A couple of months ago the former president of Israel, Moshe Katsav, was found guilty by three judges of rape and sexual harassment. He is now awaiting sentencing.
This week a group of so-called “prominent” rabbis sent him a letter of support, urging him to “be strong” and to “fear not, because the truth will come out”. The rabbis, who obviously do not consider Katsav guilty, know who is really to blame: “all the people of Zion are sighing and groaning under the burden of the poisonous media”.
There is no need to waste many words condemning these rabbis and their perverted perception of reality. Many have done so profusely over the last couple of days. Some rabbis tried to mend some of the hillul hashem that was caused by this letter. So I won’t write here about the nauseating feeling I had when I read about this letter. Instead, I will try to explain why I think this letter might actually be a good thing after all.
The names of the rabbis who signed this letter did not surprise anyone familiar with the gloomy landscape of hardal Jews in present-day Israel. Paradoxically, these rabbis are all fascists ultra-nationalist patriots. Paradoxically, because in reality they have disconnected themselves from the State of Israel in more ways they can imagine. Most of the Israeli population – including the sadly silent majority of national-religious Israelis – regard these rabbis as fanatics who are to be ignored in the best case. Some believe they should be put behind bars for their views.
This letter distances them, and their followers, even further from mainstream Israel. More importantly (I hope), it separates them from mainstream Judaism. The letter is good because it reveals yet another facet of their ugly and perverse version of Judaism and “patriotism”. It proves, to those who still need proof, that these people should be shunned and relegated to the place where they belong: the rubbish bin of Jewish and Israeli history. They are definitely not “prominent” and they definitely should not be allowed to be called “national-religious”.
Katsav is a convicted rapist. The rabbis’ letter confirms the famous Talmudic saying: “All that is attached to an unclean article is unclean … R. Eliezer said: Not in vain did the cuckoo go to the crow, because it is of its kind.” By going to the crow, these cuckoo rabbis (in both senses of the word) are doing us all a great service. They are clearly marking the line between who should be accepted by Israeli society and who shouldn’t. And they are on the other side of the line.