The Most Important Question for Israelis This Passover

What kind of state do we want to live in – one that reflects the spirit of Gadi Eisenkot and Yitzhak Rabin, or one embodying racist, messianic rabbis?

The scene of a stabbing attack at in Hebron in the West Bank on Thursday, March 24, 2016.
United Hatzalah

Last summer, the Israeli rescue service Magen David Adom placed a rabbinical committee above it to advise on “moral questions.” The rabbi selected to head the committee was Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, Safed’s chief rabbi who is widely known for his racist views.

From his lofty position as Israel’s “rescue rabbi,” Eliyahu immediately made clear that Magen David Adom personnel must not treat wounded “terrorists.” Even if army or other Magen David Adom personnel order them to do so, their obligation is to kill them or use nefarious means that lead to their death.

In the occupied territories, Magen David Adom’s work is done by an affiliate, Hatzalah Yehuda & Shomron. That organization didn’t wait until last summer to act, having already appointed its own leader.

The man in that position is one of the few people even more racist than Eliyahu: Rabbi Dov Lior, head of the Yesha rabbinical committee in the West Bank.

He’s the rabbi behind the book “The King’s Torah: Laws on the Killing of Non-Jews,” and the man who determined that the act of his disciple – Baruch Goldstein, the massacre-perpetrating doctor at the mosque at the Tomb of the Patriarchs – was “holier than all the martyrs of the Holocaust.”

The B’Tselem video showing the shooting of a dying Palestinian man in Hebron last month shows, among other things, what has happened to Magen David Adom. How the rescue personnel from Hatzalah Yehuda & Shomron not only refrained from providing treatment, but even shouted abuse at the wounded man. This is how we discover the deeper reason for Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot’s struggle to keep rabbis from exerting any moral influence on the army.

Events after the video footage was circulated also shed light on the use of the word “security” in Israel. A few hours had elapsed – in which the IDF conducted its investigation, and the soldier, Elor Azaria, was wrapped in layers of lawyers and PR people – and Azaria’s version of events changed: He didn’t do what Lior and Eliyahu have ordained as obvious, likewise the “rescue” services in Hebron and their friends in La Familia (the Beitar Jerusalem supporters who have learned from the rabbis that only a Jew has a soul and, therefore, a wounded terrorist – in the words of the shooter – “must die”). Rather, he shot because he feared that the dying man was wearing an explosive belt.

The military logic was immediately trampled underfoot.

In thousands of prior suicide terror attacks worldwide, no person wearing a suicide belt ever tried to first stab someone at point-blank range, and only then to blow himself up. Never before did an assailant wait to be shot and only then try and blow himself up. This lack of logic permits and commands one, in the messianic teachings of Rabbi Lior, to shoot any Arab – “to rise up and to kill him.”

But this lack of reasoning didn’t hinder the promoting of the idea to the wider public – constantly incited and frightened by the prime minister and his staff – that shooting a dying man in the head was for the sake of security.

To the cognoscenti that “understands,” the moral ruling regarding the killing of Arabs was explained. For those who were more distant, the security lie was invented.

So, the B’Tselem video and what came afterward confirmed a fundamental truth; a truth that is the key. While the reason for what is going on in the territories – far beyond just a single fired shot – is the desire for a “Jewish moral” regime in Israel in the spirit of the “rescue rabbis” Lior and Eliyahu, the general public is sold the security lie and fear, which have no connection to the real reason.

That is what the real debate and struggle should be about. Not scaring people about “Arabs” – as the existential military threats that have existed against Israel since its independence crumble one after the other – but the question of what kind of Israel we want to live in. That of Eisenkot and Yitzhak Rabin? Or a racist and messianic like that of Rabbis Lior and Eliyahu? On this Passover, there is no question more important.