Beware the Moderates: Hypocrites Are More Dangerous Than Extremists

Israel can either become mired in racist apocalyptic messianism, or once again be a humane and rational country with borders.

Three weeks before his assassination then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assaulted at the Wingate Institute by a man with clenched fists. The attacker was the rabbi of the Mount Scopus campus of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The attacker was staunchly defended by Hebrew University Prof. Aviezer Ravitzky, a religious Zionist who is considered to be a moderate, and who also fought to have him remain the campus rabbi after his conviction.

This story is of importance for our time, and it didn’t end here. Prior to Rabin’s assassination, Ravitzky claimed that a critical incident such as a change in the “Prayer for the Welfare of the State of Israel” – that is, deletion of the part of the prayer that asks God to protect the Israeli government – was made in a “moment of anger” by many important rabbis, and didn’t deserve more than a footnote.

Rabin was worried about the theological calls for his murder. But when he asked those considered moderates or experts, he was once again told that “a Jew will not murder a Jew.” This despite the fact that many prayed for his death, and thousands believed that he was not a Jew but rather a member of the “mixed multitude” – an Amalekite disguised as a Jew, whose murder was permitted. The denial, concealment and/or lies of the “moderates and the experts” helped to make the murder possible.

And as though no lesson was learned, such concealment is once again playing a dangerous role in current events. In the face of the apocalyptic messianic wave, which is sometimes thinly disguised as “the right to prayer on the Temple Mount” although its declared objective is messianic in the sense of Armageddon – those who call themselves moderates or experts are once again on the side of hiding the truth.

For example, Rabbi Dr. Benny Lau of the Israel Democracy Institute has decided now, of all times, to actively support prayer on the Temple Mount because it is the very root of our nationalist existence, and when that is questioned on the Mount it is questioned everywhere.

And Dr. Tomer Persico, who specializes in New Age religions and writes in this newspaper, is fighting the status quo and the “scandal of forbidding Jews to pray” in the plaza of the mosques on the Temple Mount, and compares support for prayer there to support for the right of the Women of the Wall to pray at the Kotel. He also claimed that we should object to the distancing of people like Yehuda Glick – the former director of the Temple Institute, whose goal is to replace the Dome of the Rock with the Third Temple and its sacrifices – from the Mount.

More important, the daily ultra-Orthodox newspaper Yated Neeman has called for a total prohibition based on halakha (traditional religious law) against Jews ascending to and praying at the Temple Mount, and Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef has clearly ruled that the Israeli government must not permit messianic Jews to go or pray there, because such acts are designed to provoke bloodshed.

At the same time it was the rabbis of the Tzohar organization, who are considered “moderates,” have defended realization of the “sacred right” to change the status quo on the Temple Mount and be able to pray there, as have rabbinical leaders headed by Dov Lior, rabbi of the Jewish underground; Rabbi Avi Gisser of the settlement of Ofra was also one of Rabbi Lior’s partners in their formative ascent to the Mount a few years ago.

There is no choice but to say this clearly: Anyone supporting Jewish prayer in the plaza of the mosques, where the great Temple once stood, is either one of the apocalyptic messianists, or an ignoramus, or a hypocrite – or all three. These prayer activists are Temple activists, whose goal is apocalyptic messianism. All are interested in a Temple that will replace the Dome of the Rock, and for that purpose they are willing to bypass accepted halakha. There is no Orthodox way to encourage the ascent to the Mount that is not apocalyptic messianism. Anyone who hides this fact and supports such people is a collaborator and will help bring about a religious war.

If there were an Islamic group seeking to replace the Western Wall with a mosque, distributing posters where the image of the Kotel was digitally deleted, and believing in apocalyptic scenarios that depend on the removal of the Wall – could anyone imagine allowing them “only to pray” there, when normative Islam prohibits it? Would anyone support their violent intentions in the name of a nave interpretation of the human rights discourse?

It was to such “moderates and experts” that Hasmonean King Alexander Yannai was referring when he warned that hypocrites are more dangerous than extremists.

The Netanyahu years must stress the fact that a line must be drawn: Israel can either become mired in racist apocalyptic messianism, or once again be a humane and rational country with borders. There is no third option. Anyone cooperating with the first option is proving himself disqualified to bear witness.