By: HaRav Menashe Sasson
Reporting from Jerusalem, Israel
Published in the U.S.A.
Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel, recently announced that it would be closed on the Jewish holiday of Tisha B’Av. Translated from Hebrew into English, “Tisha B’Av” means, simply, the “9th day of [the Jewish month of] Av.”
Hebrew University professor Amiram Goldblum reportedly opposed the closure, writing: “Unbelievable – a shameful submission to the religious and to the Jewish religion in the State of Israel. Sickening.” and
Arutz Sheva (August 1, 2022).
Tisha B’Av, a day on which religious Jews mourn, fast, and recite special prayers, commemorates the destruction in Jerusalem of the First Temple, by the Babylonians (423 BCE), and Second Temple, by the Romans (69 CE), as well as many other tragedies which have befallen the Jewish history on, “coincidentally,” the 9th day of Av., including, for example:
The common theme which runs through all of these tragedies is the loss or dimunition of Jewish sovereignty. Jewish sovereignty was lost with the destruction of the First and Second Temples, the potential for Jewish sovereignty was lost or diminished when (1) the “spies,” through their negative report, attempted to dissuade the Israelites from invading Eretz Yisra’el; (2) the Romans defeated Bar Kokhba, in the Battle of Betar and, one year later, plowed over the Temple Mount; (3) the Jewish populations of England and Spain were expelled from those countries; and (4) Jewish emigration from Europe was prohibited, which resulted in six million Jews were exterminated during the Holocaust.
Thus, we see that the theme of Tisha B’Av is Jewish sovereignty or, more accurately, mourning the loss of, or potential for, Jewish sovereignty.
The modern-day State of Israel (“Medinat Yisra’el”), notwithstanding the State’s self-proclaimed assertion to the contrary, is not a “Jewish State.” If it were, Medinat Yisra’el would be governed exclusively by Jews, for the sole benefit of Jews (which it currently is not), and by Torah law (which it also currently is not), rather than by the potpourri of laws which the State has adopted from a variety of foreign, non-Jewish, sources.
However, although Medinat Yisra’el is not a Jewish State, it has taken some steps in the right direction, one of which is to declare Jewish holy days – including Tisha B’Av – to be national holidays.
Professor Goldblum reportedly lamented that he doesn’t “recall [Hebrew] university ever closing for Muslim or Christian festivals." That, however, is how it should be. Although Medinat Yisra’el is not a “Jewish State,” it is a “state for Jews.”
Medinat Yisra’el was founded, out of the ashes of the Holocaust, as a state for Jews, a country to which Jews from anywhere in the world could immigrate and live without the fear of the government exterminating or expelling them. Although Medinat Yisra’el is not a “Jewish State,” it has, with the ever-present help of HaShem, so far managed to be a “state for Jews.”
That Medinat Yisra’el is a “state for Jews,” begs the question, “Who is a Jew?”
The answer to this question is, of course, that a “Jew” is a person who, in accordance with Jewish religious law – Halakha – is Jewish. Halakha, in turn, defines a “Jew” as a person who either: (1) was born to a mother who, in accordance with Halakha, is Jewish, or (2) converted to Judaism in accordance with the requirements of Halakha.
This definition then leads to the next question: “From what source does “Halakha” derive its validity, it authority?” The answer to this question, of course, is the Torah, as interpreted by Jewish Sages and Poskim [פוסקים], Jewish legal scholars who decide issues of Halakha.
Being “Jewish” is inexorably connected with the Torah. Contrary to what Professor Goldblum might believe, without Torah, there can be no Jews, no Jewish people, and, by extension, no Jewish State.
A brief review of Hebrew University history might help to put matters into perspective. Twenty years ago, on July 31, 2002, an Arab terrorist detonated a bomb in the cafeteria of Hebrew University’s Mount Scopus campus. Nine people were killed, including 5 American students; about 100 people were injured.
What people like Professor Goldblum refuse to accept is that the Arabs who live in Eretz Yisra’el sincerely, albeit erroneously, believe that Eretz Yisra’el belongs to them, not to the Jewish people. No amount of Jewish attempts to integrate Arabs into Jewish society will change this fundamental fact.
What is “shameful” is not that Hebrew University is closed on Jewish religious days, but rather, that Jews such as Professor Goldblum still don’t understand and accept that unless, and until, Medinat Yisra’el becomes a Jewish State, a state which is governed exclusively by Jews, for the sole benefit of Jews, rather than a state for Jews that “bends over backwards” in an attempt to integrate Gentiles who seek its destruction, the purpose of Medinat Yisra’el – a state where Jews can live securely and in peace – will never be a reality.
Although Medinat Yisra’el is not yet a Jewish State, HaShem has decreed that, one day (in the not-too-distant future), it will be a Jewish State. Currently, however, Medinat Yisra’el is simply a “state for Jews.” In other words, the Medinat is a work-in-progress. Nevertheless, there is no impropriety whatsoever in Hebrew University, or any other entity which is funded by tax revenues, being closed on Jewish religious days and open on the religious days of foreign cultures.
So, rather than just mourning the loss of the Beit HaMikdash (Temple in Jerusalem), all Jews who live outside of Eretz Yisra’el [חוץ לארץ] should seriously consider performing the timeless misva of Yishuv Eretz Yisra’el [ישוב ארץ ישראל], that is, making Aliyah (immigrating to, and living in, Eretz Yisra’el). By increasing, through Aliyah (and natural growth), the number of Jewish citizens of the Medinat, it will be possible for Jews to defeat at the ballot box those who share the misguided ideas espoused by Professor Goldblum and thereby restore Jewish sovereignty by converting the Medinat from a "state for Jews" to a true "Jewish State."
Am Yisrael chai
עם ישראל חי
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Menashe Sasson is a Sephardic rabbi and American attorney who resides in Jerusalem, Israel.