November 1, 2007
O, Jerusalem! Oy, Jerusalem!
The Journal received over 100 letters in response to Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky's Oct. 26 Op-Ed, "An Orthodox Rabbi's Plea: Consider a Divided Jerusalem." The letters were largely supportive of the rabbi's position. For an Op-Ed on the subject by Rabbi Dov Fischer, click here.
Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky argues that Jerusalem should be re-divided if it would further the cause of peace between Israel and her neighbors. We admire the rabbi as a spiritual leader and a colleague, but on this point, his argument is not only wrong but dangerously na?ve.
First, when Jerusalem was last divided, from 1948 to 1967, the city was a living hell for its Jewish residents. Jews were forced from Jewish neighborhoods in the Old City and were banned from Jewish holy sites, which were vandalized and destroyed. Access to Christian sites was also restricted.
The rest of the city was subject to routine sniper fire, mortar fire and other attacks. Jerusalem was hardly at peace; it was, in fact, on the front lines of a war of attrition.
There may be competing Jewish and Arab historical claims to Jerusalem, but on one point, there is no disagreement: Jerusalem has never been more prosperous, more welcoming to pilgrims of all religions and more free than it is today as a unified city under Israeli control. That is why so many Israeli Arabs choose to live there, rather than in Palestinian-controlled areas elsewhere.
Second, all available evidence suggests that Palestinian control over even a handful of Arab neighborhoods will result in those neighborhoods falling into economic and social anarchy, as was the case in Gaza after Israel's voluntary pullout, and will become a staging ground for terror attacks on the rest of the city. In the aftermath of Gaza, in which Israel faces continued terror and newly violent rocket attacks, anyone supporting shared sovereignty of any kind in Jerusalem is ignoring the facts.
Third, this is not a matter solely for the Israeli government to decide. Jerusalem is the physical heart of Judaism, we pray in its direction every day, we send our children there to study and we return there throughout our lives for spiritual sustenance.
Even if the Israeli government were to consider a re-division of the city, we would oppose such a move. And we would hardly be alone: Jews and Christians of every religious denomination and political stripe oppose such a re-division. So does the U.S. Congress.
Fourth, on the issue of "honesty" on Jerusalem's history: No one denies that Israel's annexation of East Jerusalem has been legally questioned from day one. There have always been two distinct ways, the Arab way and the Israeli way, to interpret a whole litany of historical events and documents.
To date, Israel and much of the international community have deemed the annexation legal. To suggest that Israel should sacrifice its security and real lives because of dubious questions of "honesty" is at best false piety.
Finally, Rabbi Kanefsky believes that "there will be peace the day after there is truth." We disagree. There will be peace the day after everyone wants peace.
Only when both sides are truly committed to living peacefully, instead of destroying the "enemy," will there be peace. We look forward to such a day and are eager to be a part of that peace.
Rabbi Daniel Korobkin
Director, Community & Synagogue Services
Orthodox Union West Coast Region
As a congregant, friend and member of the community, I would like to publicly support Rabbi Kanefsky's opinion in last week's Jewish Journal. Ever since the last Palestinian election, both the U.S. and Israeli governments have focused their attention and resources on trying to stop what is essentially a Palestinian nationalist movement from becoming a Hamas-led religious movement.
If the issue of a Palestinian state indeed becomes a religious one, then the possibility of compromise must become impossible, as each side's religious claims must be, by definition, superior to the other and therefore right. In taking Rabbi Kanefsky's point further, Israel's supporters must be careful not to make the issue of a Palestinian state a religious one, either, but rather be able to balance what issues are imperative and what room there is for negotiation in order to achieve peace.
It seems to me incongruous that whilst the current Israeli prime minister, who was also mayor of Jerusalem, has acknowledged that there are Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem that Israel could yield, we in New York and Los Angeles are arguing to the contrary. In the end, as Rabbi Kanefsky rightly states, it is not for us in the Diaspora to try to tie the hands of the Israeli government, but rather provide the support to let it try to negotiate in good faith and see what can be achieved.
Finally, I, too, have been bombarded with e-mail traffic on this issue and want to thank Rabbi Kanefsky for his leadership and courage in turning up the heat on this issue and forcing our community to look inward and be able to publicly debate what is a most important subject.
As Jews, we also believe that we must act and speak with candor and truth. Your headline distorts what Rabbi Kanefsky submitted to you, and that is unfortunate. Rabbi Kanefsky pleads for honesty and candor in looking at Israeli history. The Jewish Journal did not extend that same honesty to him in distorting his meaning when writing your headline.
One does not have to be a journalist or a legal scholar to distinguish between the following:
Yosef Kanefsky's submission: "An Orthodox Rabbi's Plea: Let's Be Honest Here."
Jewish Journal screaming double-page headline: "An Orthodox Rabbi's Plea: Consider a Divided Jerusalem." We look forward to your retraction and explanation.
Sally and Bob Shafton
I want to loudly applaud Rabbi Kanefsky's call to honesty. The majority of American Jews has supported a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for years. Unfortunately, the self-appointed leadership of the Jewish community (as demonstrated in the letter to the editor from Morton Klein in the same issue) has done all in its power to drown out that voice of reason.
Rabbi Kanefsky's courageous stand gives me hope that the American Jewish communal leadership might serve a salutary role in the search for peace in the Middle East.
Dr. Aryeh Cohen
of Rabbinic Literature
Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies
American Jewish University
No way does the good rabbi suggest agreeing to the division of Jerusalem, short of proof positive that the Palestinians would make such an agreement worthwhile.
It is so important to notice that Rabbi Kanefsky does not argue in favor of dividing Jerusalem, far from it. Rather, he urges American Jews and their organizations (the Orthodox Union, the National Council of Young Israel, et al) not to tie the hands of the Israeli government in the negotiations.
Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky is to be applauded for his clarity in identifying self-destructive elements in the Jewish community. It seems a sad commentary on contemporary American Jewish support of Israel that it gives blanket support to what was an ad hoc arrangement on the part of Israel's leaders in 1967, which was transformed into a virtue by religious messianists.
As Rabbi Kanefsky points out, they have never offered a plausible alternative for negotiation with the Palestinians, difficult as that may be. I stand behind my rabbi, Rabbi Kanefsky, in whatever controversy follows his thoughtful essay.
Rabbi Pinchas Giller
American Jewish University
While I would never otherwise write to your paper to put down another Jew, let alone a respected rabbi in my community, the rabbi has left me with no choice.
Every concession we agree to consider, like the rabbi's openness to dividing Jerusalem, simply becomes the new minimum that will be expected of us to have on the table before the real painful concessions will begin, i.e., the return of all of the Palestinian refugees into Israel -- in other words, the elimination of Israel -- and a renewed realization among the Palestinians that their intifada is achieving its goals, even though we tell them that it does not.
Without emet there is no shalom. I appreciate Rabbi Kanefsky's honesty and courage in holding truth and peace as the highest Jewish values.
Thank you to Rabbi Kanefsky for having the courage to speak and for you having the courage to publish. My prayers that all may, as the rabbi states, have courage enough and fear of God enough to walk together and to create a Jerusalem where the concepts of divided and undivided will have no further need or meaning.
Rabbi Kanefsky is reacting to fear in the Jewish community about dividing Jerusalem. That fear is unfounded, because there is no plan to divide Jerusalem.
What is being discussed is sharing Jerusalem, following the four points from the 2001 Clinton parameters:
1) Jerusalem should be an open and undivided city, with assured freedom of access and worship for all. It should encompass the internationally recognized capitals of two states, Israel and Palestine.
2) What is Arab should be Palestinian. Why would Israel want to govern in perpetuity the lives of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians?
3) What is Jewish should be Israeli, resulting in a Jewish Jerusalem, larger and more vibrant than any in history.
4) What is holy to both requires a special care to meet the needs of all. No peace agreement will last if not premised on mutual respect for the religious beliefs and holy shrines of Jews, Muslims and Christians."
Not only is there no call for Jerusalem's division, it is specifically ruled out. Congratulations to Rabbi Kanefsky for having the courage to speak out for his deepest beliefs.
La Habra Heights
I was inspired by the courage it took for Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky to write his article of Oct. 26. Sadly, I know he will be vilified by many of his fellow Jews.
This is disturbing. Our Jewish culture prides itself in its support of free speech, open debate and the use of reason to solve problems.
I am saddened that such a well read man, one so talented in his field, does not fully realize what would happen to Israel. Is he not aware of the West Bank today? Giving half of the most beautiful city in the world to the Palestinians would only give them a further stronghold to destroy Israel.
Jerusalem is an open city for all and every religion under the Israeli government, and that is the way it shall have to stay in order for every person, regardless of their religious affiliation, to come and worship freely.
My heart is broken by your article in The Jewish Journal of Oct. 26. You are supporting the dreams of Yasser Arafat to eventually own Israel as an Arab country. This premise is coming true with every piece of land of Israel concedes to the Palestinian Authority.
To look at the issue of dividing Jerusalem, one ought to take into account not only religious but also historical considerations. Since time immemorial, territories conquered in war belong to the conquering army. Half of Jerusalem belonged to Jordan after the War of Independence, and the Israeli army re-conquered it in 1967.
How many times does Israel have to conquer its own land? History teaches that to the victors belong the spoils.
I know that Rabbi Kanefsky will be attacked and demonized by those who are afraid of hearing the truth. Yet his views represent the majority of American Jews, Israelis and Palestinians, as shown in poll after poll.
Peace will never be possible until all sides in this conflict are able to sit down at a table, listen to one another and acknowledge the pain each has caused. We cannot let the vocal minority, the extremists on both sides, destroy our chances for peace.
Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater
One could not help but be moved by Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky's courage and his reasoning. I have not read a more reasoned and timely argument, and most significantly from a leader from a community reluctant to accept compromise when it comes to Jerusalem.
Temple B'nai David Judea should be very proud of its rabbi. Frankly, most Conservative and Reform rabbis who would share Rabbi Kanefsky's reasoning in private, to date, have been reluctant to speak out for fear of powerful board members -- preferring shalom beit to speaking truth to power.
To say that Rabbi Kanefsky did a brave thing in writing his article is an understatement. The position will be controversial for some, but the truth of his argument will stand the test of time for the majority of us.
Most who read The Jewish Journal are supporters of a strong and secure Israel. Values and concerns for others must never leave us as lodestars, given our history as a people.
I am proud to have studied and davened with the rabbi. I'm also proud as a member and past national co-chair of Peace Now that his and our position is gaining support in the Congress and the White House, to say nothing of the majority of Jews in Israel.
Kol hakovod to Rabbi Kanefsky.
As a past president of B'nai David-Judea, I want to signal my support for Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky. Twenty-five years ago, supporters of Prime Minister Menachem Begin, of blessed memory, rightfully criticized those American Jews who publicly excoriated Begin's government and policies. Yet those who complained about public criticism then seem to have developed amnesia and today have no problem themselves criticizing and publicly pressuring Israel's democratically elected government.
A careful reading of Rabbi Kanefsky's article makes clear that he is not advocating giving any part of Jerusalem to the Palestinians today. What he is saying is that we must give Israel's government the freedom, when it thinks the time is right and when the Palestinians have forsaken violence and accepted Israel's right to exist, to make its own decisions about how to craft an agreement that will bring peace to Eretz Yisrael.
Robert M. Smith
Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky ought to be commended for his candid speech about the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Not enough rabbis or organizational leaders of any Jewish denomination have broached the Israel-Palestine discussion with a rational, honest voice. It's refreshing that Rabbi Kanefsky has taken a bold, though realistic, approach to bringing what we all want: lasting peace for Israel.
Jews Against the War
In Ramallah or Gaza there is an Arab terrorist turning to his friend and saying, "The violence is working; lets fight on for Jerusalem. Even the Orthodox rabbis are willing to give it up." Yosef Kanefsky's public mea culpa has played into the hands of those with nefarious intentions. It will spark more violence.
On a deeper level, he has fallen into the pit of many in the liberal Jewish world. They have this strange insecurity. On one hand, they say, "We need to respect the rights of the Arabs." At the same time, they lack the inner conviction to state, "Jerusalem was given to us by Divine gift."
In fact, when a Jew asserts this historic belief of God's gift of the land, the same liberals label him extreme or fundamentalist. Jerusalem is essential to our bond between God and man; it is intrinsic to the mission given to us by God to teach monotheism to the world.
Kanefsky is willing to sever that bond cheaply. To give up Jerusalem to a Palestinian entity that has abrogated every treaty, squandered hundreds of millions and educates its kids to hope for a state from the Jordan to the sea is dangerous and unconscionable.
Rabbi David Eliezrie
Rabbinical Council of Orange County
As a member of B'nai David Judea, I can attest to the depth of Rav Yosef's love of Israel and commitment to the welfare of the Jewish state. I can also attest to his commitment to honesty and truth in dealing with difficult issues.
His opinion piece in The Jewish Journal was in many ways simply an extension of those attributes. Over the years, Rav Yosef has addressed issues of social and economic justice --in both Israel and the U.S. -- as well as environmental issues, with a similar level of courage and a similar commitment to the truth.
I am personally deeply appreciative of being able to call him my rabbi and to be a member of his synagogue.
Before readers of "An Orthodox Rabbi's Plea" form an opinion about Israeli policies, they should consider some key facts: Israeli settlements are a political, not a legal, issue. Majority legal opinion has held that the legitimate governing instrument of the territories in 1967 remained the Palestine Mandate, which included the right of Jewish settlement.
Therefore, both Israelis and Palestinians had legal, historic and security claims to the land, and new Israeli borders could include some captured territory. Unfortunately, most Middle Eastern leaders still refuse to accept the Jewish state's legitimacy within any borders whatsoever.
Many Israelis and Jerusalem Arabs oppose dividing Jerusalem for practical and security reasons. They fear a repeat of Gaza's post disengagement chaos and the record of P.A. intolerance for non-Muslims and their holy sites.
For more details about these and other important facts, visit http://www.standwithus.com.
Roberta P. Seid
I come to Rabbi Kanefsky's conclusions from a different point of view -- less concerned with holy sites than with holy people and our behavior. I admit to my own timidity from time to time, and his letter emboldens me.
Israel is at the heart of my own Reform engagement in Jewish life, and I have held to my passions for 45 years, in spite of the absolutist renderings of our Jewish rights and the narrow readings of the history of the last six or seven decades. The official American Jewish community remains too fearful of public discourse.
We American supporters of Israel have to get over the fear that peace explorations render us naive, quixotic suckers. Rabbi Kanefsky's argument for honesty applies to American Jewish and to Israelis equally. Bravo to him for speaking out.
Rabbi William Cutter
Hebrew Union College-
Jewish Institute of Religion
Dividing Jerusalem is furthermore opposed by a majority of Knesset members, who have signed a petition opposing the idea, and a major new Israeli poll (http://www.zoa.org/2007/10/poll_majority_o.htm) this month shows that a clear majority of Jewish Israelis -- 59 percent to 33 percent -- oppose, even in return for a peace agreement, Israel handing over to the Palestinian Authority various Arab neighborhoods in the eastern half of Jerusalem.
Morton A. Klein
Zionist Organization of America
Truth can be both painful and liberating. Rabbi Kanefsky's view is both courageous and truthful. It is righteous in all the right manner. Would that government leaders respond in the same manner.
If more people start speaking out loud, if the silent majority and leaders within our community will no longer keep silent, perhaps we have a chance to speak the language of "compromise and conciliation" as Rabbi Kanefsky puts it. Kanefsky's courage in speaking out brings much hope to my heart.
Danah Ezekiel Clark
I am a German Jewish refugee to the U.S. and have been saying what you are saying and more for decades.
Until Israel stops treating the Arabs under its control as untermenchen and stops stealing their lands, and as long as the Arabs under its control, including Gaza, do not have a life and a state and a way to make a living, the killing will go on. There will be no peace - ever.
The Arabs also have blood on their hands and have to accept the fact that Israel is here to stay, like it or not. Their terrorism must stop.
It is time to really negotiate with everyone concerned, including Hamas, the Arab states, Iran, Hezbollah and anyone else that has a stake. If not, the future conditions for Israel and the Palestinians will get even worse in the next 60 years than the past has been in the last 60 years.
I strongly support Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky's plea for truth and honesty, as well as his analysis of history and his recommendations for present-day action.
Port Hueneme City Council Member
Port Hueneme, Calif.
Hurrah for Rabbi Kanefsky. My family was among those who started Tel Aviv. I remember Jaffa well before the state. I also have seen truth subverted for what was believed the greater good. It has led only to more and more trouble.
Mary Ann Danin
Please convey our deepest appreciation to Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky for telling the truth in the place that was designed for truth: the synagogue and now, in the pages of The Jewish Journal. As the parties prepare for the Maryland conference, Rabbi Kanefsky's words might help prevent another peace orphan like Oslo.
If we want peace, we will have to search our deeds. Peace does not mean denying the other side's agency nor does it mean returning to Poland. But that searching will hopefully produce a Zion redeemed in justice (Isaiah).
Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak
Giving up a part of Jerusalem will not solve the problem and bring peace, nor will removing the settlements from the West Bank. That was vividly demonstrated when Israel removed the settlements from the Gaza Strip, and the Arabs responded by accelerating rocket attacks on Jewish communities.
Indeed, I believe there is only one solution: Arab and Muslim children must be taught the Golden Rule: Treat others as you would be treated by them.
Rabbi Kanefsky's forthright statement on the progress for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians is essential for the future of Israel.
Middie and Richard Giesberg
Yosef Kanefsky presumes to be interested in an Israeli political posture based on truth. He should consider re-examining some of his own highly questionable points. Notably, he gives credence to claims that the Jewish renaissance in Judea constitutes illegal occupation and settlement.
Yet under international law, Israel has the only legitimate claim to the land, since the illegal Arab occupation of 1949-1967 never had any legitimacy, and the territories remain under the sway of the 1922 League of Nations Mandate that called for "close settlement" of Jews there.
The crux of Kanefsky's claims, though, is the failed, worn-out, old silliness that Israel should offer the shirt off its back in order to appease the Arabs. Over the past 14 years, Israel has created the Palestinian Authority, provided it with untold quantities of weapons and cash and given away to it all of the Gaza district and nearly half of Samaria and Judea, the historic Jewish heartland.
The Arabs, for their part, have become much handier at murdering increasing numbers of Jewish women and children and educate their kids to grow up to blow up.
More spineless appeasement will not suddenly yield different results.
David B. Greenberg
Rabbi Kanefsky's recent column on a divided Jerusalem was forwarded to me recently, and I would like to thank the rabbi for his honesty and courage in telling the truth. As a mainline Christian pastor, I pray daily for peace, and until now, I could not see any hope of that happening. Now there is a glimmer of light.
The Rev. Carole Bergman
Willits United Methodist Church
My husband and I are in complete agreement with Rabbi Kanefsky. Those of us who are attached to Israel realize that Israel should not allow those on the fringe of the religious movement to keep the country from peace, and if it means giving up the settlements, so be it.
Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky's plea in Oct. 26's paper was an act of great courage and wisdom. The fact that he will be attacked should not deter us from affirming that he speaks sensibly and, in fact, represents the often-silent majority of Jews in Israel and the Diaspora.
Indeed Rabbi Kanfesky fulfills the highest calling of the rabbinic vocation, mixing a clear and unwavering moral clarity with logic and historical perspective. He recognizes what is apparent to many Jews: 1967 was not the beginning of a sublime period of messianic redemption but rather the source of unceasing misery for Palestinians and of burdensome and growing woes for Israelis.
He also recognizes that truthful introspection regarding the settlement project and the fate of Jerusalem is an essential prerequisite to peace. He is to be applauded and embraced as a sage, brave and compassionate voice in our community!
The Book of Psalms teaches loving kindness and truth meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other. I believe in Rabbi Kanefsky's plea for a difficult, but more honest, reading of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he embraces the essence of these ancient teachings.
Cantor Steven Puzarne
Pilgrimage of Peace
As an old Zionist and lover of Jerusalem, I share Rabbi Kanefsky's anguished suggestions for an eventual solution for this heartbreaking problem, and I admire his courage to face the truth and to speak the truth. Kol Hakavod.
Rabbi Kanefsky writes that "there will be peace the day after there will be truth." I never realized it could be so simple. If we would only truthfully admit our faults and they would do likewise, then there will be peace.
But our enemies have already been telling us their most important truth, what they truly believe according to Islam - that an Israel of any size, no matter how small, can never be tolerated. Why can't we accept that truth and act accordingly?
I would like to congratulate you for making a space for an important public debate, and I thank Rabbi Kanefsky for his courageous and honest plea. Only the one whose spirit is strong is able to do so with compassion to self, as well as other, thus allowing for the way forward to be found.
Rabbi Kanefsky's article accomplished two things: It fed his ego and gave ammunition to anti-Semites throughout the Southland. The L.A. Times immediate reporting of this is proof and will only encourage those with little or no interest in Jerusalem's fate - whether Jewish or not - to say to themselves, "Well I guess their own rabbis are saying how selfish and land-grabbing Jews are."
What a shanda.
In time, it is a near certainty that Israel will agree to share Jerusalem with a Palestinian Arab state living harmoniously and peacefully along side Israel.
Rabbi Kanefsky's article will help bring that day closer.
Bravo to Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky for taking a stand on the excruciating issue of the division of Jerusalem that he knows will draw criticism, if not censure, from other Orthodox clergy.
Especially in light of the terrible consequences brought about by our own government's distortion of facts and refusal to deal with anyone who does not agree with its positions, we, like Rabbi Kanefsky, need to seek out truth if we truly want to fix the world.
Alas, but there are no well-meaning opponents in the Arab world that are similarly emotionally tormented like the rabbi. The Arab world does not want half of Jerusalem or part of anything, they want all of Israel. To disavow the actual intentions of the Arab world and to deny their ultimate goal of throwing out the Jewish people is to seriously misunderstand history and reality.
It seems strange having to explain this to a rabbi, but I'll start from the beginning. In Sefer Bereishit, God creates the whole world, establishing for any doubters His right to dispose of His property any way He wishes.
In that same sefer, He gives the Land of Israel to the Jewish people. The rest of that sefer, including last week's parsha, is about our forebears' struggle to acquire that land. It's never been easy.
In more recent times, our people have suffered many painful losses in wars initiated by extremely hateful enemies to come into possession of land that Rabbi Kanefsky thinks we should be willing to give up. In advocating this, he tramples over many Jewish graves and pleads for many more.
If you don't believe in the Torah, can we at least agree that Jewish lives should not be placed in danger?
I would like to offer my kavod (honor) to Rabbi Kanefsky for his brave and much needed words.
Rabbi Kanefsky reminds us of our tradition's imperative toward honesty and the virtue of justice. Rabbi Kanefsky has reminded all of us of the human tendency of putting up blinders and has challenged us all to look deep into our souls and find out if peace lives within us.
Student, Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies
I am shocked by Rabbi Kanefsky's comments. He knows very well the laws of Shabbat (Chapter 319), that when borders of a city are not secure, a Jew must carry a weapon to protect him/herself. This law was written not for Israel, but any Jewish community, even when the gates are open for peaceful purposes. The issue in Jerusalem isn't a political issue, its a security issue.
You are willing to give proven murderers their own government to protect our borders? Look how missiles are being fired from Gaza today.
Would King David have said divide Jerusalem to make the Jebusites happy? My suggestion to the rabbi is follow the path of Abraham, Joshua and King David and secure the land, not show weakness and give away our security.
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