The Sephardi Chief Rabbi Who Sought to End the Sephardi-Ashkenazi Divide

Throughout his life, Ben-Zion Meir Hai Ouziel (1880-1953), the first Sephardi chief rabbi of Israel, held fast to a vision of breaking down the divisions among Ashkenazim, Sephardim, and Jews from other lands. Daniel Bouskila writes:

[D]espite holding an official title and position that seems to have ethnic and particularistic overtones, Ouziel was an outspoken proponent of Jewish unity. He passionately sought to abolish the traditional ethnic divisions among Jews, especially in Israel. His push for Jewish unity was persistent and thorough, and he articulated his vision of Jewish unity in many forums, including public addresses, written position papers, and halakhic rulings. . . .

Fully aware of the 1,900-year history in which Jews lived as separate and distinct communities throughout the Diaspora—with different rabbis, customs, languages, prayer rituals, and halakhic rulings—Ouziel nonetheless believed that unifying the Jewish people “should not be a difficult task” because the divisions born in the Diaspora were alien to the essence of the Jewish people. He did not consider his desire to abolish the Diaspora’s divisions into Sephardim and Ashkenazim to be a new or radical idea, but a return to [the Jews’] true nature.

Read more at Sephardi Ideas Monthly

More about: Ashkenazi Jewry, Halakhah, Israeli Chief Rabbinate, Mizrahi Jewry, Religion & Holidays, Sephardim

Israel Can’t Stake Its Fate on “Ironclad” Promises from Allies

Israeli tanks reportedly reached the center of the Gazan city of Rafah yesterday, suggesting that the campaign there is progressing swiftly. And despite repeatedly warning Jerusalem not to undertake an operation in Rafah, Washington has not indicated any displeasure, nor is it following through on its threat to withhold arms. Even after an IDF airstrike led to the deaths of Gazan civilians on Sunday night, the White House refrained from outright condemnation.

What caused this apparent American change of heart is unclear. But the temporary suspension of arms shipments, the threat of a complete embargo if Israel continued the war, and comments like the president’s assertion in February that the Israeli military response has been “over the top” all call into question the reliability of Joe Biden’s earlier promises of an “ironclad” commitment to Israel’s security. Douglas Feith and Ze’ev Jabotinsky write:

There’s a lesson here: the promises of foreign officials are never entirely trustworthy. Moreover, those officials cannot always be counted on to protect even their own country’s interests, let alone those of others.

Israelis, like Americans, often have excessive faith in the trustworthiness of promises from abroad. This applies to arms-control and peacekeeping arrangements, diplomatic accords, mutual-defense agreements, and membership in multilateral organizations. There can be value in such things—and countries do have interests in their reputations for reliability—but one should be realistic. Commitments from foreign powers are never “ironclad.”

Israel should, of course, maintain and cultivate connections with the United States and other powers. But Zionism is, in essence, about the Jewish people taking responsibility for their own fate.

Read more at JNS

More about: Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship