Thursday, February 25, 2010

Praying at Jewish Gravesites

I'm beginning to think Andrew deliberately stokes controversy with regards to his position on Israel, if only to increase traffic to his site. Interesting strategy for maintaining readership, at a time of declining liberal online output.

In any case, in his now routine, blind, deaf and dumb anti-Bibi rampage, he's published an uninformed comment by a reader on the value of praying at the burial sites of righteous Jews, known in Hebrew as tzadikim. For the second time in a day, I felt I had to respond.

In response to your reader on the value of Jewish burial sites...

Praying at gravesites of righteous Jews, tzadikim, is at the core of Judaism as a time honored tradition that stretches into Biblical antiquity. The very reason that Rachel was buried on the road, and not at the Cave of Mahpelah (Cave of the Patriarchs) in Hebron, is precisely so that she could weep over and comfort the exiles of Israel, as they passed by and prayed at her tomb. This isn't a matter of "enshrining", as your reader suggests, or of worshiping the deceased themselves, G-d forbid. Tombs of righteous Jews exist and draw the praying throughout Israel, Europe, the United States, even Iraq. Simply put, it is a Jewish tradition that the souls of deceased retain a spiritual connection to the physical site of their internment, making it a sanctified place appropriate for connecting with the divine. This is especially so for the souls of tzadikim, whose righteousness and merit we believe will allow our own prayers to ascend in a more direct way. You may find much more information on the subject here.
Then, of course, I felt I had to poke a hole or two in his indignation at Netanyahu's insistence on buttressing Israel's ownership and sovereignty over Jewish religious sites.

With respect to Netanyahu's announcement, I find it strange that no one has focused on the actual legal status of many of these historical religious sites, as stipulated in the Oslo Accords, the Interim Agreements (also known as Oslo 2 or Taba), the Wye River Memorandum, etc. You may be surprised to learn that Israel legally retains sovereignty in many of these sites - such as Rachel's Tomb, Joseph's Tomb, a portion of the Cave of the Patriarchs (the rest being administered by a Muslim waqf), etc. Was Netanyahu's announcement made to scuttle American efforts to bring the two sides together? Perhaps. Is Netanyahu acting within the framework of legal agreements to which all parties have consented? Possibly. Has Netanyahu calculated correctly that most Israeli and American Jews consider preserving Jewish heritage sites inviolable, especially at a time of growing Islamist and Western revisionism of Jewish history? Absolutely.

By fighting Netanyahu on a battlefield he purposefully chose, thereby alienating your many Jewish readers, you are playing right into his hands.

If I'm defending Netanyahu, then, indeed, he has. Of course, Andrew doesn't care about Netanyahu preserving Jewish religious sites, any more than he supports Palestinian nationalism. What's that? You heard me. If Sullivan cared about a Palestinian state, he would blog about a Palestinian state, or Palestinian affairs, and he doesn't. What so disturbs Sullivan, what has so transformed his perspective is the realization that Jerusalem will not submit to Obama's gracious tutelage and learn its pithy little place in big O's grand plan to remake the American Empire. If the Emperor demands you jump off a ten story building, then by golly you gnaw your left hand off if you have to, but you obey.


  1. Your last paragraph sums up exactly what I've been saying about Sullivan since he turned his considerable ire towards Netanyahu, Israel, and "neo-cons."

    All of Sullivan's opinions seem to be dictated by his object of worship at the time. During the run-up to Iraq, it was George W. Bush, and it remained so until the occupation started going south. Then he briefly latched on to Ron Paul, until it was clear that Paul wasn't a viable candidate. Now it's all about the great and wonderful Obamessiah, and woe unto those who do not accept him.

  2. Thanks Geoff. I also remember the same chest-pounding indignation lambasting the Iraq war opposition in 2003, back when he blogged on his own site. Sullivan is a cunning writer with flexible ideals. I'll never forget his shocking endorsement of Kerry in '04, which he purported to do to save the war in Iraq by making it a bi-partisan issue.

    I do think, in certain circles, he is a bellwether, which makes ignoring his commentary unwise. I don't believe he is an ideologue; history has proven him maleable, after all. Meaning, we gotta keep plugging away at him, nicely.

  3. Do you really think he's that important?


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