Settlers and Palestinians as Neighbors?
One of the great ones of our generation has just passed: Rabbi Menachem Froman. He died of cancer today at age 68. I have posted about him several times. I will feature here Rita Castelnuovo’s wonderful photograph that accompanied the NY Times profile of him. This is Haaretz’s Hebrew epitaph (and the English version). This is The Forward’s story which includes an interesting video.
He was one of those magnificent iconoclastic figures Israel has thrown up over the decades like Martin Buber, Judah Magnes, Zelda, Yeshaya Leibowitz, Yaakov Talmon, Gershom Scholem, Uri Avnery, Abie Nathan, and many others.
What was so extraordinary about him was that he perfectly exemplified Whitman’s dictum:
Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.
He was a settler rabbi who made common cause with Sheikh Ahmed Jassin, Hamas’ spiritual leader. He lived in the settlement of Tekoa, also the ancestral home of the prophet Amos. He represented the same fiery demand for morality and justice as his Biblical forebear. He was a teacher and educator. But he didn’t teach the hate that passed for religious piety at yeshivot like Yeshivat Ho-Kotel, Yeshivat Rav Kook, or Yeshivat Od Yosef Chai. He taught that Jews had an obligation to the Land, but not to politics. They had an obligation to God, but not to Greater Israel. He had no allegiance to a Jewish State. His allegiance was to God and his spiritual journey. He accepted the possibility of Palestinian political sovereignty over the Territories and was prepared to live there under such control. Something no other settler extremist would accept.
I had the privilege to meet him one time thanks to Shamai Leibowitz. Froman was in Washington DC at the invitation of George Mitchell. I was struck by the fact that Mitchell would meet such a visionary as Froman, a man who the Shabak went to great lengths to frustrate. It spoke well of the good faith and broad mindedness of Mitchell.
I knew Rabbi Froman was terminally ill and that it was just a matter of time. But I hoped he would be with us as long as possible. As long as he was here, it was that much harder for the ultra-nationalist madness that passes for political discourse in Israel, to triumph.
But he is gone. May his sainted memory be for a blessing.
Deïr Yassin says
I’m really sorry to hear that.I didn’t know Rabbi Menahem Froman before reading about him on your blog. You posted a video with people singing in his house, that was absolutely beautiful, and that photo of him sitting and hugging his Palestinian friend.
I came across this video a while back from last spring when Rabbi Froman went to Qusra to replace the Qurans destroyed in a fire set by settlers, and the scene on the staircase (min 1:40) when he cries out “Allahu Akbar” to the villagers is so strong. We have the same God, and that’s what Rabbi Froman is saying here. Allah yarhamuhu.
The passing of Rav Froman, zt”l is a very sad thing. We have lost a great man who’s view of life tried to bring peace between people, specifically Palestinians/Muslims and Israelis/Jews. A testiment to his work was the amount of people at his funeral who came from various segements of politics and religion to pay their respects (Leftists, Rightests, Muslim, Jew and others). If the politicians of the region held close Rav Froman’s view on the situation in Israel/Palestine, then the hurdles would be smaller to clear and the obstacles easier to traverse.
Thank you DY for referencing the clip of Rav Froman’s visit to Qusra. Indeed, his claiming “Allahu Akbar” is very strong and true… we both have the same God and share the same forefather. Not that I’m on the same level as Rav Froman, but I have said this to many a Jew and Muslim (and for whatever it counts as a relgious Jew I have no problem proclaiming Allhu Akbar), as well as Christians… we share the same God and we have to each figure out how we can each do His bidding while respecting our fellow man.
I’m not going to say anything political here, but just a question… is there a Palestinian equivelent to Rav Froman in thinking or POV ont he situation??
Baruch Dayan HaEmet
Richard Silverstein says
@DavidL: THere are many Muslim clerics in the U.S. & elsewhere who share Froman’s sense of embracing Jews and diversity in general. I don’t know Muslim clerics in Palestine as well, but I’m sure there are a number of them.
Keep in mind btw, that Rabbi Froman was a minority of one. There is no other rabbi in Israel who shares views as radical as his were. You could add someone like Arik Aschermann perhaps. SO that makes two.
I’m not sure HaRav was a minority of one… but I unfortunately I have to agree that he certainly was the minority. In the clip DY referenced, his son (and some others) were with him on his visit. I also seem to recall that of his 10 children some said they would carry on his cause.
As for the Muslim clerics in the US and elsewhere, I sort of thought/hoped there would be… as I hope there would be Rabbis as well.
Also, I would hope that their are Muslim Clerics and others who share a similar approach in the region. I would also hope that the politics and pressure of the Palestinian political machines would not stop them in trying to promote their cause. As much as I’m sure there are people in Israel who disliked Rav Froman’s ideology, he was able to express it…I’m not sure if that same opportunity exists under the Palestinian Authority (and probably certainly not under Hamas).. I would hope it would be.
Richard Silverstein says
@DavidL: It is not the Palestinian “political machine” (whatever that is) that prevents Muslim clerics from responding to Rabbi Froman (though many have), but rather Israel’s poisonous, homicidal Occupation. Further, Rabbi Froman visited a number of mosques that were price tagged & those imams welcomed him. You can see a number of them in videos & pictures of Froman’s activities after price tag attacks.
Now, go out & persuade rabbis to have a more nuanced, less one-dimensional view of the I-P conflict & Jewish-Muslim relations. There is a Twinning project happening every year in the U.S. with mosques & synaoguges twinned. YOu should look this up & encourage it to happen in Israel if it doesn’t already.
Deïr Yassin says
We have the same God (Allah simply means God in Arabic, it’s used by Muslim and Christians, and Arabic-speaking Jews too) but if you’re Ashkenaze, I’m not sure we have the same forefather….:-) And I just want to make clear that my comment was NOT an endorsement of Zionism.
You’re asking whether there is a Palestinian equivalent to Rav Froman: what does that mean ? A Palestinian who thinks that Jews and Muslims could live together and that Palestinians should be allowed to live in ALL of historical Palestine ?
You know it’s always easier to be ‘generous’ when you’re the intruder….. I’m not taking about Rav Froman but there is a couple of recently arrived Jews from America whose ‘peace-and-love’ mantra really bothers me. I’m not saying I’m talking about Harvey Stein who made the video from Qusra, but could be…
As for Abraham being a Forefather, it was meant in the religious sense of a “Father of Monotheism” and his two children whose descendants went on to promote that same view of God. There are plenty of Muslims whose lineage to Ishmael is certainly questionable as well… there have been a lot more converts from various societies and countries to Islam than to Judaism making their connection only a religious one and certainly not one of lineage.
As for your endorsement of Zionism- I hardly consider you an endorser of Zionism. The common point of this thread was (I think) that we both believe that their is one God- Jews call Him “Hashem” (among other names) and Muslims call Him “Allah” (as we’ve both stated).
I’m not going to go down the road of the I/P conflict at this posting… it’s more about Rav Froman and his passing. But yes, are there Muslim Clerics who possess the same strength of character that R. Froman had to try and bridge the gap between Muslim and Jew and Palestinian and Israeli to find common ground not differences. Is there a Muslim cleric who would reciprocate a visit like R. Froman’s to Qusra and (leaving the politics out of it for now), condemn the attacks of terrorists and promote unity and the sanctity of life??
And lastly, there is also a “historical Israel” here too. I get pretty pieved when I hear idiots claim the Jews have no historical claim to the Temple Mount among other idiotic remarks… and I’m not referring to political control (as I said, I’m trying to keep politics out of this comment)- I mean a historical connection to that place and the “Land of Israel”.
I too don’t go agree with a full chorus singing the mantra of “peace and love”, but I do believe in trying to respect and understand both sides of a conflict. And the violence on one side is no more righteous than on the other side.
Deïr Yassin says
You claim you’re not going down the road of the I/P conflict here but of course you are ! You’re asking if there’s a Muslim cleric who would recopiate Rabbi Froman’s visit to Qusra. How would I know: do you have an exemple of Muslim settlers living on stolen Jewish land and who torched a synagogue in one of the few remaining Jewish vlilages surrounded by Muslims settlers ? Don’t you realize that your question is stupid ? It’s just so typical ethnocentric dwelling on you own superior morals. Reminds me, yesterday “Gatekeepers” was shown on the common French-German channel, Arte, and all the propagandists are out: instead of dealing with the serious topics of violation of human rights in the documentary, they praise Israeli democracy for permitting such a film. Advanced hasbara.
Why don’t you look into what has happened in Qusra since the beginneing of January. How many settler attacks there have been. Last week two people were seriously wounded in a pogrom (among them a 14-years old kid) (cf. Yesh Din and Mondoweiss). The Israeli army apparently protected the agressors. You also want to know if a Palestinian army would protect Palestinian progromists when attacking a Jewish village ? Well, I can’t answer either. And I have a question for you: if those inhabitants in Qusra were Jews what would they do to the agressors ? If you lived in Qusra what would you do ?