With the approach of Passover, the rabbis once again gathered in Bnei Brak, the city of Rabbi Akiva, and this time the president of Israel was their guest. The visit has ended, but the echoes of its shofar blasts can still be heard.
There were no praises that the president failed to sing about his hosts; it was not merely the Torah he praised but also the way of life and the values of his hosts. Shimon Peres' trumpeting for the holy community blasted us, to say nothing of a stab in the back.
"The people who sit here really study Torah for its own sake," the president said, surpassing himself. "And I am very proud that the state and the army have agreed to release them to devote their lives to this study."
These words have greater validity when they come from the authorized heir of David Ben-Gurion. When the first prime minister decided to exempt the yeshiva students from military service, he took into account 400 of them. Since then they have been fruitful and multiplied into hundreds of thousands. This is not merely a source of regret for generations to come, it is already a source of regret for this generation.
Would Ben-Gurion have made the same decision had he known that it would begin in sorrow and end up as a terrible mistake? It is possible he would have backtracked and found a different solution.
Peres is not backtracking; on the contrary, he is proud, he gives strength and gains strength in faith. The rabbis and their pupils were beside themselves with excitement. Behold, Zionism had approached their dwelling place, bowed its head, and shown everything they have to offer to the empty-headed secular people - "Here people really study the Torah for its own sake" and so forth.
If that is what the president has to say to them, may it be so! Has Peres forgotten before whom he is standing, whom he is thanking and to whom he is pouring out his heart?
These are the people who bury a child from Ofakim in the area of the cemetery reserved for the excommunicated. These are the people who place more importance on graves than on human beings in the construction of an Ashkelon hospital. These are the people who humiliate black people and "others." These are the people who turn away Mizrahi students from the schools they control. These are the people who make life so difficult for those who try to convert. These are the people who persecute homosexuals. These are the people who separate women from men in every place, even on buses named desire.
That is the Torah for its own sake that they teach and study in the holy community of Bnei Brak - study which is not accompanied a livelihood.
And all of a sudden, they themselves hear such total praise - if only more people were like them: homophobic, xenophobic, chauvinistic, nationalistic and anti-Zionist all together.
It was only a few years ago that Peres was incensed by them. When he used to wander, Samson-like, between the Labor Party's club at Tzura and the party's office at Eshtaol on Shabbat, he would preach against the ultra-Orthodox for delaying the coming of the messiah - it was only because of them that there was no peace for us and the entire people of Israel.
However, recently they at last supported his candidacy for the presidency, the wrinkles were ironed out, and redemption came to Zion. For Peres, nothing is personal.
That is what happens when a person has the privilege of being crowned a man of vision, the Hazon Ish: He finds in the Ponevezh yeshiva yet another place to proclaim his vision.
Peres himself is starting to believe that any crumb that falls from his mouth turns into holy bread, that anyone who is thirsty will come to drink from his water which runeth deep and also sprays up high like a fountain.
Come down to us, visionary; come to us here below, Shimon, and take us into account too.
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