I have been part of an exciting project in recent months the launching of an internet newspaper for the Galilee in Hebrew and in Arabic, to try to bring together the disparate and often segregated communities of the region by providing a platform for conveying news and information and conducting civil public discourse. www.dugrinet.co.il went on line with a beta version a few weeks ago (dugri is Hebrew and Arabic for "straight talk"). Unfortunately, the events of Yom Kippur in Acco have provided the site with an opportunity to test itself in serving its constituent communities, and the editorial staff (all volunteers at this point) have been working around the clock. Below is a translation of an opinion piece that I wrote for the site. Note: "rabbis" refers to the Orthodox rabbinical establishment.
Is such the fast I desire, a day for men to starve their bodies? Is it bowing the head like a bulrush and lying in sackcloth and ashes? Do you call that a fast, a day when the Lord is favorable? No, this is the fast I desire: to unlock fetters of wickedness, and untie the cords of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free; to break off every yoke. -Isaiah 58:5-6
As a simple Jew, I have a simple question regarding the events in Acco on Yom Kippur of this year. Let's assume that Tawfik Jamal indeed drove into a Jewish neighborhood on Yom Kippur as a deliberate and premeditated provocation (which is by no means certain, but let's assume). What is certain is that in the course of his journey Jews attacked him and his car, and continued to riot for several days, throwing rocks and bottles at Arabs and at the police, torching homes. As a simple Jew I would like someone to explain to me where in our sources it is written that it is appropriate or even permitted to riot on Yom Kippur, and to employ violence against a non-Jew who drives his car on our holiday. Intuitively, as a simple Jew, it seems to me that this behavior is a violation of the halachah, and of the spirit of Yom Kippur, and of the principle of "darchei shalom" (getting along with non-Jewish neighbors). Therefore, I would really like to see an authoritative explanation by a rabbi, which would help me understand how the behavior of the Jews of Acco was justified.
Moreover, I have to say that in general, the silence of the rabbis in recent days is thunderous and grating. We are talking about a massive profanation of the holiest day of the year by a large number of Jews a profanation that led to days of violence and vandalism, that ripped the fabric of communal life of the town of Acco, and that caused danger and destruction to innocent people. From what I have learned, a Jew who makes a mockery of Jewish values in public, who brings shame to the Jewish community is considered to be profaning the Name of God chillul Hashem.
It seems reasonable to assume that if the rabbis on the local level or the national leadership had spoken out in condemnation of the Jews' behavior, they could have contributed to calming the waters and preventing future outbursts. Since they have not done so, it is hard to explain their silence other than as tacit support of the behavior of the rioters. And if the behavior of the rioters is a hillul Hashem how much the more so is the silence of the rabbis.
As a simple Jew, it pains me to ask: could it be that on Yom Kippur, in the renewed Jewish state, Judaism has filed for moral bankruptcy?