Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel and Rav Berland call on Israel to protect civilians in Syria
Following the awful carnage occurring in Syria, where according to news reports between 50-150 people were killed in a gas attack in the Syrian town of Douma, with a further 500 reported as suffering from serious breathing difficulties, the Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rav Yitzhak Yosef, shlita, called on the Israeli government to intervene in Syria to stop the terrible suffering and slaughter of Syrian civilians.
Rav Yosef said:
“An awful, cruel slaughter is occurring in Syria, where women and even children are being murdered with weapons of mass destruction. As Jews who went through the Holocaust, as Jews whose Torah is the light unto the nations, we have a moral obligation to try to prevent the slaughter.
“This is no less of a moral obligation than the moral obligation we have to destroy the nuclear reactor in Syria.”
Few orthodox rabbis have spoken out about Syria
Until recently, very few of our nation’s leading rabbis have publicly spoken out about the civil war in Syria, a country which directly borders Israel, so the words of the Chief Rabbi may seem a little surprising to some. Yet for anyone who attended Rav Berland’s landmark event at the Winter Stadium on July 2, 2012, Rav Yitzhak’s words probably sound quite familiar.
On that evening, shortly before the persecution of the Rav by the Israel government began in earnest, Rav Berland had the following to say about the nascent civil war in Syria, and the correct Jewish response to it:
[Press ‘play’ to watch the video of that evening with English subtitles]
We need to help Arabs
“The Talmud teaches us that we need to do acts of kindness to Arabs, it does not matter what kind of Arab it is! Other than a terrorist we need to help and assist every single Arab in every way possible; with money, with encouragement, in every way possible, even to split the sea for him!
“All the more so when we see the horrible massacre that is happening two hours from here [in Syria], right under our noses! And the entire world is silent! Kofi Annan says we’ll take Ahmadinejad to make peace! He will stop the terrible massacre!
“This past Thursday 170 children were killed, two days ago 107 children, every day they are slaughtering right under our noses, and Kofi Annan says, “We’ll take Ahmadinejad”! He will make peace! He who creates all the weapons of mass destruction! He will make peace! What have we come to?! What kind of merciless world have we come to?!
“The Nations of the world are silent. And we the Israelite Nation, the Nation of Justice, Nation of Conscience, Nation of Fairness…. The Israelite Nation is the conscience of the entire world!
“The entire world lifts up their eyes to the Israelite Nation, the entire world believes in the Israelite Nation, the entire world knows that the Israelite Nation will bring the redemption, only the Israelite Nation will bring the Messiah!”
Rav Berland demands immediate intervention in Syria – 6 years ago!
“And now at this peace rally we need to come out with a strong objection to the entire world and demand immediate intervention in Syria, to stop the horrible massacre, to stop the terrible slaughtering by the Shabiha cult and the entire military, and to stand at the side of these unfortunate forlorn people.
Iit does not matter if they are Ishmaelite’s and it does not matter if afterwards terrorists will rise up from there, our first priority is to save the unfortunate children, the infants, the women, this is the first mission that the Nation of Israel must place before themselves.”
The Rav makes more enemies in high places
The Rav’s call for Israeli action to avoid Syrian genocide was widely reported in the Israeli print and TV media at the time, including THIS article on Ha’aretz that was entitled:
“Yeshiva Head Calls for Intervention in Syria to ‘Save Ishmaelites’
Rabbi Eliezer Berland, founder of Shuvu Banim yeshiva in Jerusalem’s Muslim Quarter, calls for solidarity with Syria’s children, ‘even if some grow up to be terrorists.'”
The article in Ha’aretz continued:
“A leading rabbi in the Breslav Hassidic community has publicly called on the Israeli government to intervene in Syria, or at least demand that other countries intervene, to prevent the slaughter of children, “even if some of them will grow up to be terrorists.”
“Rabbi Eliezer Berland, who heads the Shuvu Banim yeshiva for newly observant Jews, made this call at a revival gathering held last Thursday at the Ramat Gan Stadium that attracted between 6,000-7,000 people, who paid between NIS 100 and NIS 500 per ticket.
“Men and women were seated separately, but that didn’t keep numerous traditional and secular people from attending the event, which was officially titled “There are no secular people.”…
During his address, Berland discussed his radical religious vision, in which there are no boundaries or inhibitions. All people are created in the image of God, and all have a Godly spark; therefore solidarity between people was essential whether they are Jew, non-Jew or even “Ishmaelite.”
“Indeed, Berland devoted much of his speech to the situation in Syria…He referred to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has backed Syrian President Bashar Assad, as “the chief terrorist.”
“No other ultra-Orthodox rabbi has publicly expressed an opinion on the upheavals in Syria, certainly not to demand that Jews take responsibility for non-Jewish victims across the border.
“It isn’t clear why Berland has done so, but it is known that this particular rabbi relates to breaking boundaries in general as a religious principle.
“For example, his yeshiva is located in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City. For another, his followers are among those who regularly make unauthorized forays to Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus, against Israel Defense Forces regulations.”
Rav Berland becomes Public Enemy #1
As you can see from the ‘shocked’ tone in Ha’aretz, one of Israel’s premier ‘loonie left’ papers, Rav Berland’s call for peace ruffled quite a few feathers in the Israeli establishment, who had already had a number of awkward encounters with him previously when the Rav and his students refused to let holy places like the Tomb of Joseph in Shechem be placed ‘off limits’ to Jews by the failed Oslo Accords.
Six years’ ago, when Rav Berland spoke out against the atrocities in Syria, the world ignored him. Now in 2018, after more than half a million people have died and two million people have been displaced from their homes, and with the world poised on the brink of a direct confrontation between Russia and the US, we can see with hindsight that it was so unfortunate that Israel didn’t act to bring peace earlier.
The nations of the world are also created in God’s image
Later on in that same speech, Rav Berland said:
“Beloved is man for he was created in Gods image”, every person is in the image of God! There is no difference between Jew and Non-Jew! Everyone is in Gods image! Every person is composed of sparks of Godliness! God created them all! All of mankind! 7 billion people – They are all the same!
“For “Beloved is man who was created in God’s image”, and it doesn’t just say “beloved”, it says “Excessive affection is deserving to man since he was created in God’s image”, this saying from the Ethics of our Fathers is said about all the nations of the world! …”
Any war won by violence is not a true victory
“When we went to war with Amon and Moav the Prophet got up and said “Just play music! Just sing! Throw away all instruments of war! Throw away all your weapons! Begin singing! Just sing!” So Jehoshaphat said to them “If you believe in the words of the Prophet then you can win over all of your enemies only through song and music”.
“Because all of our victories and all of the wars that we won through the use of weapons are not considered “victories”! Any war that is won through weapons is not eternal, they also have weapons, they have the atom bomb, one day everything can turn around.
“Victory” is only what we win through the power of song and music which awakens the holy spark in every nation in every gentile, in every single Arab, for there does not exist an Arab or gentile that does not have within him a holy spark.
We just need to arouse that spark then automatically there will be peace in the entire world!
“Then “The wolf will live with the sheep and the leopard will lie down with the goat; the calf, the lion and the sheep will walk together and a young child will lead them, a cow and bear will graze together, and an infant will play by a viper’s hole” (Isaiah 11:6).”
Just two short weeks after this controversial speech at the Winter Stadium, on July 18, 2012, I.N.S., the ‘State’s Witness’ gave his first anonymous interview to Israel HaYom, making accusations against an as-yet un-named ‘chassidic leader’.
The official persecution of Rav Eliezer Berland had begun in earnest.
- Learn the real story behind the persecution, exile and imprisonment of Rav Eliezer Berland, shlita! You can buy the first Volume of One in a Generation, the biography of Rav Eliezer Berland online at Amazon, The Book Depository, and Barnes&Noble.
- In Israel, the book is available at the Ain Yaakov Bookstore in Meah Shearim, the Shuvu Banim Yeshiva in the Old City of Jerusalem, the ‘Beit HaRav’ Shul attached to Rav Berland’s home in Ido HaNavi Street, and the Chut Shel Chesed Yeshiva of Rav Shalom Arush.