A Jew, A Zionist, An Example

by Rabbi Yisrael Kaniel — February 2003

Over the past 3 ½ years of B’Ahavat Yisrael’s activities and its attempts to encourage love and concern for one’s fellow Jew, despite differences, and retaining ill feelings only for those who truly seek harm to our Jewish brothers and sisters, B’Ahavat Yisrael’s representatives and the organization have encountered much approbation.  On the other hand, surprisingly, various individuals from different sectors have hurled accusations, ridicule and doubts.  A hareidi gentleman feared mixing with “other kinds”.  A Jewish woman, professing to be a religious Zionist, called for “all of the religious zionists band together to ostracize” the hareidim.  A non–religious storeowner screamed at us: “You give to religious! Get out!”.  And recently, a lady accused us of “teaching your people to hate all the human beings but Jews”.  These are just some examples.  The following is a response by our associate director, Rabbi Yisrael Kaniel to these individuals and those who think like them.

In a letter to his father, the father of Religious Zionism Rav Avraham Y. Kook writes as follows: “I, thank G-d, seek the well–being of all of G–d’s people, great or small, wise or foolish and endeavor to judge all in a meritorious light and to lean towards compassion…and my fervent wish is but to serve the good of the Holy Land and G–d’s people who live therein, with no interest or concern for my own personal matters, which are nothing compared to the greater good of the entire nation.”

On another occasion an extreme Hareidi opponent of Rav Kook once came to Rav Kook for a donation due to his being in poor economic straits.  Rav Kook responded graciously.  Rabbi Dr. Moshe Higer, who witnessed this incident, asked Rav Kook, bewildered, how Rav Kook could make a contribution to someone who bitterly opposed him.  Rav Kook responded that nothing stands in the way of assisting or showing kindness to a fellow Jew.

On yet another occasion, after Hareidi opponents poured sewage water all over him, and he was advised to issue a lawsuit against these men, Rav Kook curtly responded: “I have nothing to do with the courts, and, despite their action against me, I love them — I’m even ready to kiss them from an abundance of love.  I am totally aflame with the love of every Jew.”

And finally, one time, upon being questioned concerning his restraint, patience and tolerance towards his opponents, Rav Kook opined, “When I feel in the depths of my heart exceeding love, devoid of any hatred, even towards those who abuse and belittle me, I see this as a personal test, for all this stems from the love of Israel that is fixed in my heart and from the characteristic of ‘judging everyone favorably’.”

This is the attitude professed by a man, a Jew, a visionary, a true guardian of all of G–d’s precepts, a devotee of the Jewish nation and the Jewish people, whom I admire, whom my father and uncle, of blessed memory, revered, and whom my saintly grandfather, may his memory be blessed, cherised as a friend.  This is the visionary who set the mold for Religious Zionism and who taught his beloved son, Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook his view of what it means to be a religious Jew and what it means to be a Zionist.

Being a Zionist does not preclude one from being a Jew, especially if one professes to be a religious Jew and being a Jew means treating fellow Jews like they are part of one big family — brothers and sisters.  Brothers and sisters may disagree, sometimes vehemently, but they are still brothers and sisters, and they still care for each other.  This is the philosophy of religious Zionism as set forth in writing, in speech and in practice by the guiding light of religious Zionism the illustrious Rav Avraham Y. Kook of blessed memory.

It is in the spirit of these principles that B’Ahavat Yisrael strives to encourage calm dialogue, love and concern for one’s fellow Jew, despite differences, and retaining ill feelings only for those who truly seek harm to our Jewish brothers and sisters.  B’Ahavat Yisrael does not attempt to condone or excuse anyone’s behavior, just to show some compassion in the spirit of true Judaism and true religious Zionism.

If one is ignorant of the philosophy he or she professes, then such a person should study it better.  If one is consumed by hatred, let that individual work on his or her character traits and learn to channel the heat against those who really seek his or her harm, not to one’s own brothers and sisters, as confused as they may be sometimes.

As for B’Ahavat Yisrael, it has been doing everything it can to bridge the gaps between the different strata of Jewish society — bringing together Jews from different backgrounds to feel part of a big family, the Jewish family.  A Jewish soldier is our brother whether he be Ashkenazi or Sepharadi, from America or from Russia, whether he be religious or not.  So we visit Israeli soldiers at checkpoints throughout the country — as far as the Lebanon border and as deep as Itamar in the Shomron.  A wounded Jewish soldier or victim of terror is an injured member of the family — whatever his or her complexion or his or her views.  So we visit soldiers in hospitals throughout Israel — whether it be Hadassah Ein Kerem in Jerusalem, Levenshtein in Raanana or Rambam in Haifa.  And, relatively recently we embarked on a new project to not only console Jewish victims of aggression, but to do our part to prevent such aggression.

Several months ago, we began providing food for the volunteer guards of the Jewish Legion who patrol Jewish communities in Israel with the help of specially trained dogs to prevent terror attacks.  By helping with our expertise in providing meals, the Jewish Legion is able to better concentrate on their expertise in providing security — a symbiotic relationship that serves to help fellow Jews in a very special way, by saving Jewish lives.  No, we are NOT the Jewish Legion.  We do not train the guards nor do we train the dogs.  We do not enlist the guards nor do we buy the dogs.  But we DO provide the day–to–day food to maintain and sustain this group of fine and brave individuals protecting our communities to allow them to have the strength to continue to protect our communities….AND

Recently, B’Ahavat Yisrael launched a Terror Victims Free Legal Rights Fund to ensure that terror victims are aware of their rights, and, in the event of insurmountable bureaucratic red tape, to provide legal assistance at no cost to the terror victims.  The legal assistance will be provided by sympathetic Israeli attorneys previously associated with B’Ahavat Yisrael who will charge the organization tremendously discounted rates for their services.  We hope in this way to take care of the tragically mounting problem of Israel’s victims of Arab terror in a most emcompassing manner.

B’Ahavat Yisrael does all this, not out of hatred or not caring for other citizens of this earth, but, as our name implies, for love of Israel and its people.  Fellow Jew, won’t you join us in our efforts!  Won’t you help us so that we can help fellow Jews!

$250 will sponsor a full day’s hospital visit including snacks and drinks for the sick and injured and their visiting families.  $750 will sponsor a day’s excursion to visit soldiers in the field with drinks and snacks.  For only $14, one can provide nourishment for a volunteer guard for a day.  For just $420, one can sustain a guard for a month.  And for $5,000, one can sponsor a volunteer guard for an entire year.  The more funds that B’Ahavat Yisrael receives, the more hospital visits, the more excursions to soldiers and the more volunteers to protect our soil and our flesh.  Think of it.  For $14 or $420 or $5000 or any multiple thereof, you can take a part in saving Jewish lives!  OR you can make a donation towards the Terror Victims Free Legal Rights Fund to help make the life of one of these unfortunate individuals a better one.

If not until now, then certainly now, when Jewish blood is being randomly and wantonly spilt throughout our country, let us cease the mindless and disruptive bickering and infighting amongst us.  Let us refrain from adding to the deadly bombs and mortars hurled at us from without by tearing ourselves up from within.

As for this writer, he will stand firmly behind the principles of love set forth by Judaism over and over throughout the Torah, Neviim, Ketuvim, Talmud and Torah exegetes throughout the generations.  This writer stands behind the principles of love for a fellow Jew expressed by the scion of religious Zionism Rav Kook.  And this writer stands behind the principles of Jewish love professed by the B’Ahavat Yisrael organization.  Principles summed up by the wise King Solomon in Proverbs 15:17: “Better a meal of vegetables with love than a stuffed ox with hatred.”