December 6, 2007
A rational Jerusalem
Orthodox Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky, leader of Congregation B'nai David-Judea, wrote "An Orthodox Rabbi's Plea: Consider a Divided Jerusalem" for this paper a little more than a month ago. As arguably the most controversial article written by an Orthodox rabbi during my lifetime, Rabbi Kanefsky's comments have fully engulfed the discussions and thoughts of the entire Jewish spectrum. While the Jewish communities outside of Orthodoxy have displayed an immense amount of respect and encouragement of Rabbi Kanefsky's article, he has taken some serious heat from the Orthodox authorities on an international level.
After reading Rabbi Kanefsky's article in great depth, a few thoughts harassed my mind, as did a deep desire to clarify my own opinion on the matter. First, the issue of truth comes up various times throughout the article: "It's not that I [Rabbi Kanefsky] would want to see Jerusalem divided. It's rather that the time has come for honesty."
The rabbi outlines a pathway to peace through the means of truth. Rabbi Kanefsky continues to mention the shortcomings of the Israeli government and the Jewish people, as a whole, in our distortion of history. He presents point after point about the settlement of our conquered territory after the war in 1967 and its possible transgression of international law.
Further, Rabbi Kanefsky mentions the cognizance of Israeli government officials, political analysts and Jewish leaders of the possible transgression of international law. Mainly, the rabbi concludes that we may have been overpowered by our rightful emotional catharsis associated with the conquest of Jerusalem in the Six-Day War and our treatment of the area up until this day. With future tensions between Israel and the Palestinians having been clear, our emotions clouded our reason.
In a letter of passionate censure of Rabbi Kanefsky's article, Rabbi Daniel Korobkin, director of community and synagogue services of the Orthodox Union's West Coast branch, synthesized a few major issues he and many others had with the article. Rabbi Korobkin explained that Jerusalem has never been more peaceful than it is in Israeli hands. Citing occurrences between 1948-1967, Rabbi Korobkin completely bashes the idea that an Arab Jerusalem would amount to any form of peace. Further, Rabbi Korobkin states that social and economic anarchy would erupt due to Arab control of Jerusalem, as has been the case in many areas newly controlled by Arabs. While Rabbi Korobkin's first two points were quite clear and factually based, the following two had questionable validity.
First, Rabbi Korobkin states, "Jerusalem is the heart of Judaism" and that its future should not be determined completely by the government. Rather, Rabbi Korobkin points out that our religious and spiritual ties to Jerusalem should be heavily considered. But proclaiming Jerusalem's religious importance merely repeats the obvious -- our deep connection to Jerusalem is the fuel for this entire controversy. On top of that, the connection to Jerusalem differs in every Jew. Some Jews would die to have Jerusalem united; some would rather save lives if that would result from relinquishing Jewish authority.
Next, Rabbi Korobkin says, "To date, Israel and much of the international community have deemed the annexation legal."
Many have decided that the Israeli obtainment of Jerusalem was legal and many have decided it was illegal. There are a significant number of people who have proclaimed Israel to have violated international law -- simply stating that many hold Israel accountable while others do not does not constitute a valid response.
Contrary to how the article has been portrayed by castigators, Rabbi Kanefsky is not in full support of the division of Jerusalem. Rather, he simply beckons for a reconsideration of facts -- a consideration through an intellectual scope instead of an emotionally distorted lens. As a supremely logical nation with tenets of belief that are often premised with thousands of books replete with rational argument, it pains many Jews (myself included) when decisions are made because of emotional preference. No Jew would like to see the division of Jerusalem -- but hindering Israel's ability to negotiate and its ultimate ability to bestow peace upon its people seems unreasonable to me.
Where do I, an Orthodox teen, fall in this heated debate? Simply, if we put Jerusalem on the negotiating table it will be clear that the Jewish people have a right to the land. Sometimes I ask myself if we actually occupy Jerusalem as it is -- when the entire world refuses to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital -- do we ideally occupy it? Are we actually secure in our possession of Jerusalem when our only diplomatic claim to it is our emotional connection? The time is now to start talking about a divided Jerusalem so that Israel can logically claim ownership. The time is now to establish Jerusalem on both ethically and rationally sound grounds, obliterating our long-standing emotional futility.
Adam Deutsch is a senior at YULA Boys High School in Los Angeles.
Tribe, a page by and for teens, appears the first issue of every month in The Jewish Journal. Ninth- to 12th-graders are invited to submit first-person columns, feature articles or news stories of up to 800 words. Deadline for the January issue is Dec. 15; deadline for the February issue is Jan. 15. Send submissions to email@example.com.