Sunday, June 19, 2011

When is a Jew not an Israeli?

This may be a provocative header, but I am confused. This should not surprise anyone who knows me. The particular situation that is confusing me today, however, is trying to figure out the differences between a Jew, an Israeli, and an Israeli Jew. Not all Jews are Israelis. Not all Israelis are Jews. That seems quite clear to me. But when an Israeli Jew does something that is criticised by foreign media, how does that act become definitive for all Jews?

The question is in my mind because of a story that has been picked up by the BBC, and many other internet media outlets: a Rabbinic Court in Jerusalem has sentenced a dog to be stoned to death. Read about it here. The Yahoo headline is "Jewish Court sentences ... etc".

We know that the quickest way to the heart of the British public, apart from marrying a prince, is to be a maltreated animal. Especially if you are a dog. This is a story about the unjust treatment of a dog. I'm all for animal welfare - that's why I will not eat them. It is also a story that shows an Orthodox Rabbinical Court behaving in a medieval way. The court may well have behaved exactly as the reporter suggests, i.e., believing that the dog was the reincarnated soul of the court's enemy returning to mock the judges. So what is my problem?

This is not the Judaism I live and teach, but many in the wider world will use this story to support their negative perspective of all Jews. Just look at some of the comments below the story, e.g., someone "recently read an article by a prominent Jew criticising written works apparently full of 'rampant anti-semitism' - with acts like this he can hardly blame people's attitudes against them", or "I can't believe that they should be so utterly stupid. And they want the world at large to give them credibility as a nation! No chance".

This is also not part of the life led by secular and progressive Jews in Israel. Much as millions of Muslims are neither terrorists, nor sympathetic with those who are, yet they are feared and blamed by others for the actions of their co-religionists; so it is for Jews within and without the Land of Israel. Stirring up feelings with stories like this will not help us find our way towards peace.


A link to the original YNet story may be found here.
BBC version here.

report that Ma'ariv newspaper has apologised about misleading headline on this story found here.

1 comment:

  1. Oi.

    I notice that the rants range from Israel and Jews (merged) to religion in general. There's a level of knee-jerk reactionism around religious issues among too many folks. I've had multiple discussions on my blog too. Annoys the heck out of me when people single out religion as the single greatest cause of human evil.

    This is what I posted as a comment to the article on Yahoo:

    This is nuts.

    But most of the comments are ignorant, too. I'm sorry, but if a Rabbinical Court in Jerusalem does something inappropriate -- and for those of you who don't realize, this violates Jewish law too IMHO, because we have a law strictly forbidding cruelty to animals -- that does not mean that all Jews, all Israelis, all Israeli Jews, all Orthodox Jews, or all religious people think that this is an appropriate expression of religion! Come on! If you already despise religion, religious Jews, Orthodox Jews, religious people, Israelis ... etc, then this is a great excuse to settle further into your intolerance.

    Most thoughtful people -- including Israelis, Israeli Jews, Jews, Orthodox Jews, religious people, and this Rabbi -- repudiate such behavior, condemn it, and find it just as disgusting as the people sounding off above. Give us some credit.