Rabbi’s heart broken by Israel


I’m a rabbi in mourning for a Judaism being murdered by Israel writes the well-known rabbi editor of Tikkun. In a long piece on Salon,com Lerner expands on his inner turmoil. The author has always been a champion of Israel, proud of its many achievements that have benefitted the world. He even had a son serve in the IDF.

Lerner like many of us Lovers of Zion in the goyische community always believed that the dominant humanity of the Jewish people,”and the compassionate strain within Torah” would win the day. While the author never mentions the corrosive ability of advanced capitalism to subvert even the best dreams I am sure he would agree.

The rabbi, given his attachment to Israel knows his history—how Israel radically regressed under the brutal leadership of Arab haters like Sharon and Netanyahu. Both were promoters of “greater Israel” that is the maximization of territorial theft. They simply ignored the Saudi Peace Initiative which granted Israel recognition(even accepted by Hamas) and continued to gobble up more territory. And now Gaza with its brutal assault.

Lerner argues that both communities are victims of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which has distorted future generations.

Dr.Jesse Ghanam ciinical professor of psychiatry and global health sciences at the University of California described PTSD among Palestinian children,

Even before the current military offensive, young Gazans bore the mental scars of years under siege and previous episodes of bombardment. After the 2012 war, the rate of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among children in Gaza doubled, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which provides assistance for Palestinian refugees. Mental health experts fear that the latest bombardment may create detrimental repercussions too difficult for children to overcome.

Palestinian children in Gaza are exposed to more violence in their lifetime than any other people, any other children, anywhere in the world. If you look at children right now who are 10 years old, they’ve been through Cast Lead in 2008 and 2009, the invasion in 2012 and now the invasion and destruction in 2014, in addition to the siege. If you look at the statistics, for example, even before Cast Lead, 80 percent of Palestinian children in Gaza have witnessed some sort of violence against them, a friend or a family member. And now you’re getting to the point where probably close to 99 percent of children in Gaza are being exposed to a level of violence where they have seen family members be killed, murdered, burned alive. There’s nothing like the levels of traumatic exposure that any child in the world has ever been exposed to on a chronic and daily basis.



What distinguished Lerner’s critique is his role as a rabbi, a defender of universal Torah values. Like Henry Siegman, also am ordained rabbi, Lerner is disillusioned by the American Jewish community. He rails against idolatry.

Jews around the world have taken a turn that is disastrous, by turning the Israeli nation state into “the Jewish state” and making Israel into an idol to be worshiped rather than a political entity like any other political entity, with strengths and deep flaws. Despairing of spiritual salvation after God failed to show up and save us from the Holocaust, increasing numbers of Jews have abandoned the religion of compassion and identification with the most oppressed that was championed by our biblical prophets, and instead come to worship power and to rejoice in Israel’s ability to become the most militarily powerful state in the Middle East. If a Jew today goes into any synagogue in the U.S. or around the world and says, “I don’t believe in God or Torah and I don’t follow the commandments,” most will still welcome you in and urge you to become involved. But say, “I don’t support the State of Israel,” and you are likely to be labeled a “self-hating Jew” or anti-Semite, scorned and dismissed. As Aaron said of the Golden Calf in the Desert, “These are your Gods, O Israel.”

The worship of the state makes it necessary for Jews to turn Judaism into an auxiliary of ultra-nationalist blindness. Every act of the State of Israel against the Palestinian people is seen as sanctioned by God. Each Sabbath Jews in synagogues around the world are offered prayers for the well-being of the State of Israel but not for our Arab cousins.  The very suggestion that we should be praying for the Palestinian people’s welfare is seen as heresy and proof of being “self-hating Jews.”

The worship of power is precisely what Judaism came into being to challenge. We were the slaves, the powerless, and though the Torah talks of God using a strong arm to redeem the Israelites from Egyptian slavery, it simultaneously insists, over and over again, that when Jews go into their promised land in Canaan (not Palestine) they must “love the stranger/the Other,” have one law for the stranger and for the native born, and warns “do not oppress the stranger/the Other.” Remember, Torah reminds us, “that you were strangers/the Other in the land of Egypt” and “you know the heart of the stranger.”  Later sources in Judaism even insist that a person without compassion who claims to be Jewish cannot be considered Jewish. A spirit of generosity is so integral to Torah consciousness that when Jews are told to let the land lie fallow once every seven years (the societal-wide Sabbatical Year), they must allow that which grows spontaneously from past plantings be shared with the Other/the stranger.

The Jews are not unique in this. The basic reality is that most of humanity has always heard a voice inside themselves telling them that the best path to security and safety is to love others and show generosity, and a counter voice that tells us that the only path to security is domination and control over others. This struggle between the voice of fear and the voice of love, the voice of domination/power-over and the voice of compassion, empathy and generosity, have played out throughout history and shape contemporary political debates around the world.



  1. 1
    mushafta Says:

    This is a great post Ted! Right before the Hiroshima/ Nagasaki anniversaries- holocausts we cannot forget.

  2. 2

    BTW, folks: I am no longer at the former email address. I have another 4949francesco@gmail.com . Something happened to the other one, no longer functional.

    Rabbi Lerner is a bit off. But the fact that you would say Hamas is the creation of Israel is all I need to know that you can’t think, Ted. What about the Muslim Brotherhood or Al Quaida? Are these the creation of Israel? What about the persecutions of Christians in Pakistan and Mosul? This is the first time that Mass has not been said in Mosul. Is this the fault of Israel? Or the fault of the Church? Are these people just poor helpless victims trying to get the oppressor off their backs?

    Such simple mindedness. If only the Middle East was so easy to explain.

  3. 3

    There are two kinds of people: 1) those who, the older they get, the more they discover that life is a mystery. Then there are 2) those who, the older they get, the less life appears as a mystery and the easier it is, in their minds, to explain.

    Certitude is a characteristic that belongs to the arrogance of youth. It is a bad sign when someone over 60 exhibits the same level of certitude.

  4. 4
    mushafta Says:

    Very pleased to read that Elizabeth May has clearly spoke out against Israel!

    Toronto Star Aug 5
    In criticizing the Liberals and New Democrats for falling in line with Stephen Harper’s ardent support of Israel’s onslaught on Gaza, I was remiss in not noting the more principled stand taken by the Green Party.

    Before the ceasefire took effect this week, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said: “I am heartbroken to watch such death, destruction and violence. The death toll has soared to unspeakable numbers, mostly civilians.”

    Unlike Harper, Thomas Mulcair and Justin Trudeau, who have consistently placed a higher value on Israeli lives and security than those of Palestinians, May asserted: “I firmly believe that Israeli children and Palestinian children have an equal right to grow up free of bombardment.”

  5. 5

    We all agree that Palestinian and Israeli children have a right to grow up free of bombardment. All of us are in total agreement. But the very fact that Mulcair and Trudeau have begun to lean towards the Israeli side of the Israeli/Palestinian meter says a great deal. Not even these two are silly enough and ideologically drunk enough to suggest that terrorists are the result and fault of Israel.

    At the root of such a position is Rousseau’s denial of Original Sin or man’s tendency to sin and self-seeking, that civilization is the source of evil.K

  6. 6
    mushafta Says:

    Both the Liberals and NDP will suffer badly for not supporting the Palestinian side. Listening to Netanyahu offer sympathy to the innocent victims of his own killing made me vomit.

    Just get with it Mulcair and Trudeau! This was not a war- but a massacre!

  7. 7

    Why are the Arabs who live in Israel love living in Israel? Why is Israel the best place for an Arab to live, according to these Arabs?

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