A protestant priest in Berlin decrees that a Christian who employs a Jew will be banished from his parish.
Impossible? Indeed. Except in Israel -- in reverse, of course.
The rabbi of Safed, a government employee, has decreed that it is strictly forbidden to let apartments to Arabs -- including the Arab students at the local medical school. Twenty other town rabbis -- whose salaries are paid by the taxpayers, mostly secular, including Arab citizens -- have publicly supported this edict.
A group of Israeli intellectuals lodged a complaint with the Attorney General, arguing that this is a case of criminal incitement. The Attorney General promised to investigate the matter with all due haste. That was half a year ago. "Due haste" has not yet produced a decision.
The same goes for another group of rabbis, who prohibited employing Goyim.
(In ancient Hebrew, "Goy" just meant a people, any people. In the Bible, the Israelites were called a "holy Goy." But in the last centuries, the term has come to mean non-Jews, with a decidedly derogatory undertone.)
THIS WEEK, Israel was in uproar. The turmoil was caused by the arrest of Rabbi Dov Lior.
The affair goes back to a book released more than a year ago by Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira. Shapira is, perhaps, the most extreme inhabitant of Yitzhar, which is perhaps the most extreme settlement in the West Bank. Its members are frequently accused of carrying out pogroms in the nearby Palestinian villages, generally in "retaliation" for army actions against structures that have been built without official consent.
The book, called Torat ha-Melekh ("the Teaching of the King") deals with the killing of Goyim. It says that in peacetime, Goyim should generally not be killed -- not because of the commandment "Thou shalt not kill" which, according to the book, applies to Jews only, but because of God's command after the Deluge (Genesis 9:6): "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed, for in the image of God made he man." This applies to all Goyim who fulfill some basic commandments.
However, the situation is totally different in wartime. And according to the rabbis, Israel has been at war since its foundation, and probably will be forever more.
In war, in every place where the presence of a Goy endangers a Jew, it is permitted to kill him, even though he be a righteous goy who bears no responsibility for the situation. It is permitted -- indeed, recommended -- to kill not only enemy fighters, but also those who "support" or "encourage" them. It is permitted to kill enemy civilians if this is helpful for the conduct of the war.
(Intentionally or not, this is reflected in the tactics employed by our army in the "Cast Lead" operation: to protect the life of a single Israeli soldier, it is permissible to kill as many Palestinians as necessary. The result: some 1,300 dead Palestinians, half of them non-combatants, as against five soldiers killed by hostile action. Six more were killed by "friendly fire.")
What really set off a storm was a passage in the book that says that it is permitted to kill children, when it is clear that once they grow up, they can be "harmful."
It is customary for a book by a rabbi interpreting Jewish law to bear the endorsement -- called haskama ("agreement") -- of other prominent rabbis. This particular masterpiece bore the "haskama" of four prominent rabbis. One of them is Dov Lior.
RABBI LIOR (the name can be translated as "I have the light" or "the light has been given to me") stands out as one of the most extreme rabbis in the West Bank settlements -- no mean achievement in a territory that is abundantly stocked with extreme rabbis, most of whom would be called fascist in any other country. He is the rabbi of Kiryat Arba, the settlement on the fringes of Hebron that cultivates the teachings of Meir Kahane and that produced the mass-murderer Baruch Goldstein.
Lior is also the chief of a Hesder yeshiva, a religious school affiliated with the army, whose pupils combine their studies (purely religious) with privileged army service.