Monday, October 08, 2007

Joffe The Joker

I just read a terrible "eulogy" of Rabbi Shapira by an guy named Lawrence Joffe. It is filled with many innaccuracies, if not outright lies. A quick "Google" on Lawrence Joffe reveals that he is "a London-based writer who specializes in Middle Eastern politics and culture." After digging a little deeper I discovered that he is not just a writer, but a member of the British Friends of Peace Now. Now that we know who this "London-based writer who specializes in Middle Eastern politics and culture" is, we can understand why he penned such a vile article.

Let the fisking begin:

Israel's Ashkenazi chief rabbi (1983-93), Avraham Shapira who has died, aged 94, was a champion of the settler movement, a revered adjudicator of Jewish law - and one of Israel's most divisive religious figures.

Rav Shapira was not divisive at all. He was a true Torah scholar, Chief Rabbi, full of love for every Jew regardless of his religious observance.

Still active into his 90s he won notoriety - even among fellow Orthodox Jews - when he urged soldiers to disobey orders to evacuate the Gaza Strip in 2005. Shapira believed that the territory Israel had won in 1967 was promised by God and belonged to Jews in perpetuity. "Surrendering" an inch of sacred turf was tantamount to blasphemy, he felt.

The surrendering of land was wrong because we are commanded to settle the land. Rabbi Shapira also warned that surrendering land endangers Jewish lives, and history has proven him right. Only the wicked would deem the fearless instruction of Torah principles as "notoriety."

While such views are commonplace in rightist circles, Shapira's willingness to defy the army signified a huge breach within Israel's "national religious" camp, especially coming from such an establishment figure. His proteges traditionally encourage military service as a patriotic duty. Given that most NCOs now come from Israel's observant minority, the rabbi's stance seemed all the more corrosive.

Shapira's ruling that one must not take part in the destruction of Jewish towns in the land of Israel did not start with the Sharon's plan to expel the Jewish residents of Gaza, which he called "disengagement", and which Joffe calls "evacuation". Not only that, but he was not the only Torah luminary who held this position:
In December 1993, the late Rabbi Shlomo Goren, a former Chief Rabbi of Israel and Chief Rabbi of the IDF, published a ruling forbidding Jews to evacuate any settlement in the biblical Land of Israel, which includes Judea, Samaria and Gaza, and declared that Israeli soldiers should disobey any such evacuation orders. He declared that "according to halakhah [Jewish law], a soldier who receives an order that runs contrary to Torah law should uphold halakhah and not the secular order. And since settling the land is a commandment, and uprooting the settlements is breaking the commandment, the soldier should not carry out an order to uproot settlements."

In April 1994, discussion of possible evacuation of the Jewish residents of Hebron caused a number of rabbis, including Chief Rabbi Avraham Shapira, Rabbi Moshe-Zvi Neria of the Bnei Akiva movement, and Rabbi Shaul Yisraeli, to direct soldiers to reject any order to evacuate Jews from Hebron or other settlements.

Shapira invariably warned against violence, and in 1995 he had condemned Yitzhak Rabin's ostensibly religious assassin as a man "without conscience or Jewish morality". Even so, his 2005 edict sparked fears of civil war. One Labour party legislator wanted him tried for incitement to rebellion. In the event only 40 soldiers obeyed his call. The disengagement passed with considerable ideological pantomime and sad tales of personal upheaval, but no serious casualties. None the less, opposition leader Yossi Beilin felt Shapira had misled an entire generation by hinting that divine intervention may stop the process. When the pullout did happen, it left behind the "biggest spiritual crisis in years".

Did Shapira's edict spark fears of a civil war? Joffe should check out some of these "edicts". It seems that either Beilin or Joffe are confusing Rabbi Shapiro with Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, who said, "Hayo Lo Tihye"(it will not be). Some interpreted this as a promise, even though Rabbi Eliyahu explained before the disengagement that this was not his intention.

Gaza was not Shapira's first foray into politics. Soon after leaving the chief rabbinate he co-founded the Rabbis' Union for the Complete Land of Israel. Its 500 clerics attacked the Oslo Accords for transferring land to Palestinians - forbidden under Jewish law, they claimed. In 2003 Shapira asked the Knesset to boycott a ceremony honouring the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. American evangelicals, he claimed, were deceiving Jews and Christians into imagining a "common faith shared by both".

Hmmm, suddenly Joffe remembers that Rabbi Shapira's decision that giving up parts of the land of Israel is against Torah law predated the ethnic cleansing of Jews from Gaza by many years. Not only that, but 500 other Torah scholars, that Joffe disingenuously refers to as "clerics" agreed with him.

Shapira inspired thousands as dean of the Mercaz Ha-Rav Kook Yeshiva, one of Israel's largest talmudic academies and the flagship of religious Zionism. He probably wielded more influence in that post than as chief rabbi, as most settlement rabbis are Mercaz graduates. Many national religious Jews, who make up two-thirds of Israel's 12% observant minority, considered Shapira the gadol ha-dor - greatest authority of his generation on Jewish law.

While he was chief rabbi he was also the dean of Merkaz HaRav. I wonder why Joffe thinks that observant Jews make up only 12 percent of the population:
In terms of religiosity, among Israeli Jews aged 20 and over, 44 percent defined themselves as secular; 27 percent defined themselves as traditional; 12 percent as traditionally observant; 9 percent as Orthodox; and 8 percent as ultra-Orthodox.
And then there is this:
Jewish society in Israel today is made up of observant and non-observant Jews, comprising a spectrum from the ultra-observant Haredim to those who regard themselves as secular. However, the differences between them are not clear-cut. If religious observance is determined by the degree of adherence to Jewish religious laws and practices, then 20 percent of Israeli Jews fulfill all religious precepts, 60 percent follow some combination of the laws according to personal choices and ethnic traditions, and 20 percent are essentially non-observant. But as Israel was conceived as a Jewish state, the Sabbath (Saturday) and all Jewish festivals and holy days have been instituted as national holidays and are celebrated by the entire Jewish population and observed by all, to a greater or lesser extent.

Shapira's tenure at Mercaz was not without incident. Rabbi Tzvi Tau, seen as an obvious spiritual heir, resented being bypassed as rosh yeshiva. Eventually Tau left Mercaz in 1997 to form the more philosophically engaged and Bible-focused Yeshivat Har ha-Mor. Shapira preferred students to study Talmud and halakha (Jewish law). The final straw came when Shapira accepted a state-backed diploma programme at Mercaz.

Pure nonsense! Talmud, Bible, and Jewish philosophy are learned at both institutions.

He was born in Ottoman-ruled Jerusalem. His parents were of European origin and were Jews with deep roots in the holy city. He studied at Jerusalem's Etz Haim (Tree of Life) and Hebron Yeshivas. As his scholarly reputation grew he associated with leading Talmud sages, Yitzhak Ze'ev Soloveichik, Avraham Yeshayahu Karelitz, and Rabbi Moshe Feinstein.

If my memory is correct Rav Shapira is a sixth century Jerusalemite. His ancestors were among the students of the Vilna Gaon, who at the urging of their teacher came to settle the land. How many generations does one have to live here to be considered of "Israeli origin?"

There's more, but I'm tired of fisking. Rav Shapira zt"l was a blessing to the Jewish people. That's a lot more than I can say about those creeps who sit in London and preach territorial concessions to Israelis.

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