As criticism mounted this week against a top Israeli rabbi for comments which seemed to blame Holocaust victims for their own murders, the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party spiritual leader found support in an unexpected quarter.
American Rabbi Ronald Price, the head of a moderate Jewish group, told The Jewish Week that Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s volatile words have been badly misunderstood, and unnecessarily prompted a firestorm of negative reaction from Israeli officials, American Jewish organizations and Holocaust memorial representatives.
James Besser |
Whether this week’s dramatic Camp David summit between Israel and the Palestinians succeeds or ends in rancorous failure, the results could be difficult for American Jews to swallow.
But Jewish leaders here say Prime Minister Ehud Barak and his government have done little to prepare the community for the emotional jolts if Israel makes the expected deep concessions on bedrock issues such as Jerusalem and borders.
A spate of vandalism against Reform and Conservative Judaism in Israel has non-Orthodox leaders worried about a new, intensified level of physical violence against them by Orthodox opponents.
The concern by both American and Israeli leaders is being expressed following a window-breaking attack last week against the Reform movement’s Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem — the second attack at HUC in less than a month.
Two weeks ago, vandals torched a Conservative synagogue in Jerusalem’s Ramot neighborhood.
In a stepped-up response to the 13 Iranian Jews charged with spying for Israel — 10 of whom were convicted last week — the organized Jewish community is planning its first rally at noon Monday to protest the charges. Until now, it has restricted its public events to prayer vigils.
The Jewish National Fund exercised damage control this week to head off repercussions from an Israeli newspaper’s charges that saplings planted by tourists at a JNF planting site in Jerusalem had been uprooted by staff to make room for other saplings planted by another group of tourists.
The organization’s parent body, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (KKL), immediately appointed a committee, which verified the charges that appeared in the June 29 Maariv daily. Three staff members at the site and their boss then were promptly suspended.
The deep divisions between Israel and the Palestinian Authority surfaced this week when Secretary of State Madeleine Albright met with both sides to assess whether the time was ripe for a summit meeting that would lead to a final peace accord. The Palestinians said no, the Israelis said yes.
Albright said it would now be up to President Bill Clinton to weigh the prospects for success and decide whether to call a summit, which might be held before the end of July.