I’ve been covering the Museum of Tolerance Jerusalem controversy from a number of angles both political and religious and decided to ask Rabbi Elliot Dorff for his perspective. He is rector of the American University of Judaism in Los Angeles and a distinguished Conservative halachic authority who specializes in dealing with Jewish ethics in a broad context.
What I truly value about Rabbi Dorff compared to many rabbis is his willingness to “tell it like it is.” He is outspoken, but in the most menschlich way. As a person, he’s the kindest, gentlest and most genial person imaginable. Which makes his statement all the stronger:
Oy. This is Rabbi Heir at his very worst. What he plans to do is a hillul hashem of the first order — and, most ironically, in the name of tolerance!
As you might have expected, the halakhic issue of pinnui kever applying to non-Jews as well as Jews can be argued either way.
The real issue, I think, is the one you mention — namely, that we should not do to Muslim cemeteries what we do not want done to Jewish cemeteries. This is Hillel’s maxim of what the Torah means stated on one foot, and Rabbi Heir, despite his Orthodox rabbinic education, somehow has not grasped that. It also just adds to the friction between Jews and Muslim in Israel precisely when what Israel needs is a reduction in friction. That is, it is bad public policy as well as a violation of the very core of what Judaism stands for.
Thank you, Rabbi Dorff. The ball’s in your court, Rabbi Hier.