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By November 14, 2017 Read More →

Public Apology to Rav Yitzchak Berkowitz & Our Responsibility as Religious Jews Living in Israel

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Given the number of calls and messages I got yesterday after having posted on IsraelB a blog written, which included criticism of comments Rav Yitzchak Berkowitz had made in relation to the recent ‘Peleg Yerushalmi’, extreme charedi demonstrations, I wanted to publicly apologize for the upset that was caused.

Rav Berkowitz is known to be a tolerant, peace loving and understanding Torah leader, who is seen as a voice of reason and moderation in the Charedi community.

Furthermore, his students are responsible and respectable Bnei Torah and certainly wouldn’t behave in an extreme way, by going out and demonstrating, which brought so much chilul hashem (desecration of G-d’s name) and negative feelings towards the religious sector. Rav Berkovits’s talmidim go on to be very successful Rabbanim and teachers.

With regards to the ‘War on Charedim’ Rav Berkovits refers to. If they perceive things as such, that’s very sad. ( I personally see things differently). As I have always said, Israeli society has much to gain from the mainstream Charedi sector in Israel. We need to understand their perspective and respect it. There have been significant developments in areas of employment and national service and indeed the picture I chose for this post, is from a Nachal Charedi army unit.

Having apologized, I want to make it absolutely clear that my belief is that as religious Jews living in Israel, we must be extremely sensitive to how we are portrayed by the broader society here and realize how our actions and words can easily cause damage and chilul hashem. As religious Jews, who are the minority in Israel, we have a responsibility to create ‘kiddush hashem’ through behaving in a respectable and mature manner, showing we want to be equal players in creating a better and more productive society here.

We also need to understand and publicly acknowledge, the mesirut nefesh ( self sacrifice) of all Israelis, who send their children to the army, is immense and we must show the appropriate respect for that.

Each Yom Hazikaron in Israel, we are made painfully aware of the price that all Israelis have paid so that we can live here in our Homeland and to in any way, shape or form speak or behave in a manner that does not show true recognition of this is in my eyes both inhuman and a gross chilul hashem. If anyone isn’t fully aware of how we much we owe regular Israelis, I suggest next Yom Hazikaron they go to Har Herzl and see the families surrounding the graves of their children and grandchildren.

A few weeks ago I happened to be at the Jerusalem market, ( the shuk) during a Seudah Shlishit for the, ‘Shabbat Project’ which was disrupted by the religious fanatics who had been demonstrating in previous weeks and I have to say the scene was shocking and only brought more animosity and tension and did no good at all.  I will never forget a young Australian girl who was here on her gap year, shouting as she was leaving the shuk area, with a smile on her face,’ I was called a shikser 6 times in there – I was never called that in Australia’. So, let’s get this straight a young Australian girl comes to Israel to have an enriching year, comes to the Jerusalem shuk on a Shabbat afternoon to have a meaningful religious experience and is called a, ‘shikser’. Madness, no?? And sadly, this is happening in the Jewish capital and on our doorstep.

How much do we need leaders like Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach z’l (pictured below) in Yerushalayim, who did so much in the way of creating tolerance and understanding. Rav Shlomo Zalman who was the mainstream Gadol Hador of the previous generation, was totally opposed to any form of public protest and disturbance. Other Gedolim, including Rav Shach, Rav Shteinman and the Brisker Rov were / are also opposed to public disobedience.

It’s a real tragedy that just a generation after them. extremism, fanaticism and even violence has become acceptable and even justified in certain quarters. I shudder to think what will be here in future generations.

Benjy.

 

 

 

 

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