Once, a man threw a party and invited his friend Kamtza. The
messenger made a mistake and delivered the invitation to the man's enemy
Bar-Kamtza. When Bar-Kamtza showed up the host tried to convince him to
leave and Bar Kamtza tried to convince the host to let him stay; in the
end he was forcibly evicted. He said: "Since the leaders of the
community were present and didn't intervene, I'll get my revenge on the
whole community by inciting the emperor against them." And so he did;
thus was the destruction of the Temple and the loss of our sovereignty
the result of gratuitous hatred.
-Babylonian Talmud, Gitin 56a (abridged)
So who could have prevented our destruction? The messenger? The host? Bar Kamtza? The leaders? The emperor? All of the above?
years ago an Arab family, the Zabidats, applied for membership in
Rakefet, a middle class community of 170 families a few miles from
Shorashim. They were rejected and appealed to the Supreme Court, which
found in their favor, arguing that if a community does not have a
specific and clear religious or ideological character (i.e., Orthodox,
or vegetarian, etc.) it may not refuse someone the right to lease state
land for a homesite. General Jewishness is not an acceptable criterion
for violating the freedom of residence. This outcome left many residents
of Rakefet angry, and the story is not over, as the Zabidats are still
only in the planning stages for their new home.
On the day before this past Memorial Day (which is the day before
Independence Day), the Zabidats, who are both architects, came to make
measurements on their lot in Rakefet. They found a large Israeli flag
hanging on their next-door neighbor's fence facing their property.
During the weeks before Independence Day, flying the flag is a big part
of the national culture public buildings fly huge ones, many people
hang them around their houses, and kids at intersections sell little
flags that attach to your car. The Zabidats took it down, folded it
neatly, and took it to the Rakefet office, saying that they preferred
that people not hang flags on their property without their
permission. "We are good citizens," they said, "but we are not Zionists,
and choose not to fly the flag on Independence Day on our property."
The response was fast and furious. The residents of Rakefet were
quick to point out that this provocative act proves that they were right
to try to prevent the family from joining the community. The mayor of
Misgav county, which includes Rakefet, issued a statement: "Taking down
the flag is an unacceptable act. We can accept no explanation for
it. The flag of the state is the flag of all of us. This act constitutes
a moral and ethical lapse." On the other hand, the national newspaper
Ha'aretz carried an editorial on the incident, arguing that "Whoever
hung that flag in the Zabidats' yard was guilty of brazen trespassing
and of undermining freedom of speech. And the real moral and ethical
lapse was forcing a clear symbol of Jewish nationalism on the Zabidats..."
Was the flag hung as a provocation? Was taking it down a
provocation? Where is the boundary between moral lapse and political
stupidity? Is it not possible to decline to be provoked by provocations?
Is anybody around here interested in the common good?
And who will we say could have prevented our destruction the
Zabidats? The Supreme Court? The neighbors? The mayor? The leftist
press? Those of us who read the paper and turn the page? All of the