This is a statement, made by members of Torat Chayim, an international group of Orthodox Rabbis, as signed below.
We have watched events in Israel in recent days with profound sadness and heartbreak. On February 26, Hallel Menachem Yaniv and his brother Yigal Yaakov Yaniv were shot and killed by two terrorists as they drove through the town of Huwara. We condemn this cruel act of terrorism which occurred during a wave of Palestinian violence in which 14 Israeli civilians were murdered in the last weeks. We appeal to our Palestinian neighbors to stop these horrific actions which are not only evil but set back the cause of Palestinian self-government which ostensibly is the reason for terrorism. Every such crime convinces more Israelis - the very people who must agree to Palestinian self-rule - that such a state would not live in peace with Israel but would seek to make life unlivable in the Jewish state. On the night of February 26, hundreds of Israeli Jews living on the West Bank descended on Huwara and nearby Arab villages and burned cars, set fire to homes, and attacked people. Clearly their goal was revenge and a form of collective punishment that would terrorize the Palestinians. General Yehuda Fuchs, head of the IDF Control Command, described the rampage as a ‘pogrom’ designed to spread terror among the Huwara population. He confirmed that the IDF was unprepared for the size and scope of the attack, and therefore failed in its task of preventing terror. We condemn the barbaric attack on Huwara. Neither seeking revenge nor anger at murder nor loss of self-control justifies those Jews who acted reprehensibly. They violently trampled the ethical values that have guided Israel’s response for 74 years in its fight against those who seek to destroy the Jewish state.
Adding to our anguish, important Ministers and MK’s in the present Israeli government expressed sympathy for the vigilante actions. Minister of Treasury Bezalel Smotrich said that “Huwara needs to be wiped out” but the State of Israel should do this, not private citizens. This comment is even more ethically shocking because Minister Smotrich presents himself as a religious, observant Jew. He knows that the Torah prohibits acts of revenge. He knows that he is proposing a war crime. While he has tried to modify his meaning and soften his words, he has not had the decency to denounce the evil actions themselves.
His remarks are a classic case of supporting evil and causing a chillul Hashem - desecration of God’s name. The Talmud describes chillul hashem as an unforgivable sin - because the action is so repellent that people will say I want no part of a God who, or a Torah which, inspires such behavior. We are saddened that Prime Minister Netanyahu is so constrained by his present governing coalition that he could not repudiate such behaviors and comments directly but only
called on people not to take the law into their own hands. Only now has he called the remark "inappropriate"; - an inadequate response to malevolent words.
Finally, we turn to the Orthodox Union, a leading organization in the American modern Orthodox community. We express our deep disappointment that it announced that it would meet with Minister Smotrich - notwithstanding that many other Jewish organizations declined to do so. The O.U. itself condemned the vigilante actions which Smotrich ‘liked’ and publicly suggested that the government of Israel should act in like fashion. Normally we agree that we should show our respect for the State of Israel by meeting with its representatives even when we disagree with the policies they support. However, Smotrich’s comments were so lawless, repugnant and morally irresponsible that Orthodox organizations especially should dissociate themselves from him. By failing to dissociate, we become guilty of the sin of bystanding and of associating with wickedness.
We call on all our fellow Orthodox Jews to speak up against those who act in unworthy fashion to turn the Torah from a life-giving medicine to a death-dealing potion [Yoma 72B].
Our love for Israel and commitment to its right to live and flourish make it all the more painful to issue this statement which conceivably can be used, out of context, to attack the Jewish state. We speak out, nevertheless, to protect Israel's good name, out of honoring its 74 year record of maximum moral use of its power and to strengthen the hands of those leaders, especially in the IDF, who have made clear that they will fight any attempt to politicize or undermine the IDF's steadfast commitment to "purity of arms"; and just treatment of all populations under its control. Rabbi Dr. Yitz Greenberg Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz Rabbi David Rosen Rabbi Daniel Landes Rabbi Dina Najman Rabbi Dr. Elie Holzer Rabba Dr. Lindsey Taylor-Guthartz Rabbi Dr. Mel Gottlieb Rabbi Isaac Sassoon Rabbi Asher Lopatin Rabbi Yehoshua Engelman Rabba Dr. Carmella Abraham Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller Rabbi Marianne Novak Rabbi Zach Truboff Rabbi Dr. Mira Neshama Weil Rabbi David Jaffe Rabbi Dr. Eliezer Finkelman Rabbi Gabriel Kretzmer Seed Rabbi Shayna Abramson Rabbi Hayim Leiter Rabbi Avraham Bronstein Rabbi Tyson Herberger Rabbanit Tali Schaum Broder Rabbi Dr. Michael Chernick Rabbi Avidan Freedman Rabbi Shalom Schlagman, MD Rabbi Ariel Goldberg Rabbi David Kalb Rabbi Avi Orlow Rabbi Dr. Jeremiah Unterman Rabbi Steve Greenberg Rabbi David Fain Rabbi Ben Greenfield Rabbi Frederick Klein Rabbi Barry Dolinger Rabba Amalia Haas Rabbi David Kasher Rabbi David Bauman Rabbi Shimon Brand Rabbi David Glicksman Rabbi Loren Berman Noam Zion Rabbi Daniel Vaisrub Rabbi Avram Mlotek Rabba Aliza Libman Baronofsky Rabbi Eitan Gavson Rabbi Yitzhak Ajzner Rabbi Daniel Silverstein Rabbi Shamir Caplan Rabbi Leah Shakdiel Rabbi Alana Suskin Rabbi Wendy Zierler Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo Rabbi Avram H. Herzog Rabbi Jair Melchior Rabbi Ari Hart Rabbi Max Davis Emily Goldberg Winer Rabba Claudia Marbach Rabbi Daniel Geretz Rabbi Hody Nemes