Fearing Split, Bnei Akiva Refrains From Ousting Controversial Leader

American and British branches of the international Zionist youth movement had demanded ouster of Rabbi Noam Perel, who called for revenge after West Bank teen's killings.

Judy Maltz
Judy Maltz
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Rabbi Noam Perel, secretary-general of World Bnei Akiva.
Rabbi Noam Perel, secretary-general of World Bnei Akiva.Credit: From Youtube channel - Doron Erez
Judy Maltz
Judy Maltz

In a surprise move, the leaders of World Bnei Akiva refrained Friday from voting on a motion to replace the secretary-general of the religious-Zionist movement over remarks he made urging violent revenge on Palestinians for the murder of three Jewish teenagers.

Although the American and British branches of the international Zionist youth movement had demanded the ouster of Rabbi Noam Perel, its governing body decided not to hold the vote because most of the other branches of the movement were satisfied with the apology he delivered earlier this week.

In a statement, World Bnei Akiva sufficed with the following reference to Perel: “The Mazkirut Murchevet [extended secretariat] received reports from representatives of snifim [branches] from around the world, and has been apprised of the substantial damage caused to snifim [around the world by Rav Noam Perel’s statement, despite his apology.”

It also said that “The Mazkirut Murchevet wishes to emphasize our love for humanity and our deep aversion to extremist actions that are antithetical to Judaism such as ‘price tagging’ and acts of revenge.”

Shortly after the bodies of the three teenage boys were discovered, Perel posted on his Facebook page: “An entire nation and thousands of years of history demand revenge.” He urged the “army of avengers” not to stop at “300 Philistine foreskins,” alluding to the biblical tale of David, who killed 200 Philistines and gave their foreskins to King Saul as the bride price for his daughter.

Expressing his deep apologies and describing his Facebook post as “misleading and irresponsible,” Perel said in a statement published a week later: “The call for the Israeli government to look after the lives of our children must not be confused in any way with any suggestion of revenge, words which should not be used by any person, and certainly not educators and leaders. I cannot express to you how badly this error has caused me to feel, and especially its unintended consequences.”

Daniel Goldman- the co-chair of World Bnei Akiva told Haaretz today: “The consensus was that since the vast majority of the countries where Bnei Akiva operates were quite happy with the apology, no vote was needed. We didn’t want to create a split in the movement.”

Goldman added, however, that the movement’s decision to refrain from a vote on ousting Perel did not represent his own personal view. “My opinion was that he should resign,” he said.

The British branch of Bnei Akiva threatened earlier this week to withdraw from the movement should Perel be allowed to remain in office. Goldman said he was “pretty confident” that it would not take such a drastic measure.

In its statement, World Bnei Akiva also urged the movement’s professional leadership “to establish a forum of representatives from around the world to advise on appropriate responses and next steps to address present challenges and to spread our message of love of humanity.

The Mazkirut Murchevet calls upon the professional leadership to establish an educational team to produce educational materials that accord with these values and that enable encounters between Bnei Akiva participants and wider Israeli society.”

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