Happy Passover: Settlers, Immigrants, and the Perversion of Jewish Values
“You shall not oppress the stranger [immigrant] because you know the soul of the stranger for you yourselves were immigrants in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 23:9) [translation, R.S.]
This verse recalls the migration of Jacob’s sons to Egypt during an ancient Israelite famine. It invokes the history of oppression that Jews suffered there as economic migrants who ultimately escaped slavery at the hands of Pharaoh during the miraculous exodus orchestrated by Moses during the holiday we are about the celebrate, Passover.
The Bible calls on Jews to treat immigrants (the term ger in Hebrew, which is often translated as “stranger”) with respect no less than eight different times in at least four different books. In addition, there is the deeply moving story of the Book of Ruth, whose entire plot revolves around an Israelite economic migrant, Naomi, who travels with her family to Moab to escape famine at home (not unlike current Israeli immigrants from Sudan, Ethiopia and Asia). While in Moab, Naomi’s sons marry Moabite women, but when the sons and her husband die, she decides to return to Israel and urges Ruth, her daughter-in-law, to return to her Moabite family. Ruth refuses with one of the most gracious, moving speeches to grace the entire Tanach:
“Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried. The LORD do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts you and me.” (Ruth 1:16-17)
In more recent history, we have the accounts of righteous Gentiles who gave Jews refuge during the Holocaust at great risk to themselves and their families. Conversely, we have a darker history of those like the Roosevelt administration which turned Jews away from ports of refuge, as the St. Louis was shunned when it unsuccessfully attempted to deposit 900 Jewish refugees in the New World
This is not a general subject that is peripheral, but rather is at the heart of Judaism. Without the tender mercy of strangers, we might have long ago ceased to exist as a people. Therefore, we see ourselves as a generous people, one attuned to suffering and therefore bound to treat the stranger in our midst with kindness and respect.
So how else should a Jew react when they read disgusting incitement (for the full effect in the original Hebrew, read here) from none other than a member of the Israeli Knesset, Yaakov “Ketzeleh” Katz, who is also a prominent extremist settler leader. Here Katz (whose nickname oddly invokes the Yiddish diminutive for “kitty-cat”) inveighs against the thousands of economic migrants pouring into Israel’s economy from dire African places like Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia. One linguistic note: the term “infiltrator” used here has a charged connotation in modern Hebrew, as it historically referred to Palestinian fighters who “infiltrated” Israel to engage in terror attacks:
The State of Israel is facing a hard problem: Between 1,000 and 2,000 persons infiltrate each month through the porous southern border…In an increasing arithmetic progression we will reach, in six or seven years, 75,000 or 100,000 African infiltrators, most of whom will live in Tel Aviv…
With a century of hard labor, Am Yisrael has built here a Jewish state. In ten years, these infiltrators could make it all go to waste. We are losing the state to insanity.
…Our committee has visited schools and kindergartens in Arad and we couldn’t believe our eyes: The city is slowly being taken over. The schools in Arad and Eilat are filling up with Eritrean and Sudanese children. Already, close to a tenth of the city’s inhabitants are Sudanese or Eritrean, Muslims and Christians.
We got used to thinking that we are defeating our enemies in battles and here they have surprised us from the rear. The rulers of Sudan and Eritrea, in collusion with the Egyptians are conquering Israel.
Note in this passage, echoes of the Nativist rants of yesteryear against the oncoming hordes and unwashed masses bearing hard down on our shores. Note the language akin to that used to describe a plague of locusts or other form of vermin. The racism is mind-boggling. Also note that Katz, comfortably ensconced in his West Bank settlement home, is attempting to gin up hysterical fear among the wealthy denizens of Tel Aviv’s northern suburbs, which are akin to places like Evanston, Scarsdale, Beverly Hills and Napa Valley in the U.S.
…The infiltrators are penetrating Hatikva neighborhood, are flooding south Tel Aviv and every day they advance a few tens of meters towards Dizengoff on their way to Akirov and Ramat Aviv…As I see it, there is no choice but for the prime minister to declare martial law for everything regarding infiltrators.
In the following passage, Katz suggests establishing an entire city for migrants that would be a cross between a concentration camp and Hooverville:
…I have suggested…to start [constructing] a city that will be a decent distance from the border, where only there the infiltrators will be allowed to live. They will be employed in government projects for building the city itself [and] building the border fence [to prevent further immigration].
It may be that this kind of labor would take it’s toll on the infiltrators in a way that they will advise their relatives not to follow in their footsteps to Israel. They may even wish to pay again $2,500 per head to the corrupt guides who brought them here, this time in order to return them to their home.
For some time no one is surprised how many of Tel Aviv’s residents are willing to sell Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem. But it is unbelievable for me to behold how it does not bother them that their own city is becoming Eritrean and Sudanese. A thought sneaks to my mind that this secular, liberal and elitist community has simply lost all will to live…Is this what they hoped for when they built their homes in Tel Aviv? That it will become an African city? What kind of person wants to sell himself and his home? [translation: Eitan Issacson]
The Jewish people both within and outside Israel should know that when they continue supporting the Occupation, they are supporting racism like this. Do we want to be judged and measured as a people by the hate of such hooligans? Further, I challenge the settlers who define Judaism and Jewish values for us as they do here in the comment threads. Theirs is not Judaism. It is a perversion of Judaism. Let’s call it Judea-ism, an idolatry based on worship of land over the spiritual values which our Biblical Prophets represented. We do not need a Third Temple in order to be good Jews. We do not need armed outposts in Hebron to maintain our covenant with God. Let us take back our religion from such people. They do not represent us, nor should they represent Israel.
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14 thoughts on “Happy Passover: Settlers, Immigrants, and the Perversion of Jewish Values – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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At least Ketzeleh is coherent in his racism (sounding very much like his counterparts on the European far right). The liberal “beautiful souls” he berates seem to have no problem with the oppression of Palestinian “strangers”, even as they volunteer to help the Sudanese refugees and click their tongues at the deportation of children of migrants who have grown up in Israel. The very fact that they view themselves as masters of their national home and the indigenous Palestinians as “strangers” makes them far more like Ketzeleh than they would care to admit.
Curious that the migrants described here can, in fact, enter Israel (without being shot) and live there (and go to school there?) and (get jobs there?) BUT PALESTINIANS CAN NOT. Is this a skin-color thing?
Could someone please define “Jewish values” for me? There are so many different Jews from so many different places with so many different cultures, I would sorely like to know just which values all these people have in common. Certainly, even the people commenting on this blog show such a diversity of opinion that, even though they identify themselves as Jewish, manifest different values one from the other. Anyhow, whatever is going on in Palestine today has nothing to do with religion, rather it is a fight over real estate (pace Amos Oz) and political power.
ketzeleh is an insult to kitty-cats everywhere….. like most “orthodox” he probably shuns cats too….or worse….
Unfortunately, he does sound a bit like our own tea-partiers, except for the part on the “work camp”. Even our most righteous rightest wingers have not discovered the gulag concept yet, though with time, who knows?
Here’s more “anti-progress”:
“So much for freedom of speech: Nakba Law passes first Knesset vote”
Please especially, note the last two paragraphs: The one relating to Mr. Dershowitz and the following one regarding the ” Universal Declaration of Human Rights” booklet that was recalled by Israel’s Education Ministry, because of these two Articles which the Ministry deemed inappropriate:
“Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.” (Article 14)
“Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.” (Article 18)
Theirs is not Judaism. It is a perversion of Judaism.
My understanding is that, according to Judaism, for a non-Jew (ger toshav) to live in Israel, he/she must except the dominion of the Jewish people over the land of Israel (Noahide Laws). Otherwise, that person cannot dwell there. I am not sure that this is relevant in this particular case, but that is the general rule.
I’m not enough of an expert in this matter to say w. any certainty whether this is the case. But I think it’s safe to say that we don’t have to be strict constructionists & replicate an ancient interpretation of halacha or Noahide laws. In fact, halacha is meant to be interpreted and changed to correspond to the interpretations of rabbinic authorities in every generation.
I’d like to point out that (because you mentioned the issue of conversion) a gentile cannot convert to Judaism unless that person accepts the precepts of the Noahide Laws. That statute is for all-times.
1/ Er… the passengers of the St Louis weren’t economic migrants, and the Eritreans, etc won’t be murdered if they return
(Also I don’t know why so few German Jews took up Rafael Trujillo’s offer to settle in the Dominican Republic in 1938, so I’m a bit less sympathetic as a result)
2/ There’s a famine in Asia? Where?
3/ Apparently there are a lot of Americans who are concerned about the influx of immigrants into the US, including, where was that again, Evanston, Scarsdale, Beverly Hills and Napa Valley. (Okay, maybe not Beverly Hills)
Can you name me any developed country that isn’t concerned about the influx of poorer migrants into their country?
There are many types of immigrants & refugees. My pt. was that Jews have experienced all manners of such status fr. economic migrants in Moab & Egypt to persecuted minority in Europe. We have no excuse for the Ketzelehs in our midst.
I’m rapidly losing patience w. you & yr wit or whatever you think it is is tiresome in the extreme. Have you ever been to Bengladesh? Phillipines? India? Thailand? These are all countries which attract immigrants to Israel. Does there have to be a famine there to attract the poorest of the poor to Israel? There is famine in Africa & Israel attracts these as well.
Yeah, they’re called Republicans & they lost the last election if you’ll recall.
That’s not the question. The question is why an Israeli right wing extremist thinks it’s appropriate to talk about dark skinned immigrants as if they’re vermin trying to topple the Israeli way of life & why he seeks to create a gulag to house these “infiltrators.”
Israel seems to be approaching a tipping point between democracy/peace and fascism/war (see “Mideast Peace or Fascism?” – Online Journal, March 16). I am in the process of gathering evidence about which way this is headed. This post says something very serious in this regard.
“The person who frames the story wins the debate.” Mike Evans, author, ”
Here’s how the story is framed in pop culture and in Richard’s article:
“This verse recalls the migration of Jacob’s sons to Egypt during an ancient Israelite famine.”
Insert facts: The Israelites lived, prospered, and multiplied in Egypt for between 215 and 430 years. From chapters 36 to 47, the book of Genesis emphasizes the power that Joseph wielded in Egypt; how he used that power to make his father, Jacob, and his 11 brothers prosperous; how the dwelt on the finest land in Egypt, set apart from all other Egyptians; how after the death of Joseph and his brothers and their generation, their descendants in Egypt became so numerous and powerful that Egyptian rulers came to fear them.
Richard elides these facts, moving directly from, “Jacob’s sons migrated to Egypt to escape famine,” to “the history of oppression and Jewish suffering:”
“It invokes the history of oppression that Jews suffered there as economic migrants who ultimately escaped slavery at the hands of Pharaoh during the miraculous exodus orchestrated by Moses during the holiday we are about the celebrate, Passover.”
Why is ‘This space intentionally left blank,’ why this forgotten quarter- to half-a-millenium of history of dwelling and prospering and multiplying in a foreign land?
By any reckoning, the period of Egyptian oppression of Israelites in Egypt was relatively brief, and came about only AFTER the Israelites had grown so powerful that the native people grew fearful of their separate and exclusivist power.
When the Israelites left Egypt, they left behind destruction and death from which their own land, and only the land of Goshen, was preserved, and they took with them treasure that they stole from the Egyptians.
Zionism and hasbara are provoking the unintended consequence of a reexamination of the entirety of Jewish history, and a reframing of the narrative.
If zionism is seen to be based on a distorted framed narrative, what else is similarly distorted?
“Oh what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practice to deceive.”
“This verse recalls the migration of Jacob’s sons to Egypt during an ancient Israelite famine.”
That didn’t work out so well for the Egyptians, did it? Locusts, slaying of the eldest child, etc??
It didn’t work out for the Israelites to well either, did it? Slavery, wondering in the desert 40 years, having to reconquer the land of Israel.
Have we really seen evidence of a devastating famine? When the Israelites came back to the land of Israel, it seems as though the Canaanites and Amelikes were doing ok.
Not sure what your pt is: that people in desperate need shouldn’t be permitted to migrate during famine? If that’s remotely what you’re trying to say you do realize that contradicts the entire history of the human species, which has wandered fr. time immemorial looking for greener pastures. We are historically a nomadic species & will continue to be unless you can somehow create a situation in which every society is doing as well as every other in the world. Then, there won’t be any reason or need for migration. Good luck w. that.