Last Shabbat was Shabbat Zachor, the Shabbat before the commemoration of Purim. On this Shabbat Jews are enjoined to remember Amalek and to blot out his name. In the Bible, Amalek falls upon the camp of the Israelites, attacking those at the rear of the camp who are exposed and incapable of defending themselves. In Jewish lore, Amalek is the personification of evil, a satanic force, the enemy of Israel. In the twentieth century, Amalek stands in for Nazis.
This year, Shabbat Zachor fell a week after the pogrom by some four hundred religious settlers in the village of Hawara after Palestinian terrorists murdered two young Israeli settlers, brothers, in the road that runs through the commercial center of the village. The act of settler violence was followed a few days later by words from Bezalel Smotrich from the Religious Zionism party. From the settlement of Kedumim in the occupied West Bank, Smotrich is an extremist religious nationalist, a radical and a racist who wants one day to impose religious law on the State of Israel. He is the country’s minister of finance and a minister in the Defense Ministry responsible for civilian affairs in the occupied territories. He was recorded at a public forum, not off the record and not off the cuff, saying that the army should “erase” the village.
Declaring war with at least half and maybe more than half the country, run by vicious, spiteful people and indicted criminals, this religious-national government in Israel has lost the liberal mainstream of the American Jewish community.
From the bimah of Anschei Chesed in New York, Rabbi Jeremy Kalmanofsky condemned in clear and sharpest terms the desecration of the name of God in Hawara, condemned this desecration of Judaism and Jewish tradition, condemned the anti-democratic powers behind judicial regime change in Israel, condemned the government of religious zealots engineered by Benjamin Netanyahu. As a progressive Zionist, Kalmanofsky recalled the passage in Exodus 17:16 when Moses declares war with Amalek throughout the ages. In the Hebrew, the “throne” and “name of God” both appear in truncated form, as if marred. The pogrom in Hawara by religious nationalists and the forces behind them represent the spirit of Amalek.
Thank you for writing about Rabbi Kalmanovsky’s denunciation of the Israeli government and the pogrom in Huwara. I haven’t heard anything like it from the bima of my shul in supposedly liberal (if not radical) Ithaca.
By the way, it was Shabbat Zachor, not Shabbat Shuvah, which is between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur