Beginning on Thursday June 8, 2000 and concluding
on Sunday June 18 a four man delegation of Neturei Karta
International visited Iran. Their goals were to lessen
anti-Jewish sentiment among the Islamic population,
bring chizuk to the Jewish community and alleviate the
plight of thirteen Iranian Jews charged with espionage.
This visit elicited an emotion charged critique, "That
Infamous Road Paved With Good Intentions", in the
20 Sivan edition of the Yated Ne'eman. NKI has been
denied the opportunity to respond to this article in
the Yated. What follows is an attempt to correct the
errors of that article and explore some of the underlying
issues which it touches on. Much of the discussion to
come explores topics that are often subject to more
heat than light. It is the author's hope that the reader
will approach this work with objectivity and a willingness
to examine questions that the dominant forces of our
age have long since declared answered.
The Yated Ne'eman strives to perform an important function
in the Torah community. It allows its readers to keep
abreast of developments in the Torah world and the world
in general without having recourse to other media sources
whose philosophies and standards are antithetical to
Torah. In addition, it alerts its readers to assorted
forms of heresy or quasi heresy which stalk the Jewish
community in this trying period in our people's history.
Lastly, it provides inspiration via mussar and tales
of the righteous in order to spur us on in G-d's service.
It comes as no surprise, historically, that the Yated's
editor has served ably to spread the above mentioned
messages. It was in the tale end of the nineteenth and
early parts of the twentieth century that his ancestor,
R. Yaakov ha-Levi Lipschitz (1838 - 1921), was in the
forefront in the struggle against assorted heresies
One of the foremost dangers which R. Lipschitz pointed
out was Zionism, a new movement at that time, but one
which he saw had great potential to do bad. A scholar
and writer of renown, he worked together with the likes
of R. Chayim Soloveichik of Brisk, R. Eliezer Gordon
of Telz, R. Eliyahu Chayim Meisels of Lodz, R. Chayim
Ozer Grodzinski of Vilna and the Lubavitcher Rebbe,
R. Shalom Dov Ber Schneersohn (may their memories be
blessed), to combat the early flowerings of Zionist
It is thus particularly disturbing and painful to note
that the Yated frequently evidences a profound lack
of understanding as to what Zionism is and what danger
it represents. The editorial memory of the Yated seems
quite short and, hence, incapable of remembering the
very ideals and first principles which motivated the
Torah leaders and journalists of a century ago.
Our spirit in what follows is not contentious. We respect
what the Yated has accomplished in the Jewish community.
We hope, with Hashem's help, to offer a bit of respectful
The "Paved Path"
The Yated of 20 Sivan 5760 featured a lengthy article
denouncing a group of Jews who traveled recently to
Iran on a mission of mercy. The group's aim was to lesson
anti-Jewish feeling in Iran and to attempt to achieve
some degree of mercy for the thirteen imprisoned Jews
accused of espionage. None of these intentions, however,
impressed the article's author, Mr. Avi Yishai. His
writing was vicious in its uniform criticism of the
group. Words were not spared. The trip was "something
evil", "malignant", "ill-fated"
"doomed" and "bizarre".
The writer, Mr. Avi Yishai, leaves little room for doubt
in his readers' minds. Although he acknowledges the
possibility that the delegation's "intentions were
good" the "evil" they worked and "damage"
they did can only be erased by "rachmei shomayim."
In the title of the article, "That Infamous Road
Paved With Good Intentions," we may infer that
the delegation is, indeed, headed for eternal punishment.
The Torah Opposition to Zionism
In order to understand the basic assumptions of Mr.
Yishai it is necessary to first analyze the traditional
Torah approach to Zionism. The past half century has
created much confusion in this area and we must have
a look at the first principles involved.
There were many reasons why the Torah leaders and masses
of G-d fearing Jews opposed Zionism down through the
decades. In the rush to avow and disavow party grouping
and labels some of the most elementary have been forgotten.
We will not concern ourselves with the fears Torah Jewry
had of Zionists' irreligiosity. Those were, of course,
legitimate and have been born out by history. However,
the Torah view of Zionism went far deeper than this.
It was an opposition to the doctrines of Zionism not
merely the actions of Zionists.
It was rooted in the belief that Zionism, by advocating
a political and, eventually, military end to golus,
was violating the Divinely ordained terms of exile.
Exile was always viewed by the Jewish people as a punishment
for sin. Efforts to escape the state of exile by this
worldly strategies are inherently doomed to failure.
The only proper means of ending the exile were Torah,
prayer and penance.
On every yom tov during the Mussaf prayer we recite,
"Because of our sins we were exiled from our land.
. ." The desire to end this state by recourse to
politics or arms is indicative of a lack of faith in
the Divine Governance of human affairs. It is for this
reason that the Zionist ideology was conceived among
non-believers, far removed from their faith.
In the words of Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch, "We
mourn over that which brought about that destruction
(of the Temple - author), we take to heart the harshness
we have encountered in our years of wandering as the
chastisement of a father, imposed on us for our improvement,
and we mourn the lack of observance of Torah which that
ruin has brought about. . . It (this mourning - author)
obliges us to allow our longing for the far away land
to express itself only in mourning, in wishing and hoping;
and only through the honest fulfillment of all Jewish
duties to await the realization of this hope. But it
forbids us to strive for the reunion or possession of
the land by any but spiritual means." (Horeb, 1981:
The opposition to Zionism was further concerned that
this violation would inevitably lead to conflicts with
other nations and (as foretold by Chazal) these struggles
would often be quite bloody. Human affairs are forever
governed by Divine Providence. In the end, as the Psalmist
tells us, "There are many thoughts in the hearts
of men but the Counsel of Hashem -- it shall stand."
Hence, whether it pursues a path of war or peace the
state of Israel is doomed to a never ending agony of
violence. Events have validated this sentiment of chazal
over the past fifty two years.
Again Rav Hirsch, "During the reign of Hadrian
when the uprising led by Bar Kochba proved a disastrous
error, it became essential that the Jewish people be
reminded for all times (emphasis added) of an important,
essential fact, namely that (the people of) Israel must
never again attempt to restore its national independence
by its own power; it was to entrust its future as a
nation solely to Divine Providence." (Hirsch Siddur,
On the most profound level -- besides destroying the
Torah view of golus and leading the Jewish people into
fifty two years of war with Arabs and Muslims around
the world -- Zionism replaced G-d's service as the central
purpose of Jewish existence with a notion of peoplehood
divorced from G-d. Thus, the guide map of Jewish conduct,
the Torah, would now take second place to the excesses
and emotionalism of secular nationalism. Questions concerning
life and death matters would be weighed by the secular
desires of a land and soil patriotism with little or
no concern for halachic standards.
Doubtless, the Yated's editor would claim that he is
in agreement with all the above. However, as we examine
his high tempered denunciation of those who visited
Iran it will become painfully obvious that his world
view has suffered much, albeit subconsciously, at the
hands of an ideology that his ancestors fought so valiantly
Approach to an Enemy
For example, Mr. Yishai asks, "How can Jews present
gifts to a sworn enemy who has just called for the annihilation
of Israel and all its inhabitants?"
We leave for the moment who and what this "sworn
enemy" is opposed to. We leave also whether the
quotes in question about "annihilating)" Jews
are accurate. Let us assume them all to be true. The
answer to Mr. Yishai is that by presenting gifts to
an "enemy" we are merely following the path
laid down by our forefather Yaakov in his approach to
Esau the wicked, which serves, according to Chazal,
as a model for exilic Jewish conduct. Examples of this
approach abound. One of the most famous is that of R.
Yochanan ben Zakai who, in order to save the Torah sages,
humbly entreated Emperor Vespasian, surely a Jew hater.
Indeed, the only standard to be used in assessing whether
one should visit a "Jew hater" and bring him
gifts is whether or not it can alleviate Jewish suffering.
And, we know that in exile this is the proper and most
Why then the rage on the part of Mr. Yishai? Why does
propitiating an "enemy" bother him so? Is
it not because he has absorbed willy-nilly the Zionist
notion that it is somehow demeaning for Jews to be humble
before their enemies? Has he not, in effect, absorbed
the Zionist dogma that the correct response is always
to fight - verbally, economically, politically and,
if need be, militarily?
Continues Mr. Yishai, "The painful truth is that
the visit of the delegation was akin to shaking hands
with the devil, for a most unworthy cause."
But, Mr. Yishai should we not "shake hands with
devil" to lessen anti-Jewish sentiment and possibly
save Jewish lives? Is there any indication that the
demonization and ostracization of Iran since the 1979
revolution has lessened anti-Jewish sentiments in that
country? Hasn't the Zionist approach made things far
worse? Why are you emotionally linked to the policy
of never speaking to an "enemy"? Was that
the approach of your illustrious ancestors to the Czarist
Iranian and Islamic "Hate"
There is, of course, a certain degree of animosity built
into the very fabric of group relations as Chazal tell
us. Nonetheless, that animosity varies throughout history
depending on a host of factors.
By and large the record of Arab and Islamic countries
throughout the centuries towards their Jewish populations
has been far better than those of European lands --
not perfect but far better. The hostility in this century
among Moslems is the direct result of Zionism. A careful
examination of the attacks and pogroms of the pre-1948
era inevitably reveals that they were in response to
Zionists plans and eventual actions to wrest political
sovereignty from the Turks or the English by immigration
and force of arms.
Thus, we have witnessed the fulfillment of that which
were foretold by Chazal. A violation of the letter and
spirit of exile has led to endless bloodshed and hatred.
How better to lesson this hatred than by proclaiming
to the world that Zionism and Judaism are not identical?
How better to lesson Islamic hatred for all Jews than
by telling the Islamic world that Judaism, in fact,
Let us turn once again to Mr. Yishai. The Iranian government
is accused of "implacable hatred for the Jewish
nation." Hasn't the editor fallen prey to the foundation
stone of Zionist ideology that the Zionists are the
Jewish people and that modern Israel is "the Jewish
Among the sins he accused the delegation of is that
they functioned as a tool of those who would "deligitimitize
Israel", that they explained to the Iranians that
"Judaism and Zionism are not synonymous'"
and that "Jews have no rights to Israel."
Mr. Yishai, do you think that the Brisker Rov, Reb Chaim
Ozer, Reb Elchanan, Rav Hirsch and hundreds of others
would have legitimized Israel? Would they have wanted
the nations of the world to think that the atheistic
creed of Zionism was synonymous with Judaism? Would
they have claimed pre-Moshiach that the Jewish people
have political and military "rights" to the
Let us listen to Rav Hirsch. "For this (Messianic)
future which is promised to us in the glorious predictions
of the inspired prophets as a goal of the exile, we
hope and pray, but actively to accelerate its coming
is prohibited to us." (Nineteen Letters, 1960:
What would Rav Hirsch have said had a group of heretical
Jews "actively" accelerated that which "is
prohibited to us"? And killed tens of thousands
of Jews and Gentiles in the process? And were committed
to continuing their scheme?
And publicly desecrated G-d's name every time they entered
the public forum by presenting themselves as the leaders
of the Jewish people without acknowledging the G-d of
Hasn't Mr. Yishai been duped into forgetting the cause
for the turmoil in the Middle East? Hasn't he forgotten
the effects of violating the terms of exile? Hasn't
he simply forgotten the history of Jews in Arab lands
and how the terrible events of recent decades actually
came about? In essence, isn't his reading of history
essentially that of Zionism?
Indeed. Mr. Yishai quotes in a critical vein an article
which appeared in the "Iranian News Agency"
(the actual title is Islamic Republic News Agency) describing
the views of the delegation as those who "consider
the Zionist state of Israel a violation of the basic
tenets of Israel" and have "strongly opposed
Zionism since the day this satanic cult started taking
shape in Europe."
What is there to criticize in this portrayal? Doesn't
Mr. Yishai see the spilling of Jewish blood over decades
in order to establish Jewish political rule over the
Holy Land as a "violation of the basic tenets of
Judaism"? Wasn't Zionism which "started taking
shape in Europe" a movement advanced by Satan?
Didn't it destroy tens of thousands of souls? Hasn't
it endangered and caused the physical deaths of thousands?
Is that not Satanic? Do the Gedolim of Agudas Yisroel
disagree with this analysis?
Perhaps, what has occurred here is that decades of participating
in the affairs of the Zionist state has rendered Mr.
Yishai a bit forgetful of these basic notions?
Mr. Yishai is very concerned that the delegation to
Iran proceeded without sanction of Rabbonim. He accuses
the group as "in no way reflect(ing) the ideology
of mainstream Yerushalmi Neturei Karta leaders such
as the esteemed Rav Aharon Katzenellenbogen zt'l."
He further asserts that "this bizarre venture (was)
launched without the guidance or blessing of any recognized
Rabbinic leader and disavowed by the main body of Neturei
Karta in Eretz Yisroel."
It is, of course, difficult to respond to the asserted
"disavowal" devoid of attribution. Perhaps,
the Yated will eventually reveal its source from "Neturei
Karta of Eretz Yisroel" for this is the second
time in less than a year that this wild accusation has
been made without supplying any source.
However, the rest of the statement is simply untrue.
Both Rav Katzenellenboegn and Rav Amram Blau zt'l were
on record as having supported efforts to spread the
message that Zionism and Judaism are distinct amongst
all peoples and particularly among Islamic peoples.
In fact, in a letter cosigned by both Rabbis on the
17th of Iyar in 5731 (1971) they wrote, "Those
who are concerned about the Honor of G-d's name should
know that the Jewish people has no connection with the
Zionist heretics and their state has no connection with
am Yisroel. It is proper to give these words the greatest
amount of publicity possible that they should be heard
throughout the world in every land and among every nation."
We are encouraged that the Yated editor does not limit
his respect to Agudah leaders. He also regards these
earlier Neturei Karta sages as "esteemed"
and worthy of citing in order to denounce the current
mission of mercy to Iran. We are, thus, happy to inform
him of their true convictions. Suerly future editions
of the Yated will print a retraction and clarification.
Actually, in Jerusalem the newspaper of the Aidah haChareidis,
Ha-Aidah, which represents those "moderate"
Jerusalem "Neturei Karta" as well as the largest
body of anti-Zionist Jews in the Holy Land waxed eloquent
in its praise of every aspect of the mission to Iran
in its 27 Sivan lead editorial. Similarly HaChomah,
organ of Neturei Karta worldwide, has enthusiastically
endorsed the trip.
Indeed, they were merely repeating that which was obvious
to all anti-Zionist leaders in Jewish history. For example
the Satmar Rov zt'l declared, "In sum, the hatred
against the Jewish community is because it is said that
those who are not Torah observant, who are heretics
are the leaders of Jewry. The nations of the world are
misled by them and acquire a hatred of Jews. One of
the greatest commandments there is, to be observed with
utmost self-sacrifice would be to make known to the
nations of the world that they (Zionists and irreligious
leaders) are not the representatives of the Jewish community.
(And to tell them) that observant Jews have no connection
with them." (Dibros Kodesh, 1986: 210-11)
Lastly, the trip was undertaken with Rabbinic consultation
and support. Among those who supported the trip were
HoRav R. Avrohom Leitner, HoRav
R. Yoel Morgenstern, HoRav R. Lazer Chaim Blum, HoRav
Simchah Yisroel Blum, HoRav Mayer Yehudah Tannenbaum
and many others.
We await the Yated's publication of the names of those
of "Neturei Karta in Eretz Yisroel" who "disavowed"
the pidyon shavuim effort.
It is worth noting in passing that Mr. Yishai was working
under a double disability in composing his article.
First, he failed to contact the participants. Their
names were known to him yet he never called them to
inquire about the trip. He writes, "Without the
benefit of a briefing from the five (four - author)
man delegation we are left in the dark regarding the
specifics of their intentions with the Iranian authorities."
Quite so. But, why, then, did you not inquire?
Why did you not attend the press conference held at
a Manhattan hotel by the delegation despite having been
informed by fax that it was to occur?
Two, he deliberately omitted from his report quotations
from the same articles of IRNA (Islamic Republic News
Agency) which he referenced because they wouldn't fit
into the image he was trying to create.
In the quote which begins his article Mr. Yishai attributes
the following to the "Iranian News Agency":
"Hasidic and other Jewish sects have strongly opposed
Zionism since the day this Satanic cult started taking
root in Europe . . ."
Surprisingly, when reading the actual release we discover
that the quote is not from IRNA. It was IRNA quoting
the Tehran daily Kayhan International. The latter paper
was, in fact, criticizing the error of their own nation's
leaders in ignoring anti-Zionist Jews!
Here is the quote in full as it appeared in IRNA: "Drawing
a distinction between Judaism and Zionism, the paper
praised Rabbi David Yisroel Weiss for emphasizing this
important point in his talks with Iranian media this
week. 'Weiss was not saying anything new,' it pointed
"In fact, 'he was only repeating certain obvious
facts which the Muslim world has been slow to grasp,'
"It moreover shows the 'inability in our political
and diplomatic circles to focus on the reality of Hasidic
and other Jewish sects which have strongly opposed Zionism
since the day this Satanic cult started taking shape
So enthused was Kayhan as reported by IRNA that it hoped
that " 'the arrival of the Rabbis in their traditional
robes and the headlines they have made should not be
relegated to the background as those influenced by the
U.S.-Zionist propaganda are trying to do.' "
What was significant in the visit? Kayhan wrote and
IRNA reported, "the visit has 'busted the myth
that Judaism and Zionism are synonymous with each other.'
Mr. Yishai actually describes his quotation fragment,
extracted from the middle of the IRNA report as follows:
"So begins a June 13 report published by the official
Iranian news agency . . ."
A simple untruth and a most significant one for it omitted
entirely the respect accorded Judaism in both Kayan
International and IRNA and their criticism of the Islamic
world for not distinguishing between Judaism and Zionism.
We find a similar resort to selective quotation by Mr.
Yishai in his report of the delegation's visit to the
Ayatollah Taskhiri. We will deal with what is accurately
quoted later. At present let us present the words of
IRNA that the Yated left out.
"Expressing satisfaction with the visit made by
the intellectual Jewish clerics to Iran, he said that
it was his hope that a unifying movement as well as
greater cooperation can be achieved for the benefit
of mankind. . ."
This statement was of no significance to Mr. Yishai.
Nor was the following: "He told the visiting guests
that their movement is a noble and a sacred one which
can open doors to greater understanding between the
Indeed the Ayatollah's exact words appeared twice in
the article. Mr. Yishai chose one and ignored the other.
The latter read: " 'Judaism is a divine religion
and its teachings are divine,' remarked the Ayatollah,
adding that the numerous crimes of Zionism have distorted
the image of Judaism."
Of course, offering the Yated readers these quotes would
have made for a more complicated and nuanced article
and wouldn't have fit the image of Iranian "bottomless
cruelty and irrational hatred' of Mr. Yishai's imagination.
Or, is the imagination Mr. Yishai's? Is he not actually
parroting the clich?s and stereotypes that Zionism has
advanced for the last century instead of examining the
From a Tactical Perspective
The fundamental thesis of Mr. Yishai's attack is that
the delegation's presence in Iran made things worse
for Iranian Jewry and also endangered Jews living in
Eretz Yisroel. It "severely heightened the danger
for the Iranian Jewish community" and it encouraged
the Iranians in a "fundamental Islamic article
of faith that Jews have no right to Israel." Further
it "forment(ed) more of what the Iranians regime
is so adept at -- implacable hatred of the Jewish nation."
First, the minor inaccuracies: 1) There is no "fundamental
Islamic article of faith" which governs contemporary
geopolitics in the Middle East. Clearly, unlike the
stereotypes of Mr. Yishai's creation, there is much
disagreement among Muslims throughout the world on this
matter. We would be most interested in the Yated's source
for this bit of information on Islamic theology. 2)
Does the Iranian government have a "hatred for
the Jewish nation"? Or has the Yated once again
fallen into mouthing the fundamental article of Zionist
faith, that the state of Israel and the Jewish nation
are one and the same?!?
As regards the vital question of the effect the trip
had on Iran's Jews, Mr. Yishai is once again operating
from the self imposed disadvantage of failing to pick
up the telephone and call those who were there. In the
first place the group were frequent visitors in the
synagogues of the country. These were always highlighted
by a talk given by one of the guests given to the Jews
who invariably flocked to the shuls. The subject matter
was the same -- basic Judaism, Sinai, Torah and mitzvos,
Shabbos, kashrus and the like. Everywhere the people
couldn't get enough of their esteemed guests.
Specifically, on the morning of Thursday June 8th they
davened at the Abrishami Synagogue in Tehran which filled
to overflowing in honor of their visit. After shacharis
a member of the delegation addressed the masses assembled.
Thereafter they visited and spoke freely with the Jews
at Tehran's Jewish Community Center and were shown by
their Jewish hosts the library and computer center.
In the afternoon they toured the Dr. Sapir Jewish hospital
and spent time with the patients, Jewish and non-Jewish.
Late afternoon found them at a conference with Rabbi
Yousef Hamedani, Chief Rabbi of Tehran, where they discussed
at length matters of halacha, world and Iranian politics.
On Shavous night (Thursday the 8th) they davened at
the Pesyan synagogue in Tehran and spoke afterwards
to the tsibur. Including questions and answers after
the talk this event took over four hours. Once again
on Shabbos they spoke in the Pesyan Shul.
The following week they visited Isfahan City, where
they prayed with the tsibur, spoke to a full and enthusiastic
shul and went to the community mikveh.
Lastly, on their final motzei Shabos of the two week
tripin they visited at the Pesyan synagogue where a
gala farewell was prepared for them. They spoke yet
again and the Iranian Jews entertained them with having
many of their children recite their recent selections
from Chumash, Ani Maamin and aseres ha-dibros. This
last event which began at midnight was attended by over
six hundred Jews.
Besides these religious visits and talks the group also
met at length with the Iranian Jewish members of Parliament,
assorted communal and student leaders with whom they
had wide ranging discussions concerning the spiritual
and material situation of the nation's Jews.
At no time did the government tell the delegation what
to speak to the Jewish community about. Their remarks,
all of which emphasized the need to maintain loyalty
to the Torah, were allowed and encouraged by the government.
There was no censorship either before or after the delivery.
This writer has seen video tapes of all the non-Shabbos
visits and can verify that the visitors brought the
message of Torah to thousands of Jews eager to hear
Only the most preconceived spirit of resentment could
judge this unprecedented kiruv mission as in some way
endangering Iranian Jews. The entire visit was an enormous
source of chizuk emunah for thousands.
Mr. Yishai, of course, knew none of this and evidenced
no interest in finding it out. To him "what we
do know (about the trip) is enough."
And, what precisely did he know? "We know that
the unfortunate visit took place, and that it was pounced
on and exploited by the Iranian propaganda machine."
Here we arrive at the heart of the Yated critique. Even
if Mr. Yishai now knows that the trip was a great source
of chizuk for Iran's Jews and that it in no way endangered
that community he would still maintain that it was bad
because it endangered Jews living in Eretz Yisroel.
Let us analyze this proposition. There is little doubt
that the overall effect of the visit on Iranian attitude
to towards Judaism and Jews was positive. The delegation
pointed out that the aspect of "Jewish" behavior
which has alienated the Iranians over recent decades,
namely, the actions of the state of Israel are not those
of Jews loyal to G-d and Torah. They welcomed this message
and proclaimed that there was and is no quarrel between
Islam the religion and Iran the state with the Jewish
people. Let us imagine for a moment that a large group
of non-believing Jews elsewhere in the world was fighting
needlessly with a non-Jewish people. This, in turn,
had led to animosity and violence directed at all Jews,
not just those responsible for the trouble. Wouldn't
Mr. Yishai grant that it is a high priority to inform
that nation that the real Torah people have no quarrel
with them and that the negative acts are those of a
group pledged to anti-Torah values. Why shouldn't non-Jews
identify Jews and Judaism with the peaceful and G-d
fearing non-Zionists? Will this heighten or lessen anti-Jewish
In Iran, at least, it clearly lessened them. Dozens
of Islamic groups visited with the delegation. They
spoke repeatedly to the media, at two Universitys and
with many government and religious leaders. Everywhere
the response was the same. "It is an honor that
you are here." "We are longing for dialogue
with Jews." "Our quarrel is merely with Zionism."
"We respect the Jewish faith."
Now, it is true that the Iranian government and most
of its people would like to see the end of the state
of Israel. It is false, though, that they advocate "the
annihilation of Israel and (italics in the original)
all its inhabitants."
The delegation to Iran believes, as did the Satmar Rov
and many other Gedolim that the state of Israel should
and eventually will cease to exist. Only then, when
the proper Jewish approach to exile is followed, can
we hope for peace in the Middle East and for Jews throughout
In 1948 some leaders of Agudas Yisroel believed that
participation in the Israeli government would allow
them to best serve the interests of the Jewish people.
They had no illusions about the appropriateness of taking
arms without Divine sanction, to kill and be killed.
And, what has been the record of 52 years of the state
which the Yated equates with the Jewish people? A perpetual
war, never ending terror in the Holy Land and around
the world and an inability to ever make peace have all
resulted. This is the record of Zionism materially --
a failed enterprise if there ever was one. Is there
a land in the world today where Jews fear for their
lives as they do in the Holy Land? All this need not
surprise anyone for it is the inevitable result of abandoning
the spiritual tasks of exile. We, of course, make no
mention of the thousands lured away from Judaism due
to this "faith."
What policy would the delegates and anti-Zionists Jews
advocate toward the state?
There is nothing that is original in their approach.
They would emphasize that we must go about the proper
fulfillment of exilic task by sanctifying Hashem's Name
as we serve Him, that we inform Jews and non-Jew that
deniers of G-d cannot speak in the name of the Torah
nation and that the hatreds, wars and secularization
caused by the Israeli state are simply a bizarre distortion
They advocate that the state be dismantled. Of course,
this does not seem possible in the foreseeable future.
Nonetheless, they pray that it should happen and that
no innocents be hurt in the process. In the hands of
G-d even this seemingly difficult task is possible.
Because of their efforts in Iran a nation of some sixty
million now sees Judaism in a new light and no longer
has a monolithic hatred of world Jewry.
The Iranian government also welcomes an end to the Israeli
state. Here, at least, the Yated correctly quoted Ayatollah
Taskhiri who predicted the "annihilation"
(actually a parahrase) of Israel. However, it is clear
that he was not calling for the annihilation of all
those living there at present. "Annihilation"
politically. Yes, the Iranians support those engaged
in the military struggle as well. Does this represent
a danger? Obviously. The key question, though, is how
best to mitigate it?
Let us ask Mr. Yishai whether anything he or anyone
else has done by way of supporting Israel and identifying
that government's deeds and very existence with the
beliefs of world wide Jewry has increased Jewish safety
in the Holy Land? Hasn't this policy truly endangered
the Land's inhabitant and Jews elsewhere as well.
Logically if one used to view all Jews living in Eretz
Yisroel as Zionists and therefore bad and then discovered
that hundreds of thousands of them are actually anti-Zionist
would this realization make you more or less apt to
hate them as a monolith? Would it make one more or less
apt to engage it or support across the board military
Surely the point is, at very least, debatable? Mr. Yishai
has chosen to link our fate to the ideas and actions
of the Shamirs and Baraks of the world. May we not opt
out of his alliance without being doomed to hell?
There was one point in Mr. Yishai's article where he
accurately reported what had appeared in IRNA and was
justly angered by it. However, here IRNA misquoted Rabbi
Weiss and in a later story retracted their original
report. The first report claimed that the Rabbi had
said "any punishment in the conviction of the 13
Iranian Jews . . . will deter the gullible from falling
pray to the Israeli bait. . ."
In truth, Weiss never made that statement which implied
that the 13 were guilty. What he did say was a well
thought out statement on the matter of the trial which
was a plea for mercy. He also submitted a lengthy staement
to the Judge, the Iranian President Khatami and the
Ayatollah Khameni in order to achieve this goal.
It is inconceivable that Mr. Yishai actually believed
that Rabbi Weiss welcomed convictions and punishments.
Of course, if he had read the Iranian press after his
original article he would have seen the retraction.
Alternatively, he could have picked up the phone and
called Rabbi Weiss.
Yet, he chose to do neither.
The inevitable conclusion is that Mr. Yishai has forgotten
some the holy traditions of the Gedolei Lita and their
passionate opposition to Zionism. He has, unwittingly
adopted some of the basic assumptions of Zionist ideology.
He has subconsciously absorbed these teachings to the
point where he is incapable of understanding or even
tolerating the traditional view. In his zeal to promote
his ideology he denies his adversary the courtesy of
a call and allows sloppiness and omission to color his
When the Yated was contacted by phone on some of the
above distortions and a request was made for the ability
to reply this was refused by the paper's editor. It
is for this reason that we have chosen this pamphlet
as a means of reply.
However, unlike Mr. Yishai we are not so bold as to
suggest the whereabouts of his neshomah after it leaves
this mortal realm (after 120 years). In fact, we wish
him well then and in this world as well. In fact, we
are confident that in the future the Yated will adequately
reflect the mesorah of Lita, the pursuit of truth, the
spirit of fairness and the centrality of Torah in all
We were called upon by the Creator at Sinai to function
as "a kingdon of priests and a holy nation."
Part of our task as a people is to serve as a "light
unto the nations." This involves centering our
actions and thoughts on G-d's service via Torah study,
prayer and kind deeds.
This imperative demands that we practice scrupulous
honesty, exemplary manners, embracing compassion and
modesty in all our affairs.
We are to live first and foremost as "a people
alone." Yet, our lives will inspire others and
glorify the Name of Hashem if we live up to the Torah's
standards.. Similarly our excursions into the public
realm should be to emphasize the G-d centeredness of
all human endeavor and the need to judge policies by
the standards of Eternal Law.
In the words of Rav Hirsch: "Picture every son
of Israel a respectful and influential priest of righteousness
and love, disseminating among the nations not specific
Judaism - for proselytism is forbidden - but pure humanity.
. . .How impressive, how sublime it would have been
if in the midst of peoples that adored only power, possessions
and enjoyment there had lived quietly human beings of
a different sort, who beheld in material possessions
only the means for practicing justice and love towards
all, a people whose minds imbued with the wisdom and
truth of the Law, maintained simple, straightforward
views, and emphasized them for themselves and others
in expressive, vivid symbolic acts." (Nineteen
We are ill suited for the role of perpetual antagonist
in the Middle East. The flowering of religion in the
Islamic world is a challenge to a desacralized West.
We should be in a position to offer a conditional welcome
to the former and a grounded critique to the latter.
Due to Zionism many in the Torah community can do neither.
Modesty, honesty, prayer and Torah are our agenda -
forever striving for awareness of and closeness to the
Creator is its purpose.
There is no room in this, the true agenda of the Jew,
for endless violent struggles with Palestinians, for
shrill demands for reparations from all European lands,
for support of politicians who advocate the tidal wave
of immorality which inundates Western lands simply because
they are pro-Zionist or offer large sums of government
The call of "Kedoshim tihyu" demands an very
In Iran there was a glimpse of this alternative path.
The delegation visiting and comforting the sick of all
faiths was a view of something better than that of soldiers
ruthlessly policing Gaza. The sense that Orthodox faith
may serve as a basis for a common critique of modernity
was a view of something better than Jew and Moslem forever
at war. The faces of the hundreds of Jews who crowded
the shuls to hear of their Torah heritage was a window
to somethng better than that of Orthodox political partys
groveling and jockeying for monies dispensed by heretics.
The Iranian trip was something better than Torah Jews
hitching their wagons to the failed Zionist enterprise.
Mr. Yishai, do you hear us?