Israel Resource Review 18th June, 2008


Why my Torah is Crying

My favorite night of the year has always been the night of Shavuot, when I go from hill to hill of the seven hills of my beloved city of Efrat, giving Torah study class after Torah study class until the early-morning daybreak service.

During my nocturnal walk I am constantly greeted by groups of Efratites of all ages - men, women and children - walking to the classes of their choice; often they excitedly stop me with a question engendered by a previous lecture.

On this one magical night of the year all of Efrat becomes miraculously transformed into one large and glorious beit midrash (House of Study), whose majestic message pulsates with the words of the Psalmist, "Arise and exultantly sing the song of Torah into the night…."

This year, however was different. Instead of joyous songs, I heard jarring sobs. Instead of the Torah scrolls in the arks and the Torah books on the shelves dancing with rapture and rejoicing, they reeled with dismay and disappointment. The very letters of black fire were weeping, the very parchment of white fire was wilting.

Yes, this Shavuot night, my beloved Torah was crying. YOU SEE, my Torah has always rejoiced with song because "its paths are paths of pleasantness and all of its highways lead to peace." The Torah is the expression and will of the Divine Presence, who is a "God of unconditional and freely-given love, of compassion, long-suffering patience, truth and cleansing purity."

My Torah especially rejoices with song on Shavuot, when we read the Book of Ruth, the scroll of lovingkindness, the story of a forlorn and forsaken Moabite widow who is lovingly accepted into the Jewish homeland, faith and community as a righteous proselyte. Her loneliness is transformed into domestic peace and security in Efrat in the loving arms of a noble and proud son of Judah.

The lovingkindness of Boaz and Ruth toward each other as a couple - as well as toward Naomi - merit their being the grandparents of King David, the eventual redeemer of Israel and the world. The world will be rebuilt and redeemed only through the lovingkindness of a Torah and a nation which embraced the Moabitess Ruth as one of their own and provided a suffering widow with love and family.

WHAT HAS happened to our Torah of late? An entirely different narrative is being written, the very antithesis of the love and compassion of the Scroll of Ruth. My Torah has been stolen away, hijacked, by false and misguided interpreters. My Torah is crying because of rabbinical court judges who have forgotten that the major message of the Exodus from Egypt is for us to love the stranger and the proselyte.

They have forgotten the 11 prohibitions against insensitive words and actions toward converts - and the talmudic stricture that we are not to be too overbearing or exacting toward a would-be proselyte (Yebamot 47). They have forgotten Maimonides's ruling that even regarding a convert who merely went to the mikve (and became circumcised if male) - even if the conversion was for a personal romantic or venal reason, and even if the convert has returned to former idolatrous ways - he or she remains Jewish (albeit a Jewish renegade); her or his religious marriage remains intact, and lost objects must be restored to him or her. (Maimonides, Laws of Forbidden Relationships 13,14).

MY TORAH is crying because these judges have, in the name of Torah, disrupted and possibly destroyed hundreds if not thousands of families of converts, whose children and even children's children were brought up and accepted as Jews - only now to learn that their forbears' conversions have been retroactively nullified.

My Torah is crying because these judges have, in the name of Torah, disgraced and reviled an outstanding rabbinical leader, Rabbi Haim Druckman, a scholar who has dedicated his entire life to the Torah of Israel, the people of Israel and the land of Israel, and allowed an atmosphere to develop in which his name and personage have been dragged through the mud. They have forgotten that "an elder scholar must be treated with precious graciousness" and that "Torah scholars must advance peace in the world."

MY TORAH is crying because these same judges have made it impossible for countless women to find happiness in marriage; because they have caused wives to live as captive women to unscrupulous husbands who hold them up for ransom in the name of "purity of Israel." They forget the talmudic directive that "to free a grass widow, our sages invoked many leniencies." They forget the plea of the Maharsha at the conclusion of Tractate Yevamot: "God must grant courage to rabbinical judges so that God may bless lonely and suffering women with the peace that comes from domestic tranquility."

My Torah is crying because this Torah of peace and compassion has been perverted and hijacked by judges who, despite their erudition, have failed to learn the lesson of the Scroll of Ruth, failed to internalize the purpose for which Torah was given to the world.

And so the tears of converts and would-be converts, the tears of grass widows and women who are anxiously, frantically and hopelessly waiting for rabbinical courts to obligate their intransigent husbands to grant them their freedom merge with the tears of the Torah itself.

These tears of the Torah and outsiders looking in at "pure Israel" are preventing the redemption, a redemption which can come only on the basis of lovingkindness to the "other" - stranger and convert, widow and grass widow, those who are chained and long to be free.

Our Torah is crying because she is, tragically, now in chains.

The writer is the founder and chancellor of Ohr Torah Stone Colleges and Graduate Programs, and chief rabbi of Efrat.

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PCPO Poll of Palestinians: 56.0 %:41.4% oppose suicide bombings inside Israel, 89.8% Don't give up right of return even at cost of agreement

[Dr. Aaron Lerner - IMRA:

Something for Ms. Rice to consider: According to this survey, 2 out of every 5 Palestinians passing through the Israeli checkpoints she has pressed the Jewish State to remove supports suicide bombings inside Israel.]

Poll No. 165 Date: June 18, 2008

The most recent poll of the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion prepared by Dr. Nabil Kukali has revealed that:

(83.0 %) of the Palestinians support at present the Palestinian-Israeli cease-fire. (56.0 %) oppose the suicide bombings inside Israel. (32.9 %) hold Hamas responsible for the schism of the authority between Gaza Strip and the West Bank, (15.5 %) blame Fateh for that. (59.8 %) support the two-state solution as the favored solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (54.3 %) are dissatisfied with the performance of the PA President, Mr. Mahmoud Abbas. (89.8 %) oppose the waiver of the Right of Home Return.

Beit Sahour - The Information Section:

In the most recent poll prepared by Dr. Nabil Kukali, conducted and published by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion (PCPO) during the period from 25th May to 31st May 2008, a random sample consisting of (1051) Palestinian adults over 18 years old representing the various demographic specimen in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip, were face-to-face interviewed. The poll results unveiled that (83.0 %) of the Palestinian public support at present the Palestinian-Israeli cease-fire. Dr. Nabil Kukali, Director of the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion, declared that the most significant finding in this poll is that (56.0 %) of the Palestinians oppose at present the suicide bombings inside Israel and added that (32.9 %) hold Hamas responsible for the schism of the authority between Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Dr. Kukali pointed out that the rate of the Palestinians supporting the holding of the PLC-elections has increased by (20.8 %) in comparison with a poll published in March 2007. Regarding the future of the Palestinian state, Dr. Kukali said that "a majority of the Palestinians (59.8 %), support the two-state solution as the favored solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and (30.4 %) believe that a bi-national state on the territories of the whole historic Palestine would be the preferable solution.

Dr. Kukali added: "in view of these results, we perceive that the Palestinian public opinion has remarkably shifted from the solution of "the secular democratic state" on the whole Palestinian territories to the acceptance of the two-state solution as to pull out Israel from the west Bank and Gaza Strip.

Dr. Kukali also mentioned that "a vast majority of the Palestinians believe that a lasting solution with Israel would be impossible and impractical without a radical solution to the refugees' problem. Leaning on the results of this poll, we believe that a lasting, comprehensive and just peace will only be possible with the settlement of the refugees' issue.

A Palestinian - Israeli truce:

Responding to the question: "What's your attitude towards a Palestinian - Israeli truce at present?" (42.9 %) answered "I strongly support it", (40.1 %) "I somewhat support it", (9.0 %) "I somewhat oppose it", (6.3 %) "I strongly oppose it" and (1.7 %) answered "I don't know".

The suicide bombings:

(53.8 %) of the Palestinians are of the opinion that the suicide bombings harm at present the Palestinian national interests, whilst (40.7 %) think that these are of benefit and (4.5 %) declined to give an answer. Regarding the suicide bombings inside the Israeli territory, (56.0 %) are in favor of their halt at present, whilst (41.4%) are for their continuance and (2.6 %) hesitated to answer.

Deployment of multinational forces:

Responding to the question:" Do you support or oppose the deployment of multinational forces in Gaza Strip ?", (33.4 %) answered " strongly oppose", (26.7 %) "somewhat oppose", (24.0 %) " somewhat support", (10.3 %) "strongly support" and (0.4 %) answered " I don't know ".

Elections of the Palestinian Legislative Council:

In regard to the question: "Do you support polling at present for a new Palestinian Legislative Council?" (42.9 %) answered "I strongly support", (32.6 %) "I somewhat support", (12.5 %) "I somewhat oppose", (11.2 %) "I strongly oppose" and (0.6 %) answered "I don't know".

Evaluation of the performance of the PA President:

(54.3 %) of the Palestinians are dissatisfied with the way Mr. Mahmoud Abbas is running his post as President of the Palestinian Authority, whilst (39.1 %) said that they are satisfied and (6.6 %) refused to respond to the question.

The PA Presidency Elections:

Responding to the question: "Do you support the holding of PA Presidency elections at present", (36.8 %) said they "strongly support that", (32.3 %) "somewhat support that", (19.0 %) "somewhat oppose that", (10.3 %) "strongly oppose that" and (1.6 %) answered "I don't know".

Regarding the question:" If new PA Presidency elections would be held now, and Mr. Mahmoud Abbas would candidate for Fateh, and Mr. Ismael Haniyyeh would candidate for Hamas. For whom would you vote ?", (40.7 %) said "for Mahmoud Abbas", (18.6 %) "for Ismael Haniyyeh", (34.5 %) "wouldn't participate in the elections" and (6.2 %) answered "I don't know".

Responding to the question: " Should the two rivals, Mr. Marwan Barghouthi for Fateh and Mr. Ismael Haniyyeh for Hamas, run the presidential elections, for whom would you vote ?", (42.8 %) said "for Marwan Barghouthi", (18.1 %)"for Ismael Haniyyeh", (34.0 %) "wouldn't participate in the elections" and (5.1 %) said "I don't know".

The peace negotiations with Israel:

With respect to the question: " Do you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose the peace negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis ?", (24.5 %) said "I strongly support that", (49.6 %) "I somewhat support that", (13.2 %) "I somewhat oppose that", (12.3 %) "I strongly oppose that" and (0.4 %) answered "I don't know".

Responding to the question: "What are your expectations that the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, which are initiated by Annapolis International Peace Conference, would succeed ?

Would these negotiations succeed or fail to end the occupation ?", only (3.9 %) answered "will certainly succeed", (27.6 %) " may be they will succeed", (36.9 %) "may be they will fail", (30.1 %) "will certainly fail" and (1.5 %) answered "I don't know".

(61.9 %) of the Palestinians believe that the meetings between the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mr. Mahmoud Abbas, and the Israeli PM, Mr. Ehud Olmert, who is facing at the moment internal problems, are of no benefit, whilst (32.0 %) believe that they are of benefit, and (6.1 %) didn't respond to the question.

The preferable Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict:

(59.8 %) of the Palestinian public believe that the two-states option is the preferable solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, whilst (30.4 %) believe that historic Palestine cannot be divided into two states. Subsequently, the bi-national state over the whole Palestine, in which Palestinians and Israelis enjoy equal rights and representation quota, is the preferable one. (5.2 %) said that "there is no solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict" and (4.6 %) declined to respond to the relevant question.

The Refugees' Issue:

Responding to the question: "Do you believe that the Palestinians should be obliged to waive their right of home return in exchange for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state and the conclusion of a peace agreement with Israel ?", (89.8 %) answered "Palestinians shouldn't agree to that, even if the price would be the non-conclusion of an agreement with the Israelis", whilst only (6.8 %) said "Palestinians should agree to that", and (3.3 %) answered "I don't know".

Regarding the additional question:" Should the Palestinian leadership agree to the waiver of the Right of Home Return in exchange of the monetary compensation, would you accept or refuse that ?", (89.5 %) answered "I would refuse that", whilst only (7.3 %) said "I would accept that", and (3.2 %) answered "I don't know".

Who is responsible for the continuation of the schism of the Authority ?

Responding to the question: "According to your opinion, one year after the schism of the authority between Gaza Strip and the West Bank, whom should be held responsible for the continuation of this schism ? Is it Hamas or Fateh?" (32.9 %) said "Hamas", (15.5 %) "Fateh", (41.6 %) "both of them", (6.9 %) "none of them" and (3.1 %) answered "I don't know".

Methodology of the Survey Study:

Mr. Elias Kukali, a staff member of the Research and Studies' Section at the PCPO, said that all interviews of this survey were conducted inside the respondents' homes, i.e. face-to-face during different working hours, at least 5 hours a day, including the evening time, in order to ensure proper representation of those sub-groups of the population, which would otherwise be difficult to reach and selecting one individual in each household using Last Birthday Method. The choices were taken from a total of (150) election sites, from which (110) sites are located in West Bank and (40) sites in Gaza Strip according to the distribution of the Central Election Commission.

These election sites were randomly chosen by using the method of the simple random sample. These in turn were the beginning of the random sample choice made from those regions in accordance with PCPO's long experienced methodology.

Mr. E. Kukali has further established that the margin of error was (+/-3.0 %) at a significance and confidence levels of (5%) and (95%) respectively. He added that the rate of the female respondents in this survey was (48.6%) against (51.4%) male respondents. The distribution of the random sample between the Palestinian two major regions was (60.7%) in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and (39.3%) in Gaza Strip, and allocated as follows: (49.1%) for the towns, (32.4%) for the villages and (18.6%) for the camps.

Contact Persons: Dr. Nabil Kukali & Elias Kukali Tel: 00970 2 277 4846, Fax: 00970 2 277 4892 Mobile: 00970 599 726 878 P.O. Box 15, Beit Sahour - Palestine Email: Website:

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