Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Weasel Words

First of all, am I the only one that thinks it's weird to put out "appreciations" of great rabbis' lives when they get very ill that sound like they're obituaries?

Second, I was very amused when I saw this ode to R. Eliyahu on the last Haveil Havalim. It's nice enough, but here's where things get interesting.
Hakham Mordehai Eliyahu's early religious education was conducted by his father, who died when Eliyahu was still young. He continued to study under the prominent Syrian-born rabbi, Hakham Ezra Attia (1885-1970), the head of the Porat Yosef Yeshiva in Jerusalem, as well as Askkenazi rabbis such as Avraham Karelitz (1878-1953), author of the well know book, 'Hazon Ish.' His commitment to the Torah was displayed when as a youth, the young Eliyahu joined an underground group that struggled for a Torah-directed government in Israel and was involved in at least one attempt at pressuring the government by means that were considered, by some, to be illegal.

Ooh, mysterious! What, you may ask, is the cryptic "pressure" being danced around? Let's take a look:

[In 1950], a group of more extremist Haredim organized itself, planning to adopt violent measures against the state authorities... [Their] program...[was] not only to defend religion but to enforce observance of the Torah and halakha by force. In April 1950, in the Porat Yosef Yeshiva, one sector of this group created a terrorist underground that called itself Brit Hakanim (Union of Zealots). Its leaders were Yehuda Reider, Eliahu Raful, and Mordechai Eliahu. Brit Hakanim numbered a few dozen young members. Among their terrorist acts they set afire cars whose owners drove on the Sabbath, placed incendiary bombs in football fields where games were played on the Sabbath, and burned down butcher shops that sold non-kosher meat. The underground was exposed by the Israel security services when it was planning on throwing a dummy bomb into the Knesset to frighten its members during a debate on military conscription of women and as its members were planning to set fire to military records in the Jerusalem conscription office. Most members of the underground who were arrested were put on trial, and a few of them were sentenced to prison terms.
- Tzvi Tzemaret, Melting Pot in Israel

The most dramatic plan of the two ultra-Orthodox undergrounds involved a desperate effort to stop the passage of a b ill requiring all Israeli women to serve in the army... Brit Hakana'im commanders first considered throwing a bomb in the Knesset, but the idea was later rejected for the fear of many casualties and negative public reaction. Members of Hamachane, who independently debated the same plan, reached the same conclusion. Rather than rejecting the whole diea, they came up, however, with a better tactic, exploding a scare bomb in the Knesset. Their technicians assembled a small bomb capable of producing a large amount of fire, smoke, and noise... [But] Israel's security services already knew about their planned Knesset provocation. The house's session was stopped abruptly before the vote and a large number of Hamachane activists were rounded up and arrested... four activists were... brought to trial. Prime Minister Ben-Gurion, who concluded that the underground was nothing more than an immature act of disoriented Yeshiva students, instructed the state's prosecution to take a lenient attitude. The leaders of the group were sentenced from three to twelve months in prison. The circumstances that led to the formation of the first underground in Israel's history were described in court by young Mordechai Eliyahu, a key activist and Israel's future chief Sephardi rabbi.
- Ehud Sprinzak, Brother Against Brother

So let's review- while historians apparently cannot figure out which group of crazy theocratic nutjobs Eliyahu belonged to, they were definitely responsible for planting (or planning to plant) a fake bomb in the Knesset. Now, was that the worst thing they could do? No- after all, the smoke probably wasn't even carcinogenic. But I'd love someone to explain to me how planting fake bombs in Parliament buildings is anything BUT illegal.

1 comment:

sam said...

Just think—in a few hundred years, they might even have a holiday to commemorate this stupid non-event.