to go. But if and when I go on aliyah, will not be determined by fear for terrorism. I decide for myself, because I am independent, like the State of Israel!
Fear of antisemitic violence and the presence of armed police and soldiers outside Jewish institutions has left Belgian Jews living in a “permanent state of siege,” the head of Belgium’s main antisemitism watchdog disclosed during a wide-ranging TV interview this weekend.
“The presence of military on the street in front of Jewish sites is somewhat reassuring,” Joël Rubinfeld — president of the Belgian League Against Antisemitism — told the French-language broadcaster RTBF on Sunday. “But you can imagine what kind of world we live in. Today, you go to a Jewish school and you feel like you’re coming back to Fort Knox, which is really a kind of permanent state of siege.”
Islamists based in Belgium have carried out several attacks on Jewish targets in Europe during the last decade, among them a gun attack on the Brussels Jewish Museum in May 2014 in which four people were killed. Belgium’s 42,000 Jews are also subjected to antisemitic harassment by Muslim extremists. Rubinfeld said that over “the last two or three years,” his organization had dealt with a dozen cases of Jewish school students subjected to antisemitic bullying, as well as a broader trend of Jewish parents unwilling to risk sending their children to public schools.
“This is what they call a double punishment: on the one hand, they are victims of these antisemitic acts, of bullying, or even sometimes of physical violence, and on the other hand, it is they, and not the aggressors, who have to leave their school,” Rubinfeld said.
The last fortnight, he added, had witnessed a “rush of antisemitic acts” inspired by Palestinian violence on the border between the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and Israel.
Rubinfeld reflected that it had been difficult to convince Belgian politicians that the country has a serious problem with antisemitism.
“Already in 2008-2009, I told them: ‘If you do not do it for my children, do it for your children,’” he said.
The article was published on The Algemeiner
Israel has a new President, Mr Isaac Herzog. The Herzog’s have a fine tradition of important positions in Israel: his grandfather was a Chief Rabbi of Israel, and his father, Chaim, a former President of Israel too.
We wish the 11th President of Israel lots of Mazal, lots of strength and lots of courage. Qualities that we know from our many contacts with Mr Herzog, are not in short supply where he is concerned.