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Troubling Israeli Religious Fundamentalism

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He helped create the settler movement. His son, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, founded the extremist Gush Emunim. Its slogan is "The Land of Israel, for the people of Israel, according to the Torah of Israel."

Its adherents believe God created the world for Jews. Others are lesser beings. Greater Israel belongs to Jews alone. Holy wars are proper ways to gain it.

Kook was Israel's first chief rabbi. In 1924, he founded Mercaz HaRav (the Rabbi's center). It's one of Israel's largest yeshivas (Talmudic colleges).

It believes "non-Jews living under Jewish law in Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel) must either be enslaved as water carriers and wood hewers, or banished, or exterminated."

Kook's modern adherents teach these ideas. Jews are genetically superior, they believe. Gentiles are completely evil. God's 10 commandments don't apply to non-Jews. Killing them to defend Israel is acceptable.

Jewish Rabbinic Council Rabbi Dov Lior said:

"There is no such thing as enemy civilians in war time. The law of our Torah is to have mercy on our soldiers and to save them".A thousand non-Jewish lives are not worth a Jew's fingernail."

Rabbi David Barsri called Arabs "a blight, a devil, a disaster - donkeys, and we have to ask ourselves why God didn't create them to walk on all fours. Well, the answer is that they are needed to build and clean."

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In 2007, Israel's former chief Sephardi Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu called for mass-murdering Palestinians, saying:

"If they don't stop after we kill 100, then we must kill 1,000. And if they don't stop after 1,000, then we must kill 10,000. If they still don't stop we must kill 100,000. Even a million. Whatever it takes to make them stop."

In March 2009, Safed's chief rabbi/Chief Rabbinate Council member Shmuel Eliyahu called for "state-sponsored revenge" to restore "Israel's deterrence."

"It's time to call the child by its name: Revenge, revenge, revenge. We mustn't forget. We have to take horrible revenge for the terrorist attack at Mercaz Harav yeshiva."

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He referred to an earlier incident. Eight students died. These views aren't exceptions. Minority Haredim make things hard for others. Representing about 8% of Israeli Jews, their influence greatly outweighs their numbers.

Eliyahu said he wasn't "talking about individual people in particular. I'm talking about the state. (It) has to pain them where they scream 'Enough,' to the point where they fall flat on their face and scream 'help.' "

Ethnicity in Israel defines religious segments. Sephardic Jews originated from the Middle East, North Africa and Spain. Ashkenazi ones are from Eastern Europe. They differ in religious and cultural traditions. 

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I was born in 1934, am a retired, progressive small businessman concerned about all the major national and world issues, committed to speak out and write about them.

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