The decision to use an Employment Tribunal to defend an individual’s right to support the state of Israel was described by one legal epic as an “epic folly”. Epic or not, surely the greatest folly was the assumed expertise of Judge Anthony Snelson to rule that an attachment to Israel was “not intrinsically a part of Jewishness”.
Exposure to this week’s Torah reading might have enlightened the judge with its multiple references to Israel and the special mitzvot like the sabbatical year, which can only be performed in our Land. The message could not be clearer in declaring the centrality of Israel not only in Jewish history but also as a central pillar in our relationship with God.
The Ramban — in his glosses on Maimonides’s Sefer Hamitzvot — quotes a midrash from Behar stating that anyone leaving Israel for the diaspora is similar to an idolator. This is one of many texts adduced in his famous note which states that the mitzvah of living in Israel applies as fully today as at any other in Jewish history.
Meanwhile, the furore over the possible enlistment of yeshivah students into the Israeli army became more frenetic. Last week the Satmar Rebbe, Aaron Teitelbaum, declared the current crisis in Israel as “worse” than the Holocaust and invited Israeli yeshivah bachurim to avoid the draft and decamp to New York where they would be the guests of the Satmar community. Perhaps they could invite Judge Snelson along too.