Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Yoel Marcus and the Green Eyed Monster

If someone can be called "green with envy", Haaretz columnist Yoel Marcus could arguably be mistaken for human astro-turf. In yesterday's web edition he wrote an editorial piece listing the reasons why Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau shouldn't be elected for president of Israel.

Read the editorial - if you have a strong heart and no ulcers, and you know that you will be able to control yourself and not smash your fist into the computer monitor. If you can't meet these criteria, I'll give you a summary.

There is the short version, the slightly longer version, and the real reason that Marcus thinks Lau is a bad pick.

The short version is that Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau is an Orthodox Jew. (I guess it is racist to judge people by their skin color but not by their religion....)

The slightly longer version is this: Marcus lists some pros and cons regarding Rabbi Lau's qualifications, including both facts and rumors, innuendo, and assumptions. The facts fall into the pro side, and the rest are in the con side. After listing Rav Lau's impressive accomplishments as Chief Rabbi of Netanya, Tel-Aviv, and all of Israel, his appointments as Rabbinic Court President (several times) and the fact that he was an Israel Prize Laureate, Marcus then compliments Rav Lau as being a first rate orator with a "fine pronunciation of Hebrew without a trace of Yiddish." (Yes, the man actually wrote that - as if it is a selling point that Rav Lau doesn't sound like those Jews who are right off the boat...)

For the cons, Marcus resorts to rumors and innuendo - reported in the press, of course. I quote, "All kinds of stories hit the airwaves about his hobnobbing with rich people, his love of money and his soft spot for pretty women." How does Marcus justify quoting these rumors? He points to the fact that Rav Lau didn't sue the newspapers for publishing them. That's it. No more solid proof needed.

Marcus then goes on to "prove" that Lau wold be a bad candidate for president by stating the following: "A rabbi for president of Israel is a dangerous proposition - politically, because as president he is liable to support opponents of withdrawl from the Land of Israel, and socially, because he is liable to turn his nose up at a million Russian immigrants and other pork and shrimp eating Israelis, and leave the hands of Israel's women, waiting to congratulate their president, dangling in the air."

One, Marcus assumes that Rav Lau will take sides in a politically controversial issue, something that most presidents in the past have avoided, including the present one, Moshe Katzav, who is also an Orthodox Jew. Two, he assumes that Rav Lau will discriminate against Russian immigrants and those who do not keep kosher, an assumption with absolutely no basis in fact. The last assumption is the only one with some truth to it, as Rav Lau does not shake women's hands. How does this last fact fit in with the previous rumor about Rav Lau's weakness for pretty women? According to Marcus the Rav became "careful" when he realized the he would be running for president, and stopped shaking women's hands. (I guess you have to get up pretty early in the morning to fool old Yoel....)

And now for the real reason why Marcus doesn't want Lau for president. Jealousy, plain and simple. Throughout the whole piece he harps constantly on how popular Rav Lau is. He keeps bumping into him at affairs of the rich and famous. Imagine that, an Orthodox Jew, with a black hat, no less, attending the same events as I do! Adding insult to injury is Rav Lau's bestselling book, and his tv show, and the fact that the elite are breaking down his door asking him to perform the weddings of their children. He even "attends all of the most important funerals, and can be found making condolence calls at the most elegant homes." (Yes, he really wrote that, as if an Orthodox rabbi should only make shiva calls to the poor who live in hovels...)

What is so sad and frustrating about this drivel masquerading as a serious opinion piece, is the fact that Rav Lau really is respected by so many people, both religious and secular alike. When I first came to Israel I learned Hebrew at the ulpan in the absorption center, and my teacher was an ultra-lefty. She taught us about the calendar in Israel and about Holocaust Remembrance Day, and the topic of Rav Lau came up, as he was a child who escaped the concentration camps. She only had praise for him, and spoke of him as one of the few people able to bridge the gaps between the religious and secular, because of the high esteem in which most people hold him. It is too bad that Marcus feels the need to besmirch Rav Lau's reputation because of how own personal weakness.

19 Comments:

Blogger SnoopyTheGoon said...

Being a pork and shrimp eating Israeli, I agree with you, WBM: that article was a sample of a (generally sane) journalist suddenly stooping down to diry kneebiting.

I, personally, think that Rav Lau is a mensch (not in the male chauvinist sense) and could be one of the best presidents we ever had.

Cheers.

10:41 AM, June 07, 2006  
Blogger SnoopyTheGoon said...

I meant "dirty", of course...

10:42 AM, June 07, 2006  
Blogger Lady-Light said...

Oh, brother. That's a condemnation. I was going to steel myself and read the piece, but your sum-up says it all.
Actually, I would vote for him for PRIME MINISTER.

In other matters, thank you for your kind appreciation of my Israel Aliyah piece. I am also stunned that Daniel Gordis also liked my blog!! (He sent me an email).

5:54 PM, June 07, 2006  
Blogger westbankmama said...

snoopy - thanks for the support

ladylight - I'm embarrassed to admit that I don't know who Gordis is!

8:25 AM, June 08, 2006  
Blogger aliyah06 said...

Daniel Gordis--one of my favorite authors: http://www.danielgordis.org/site/

"God Was Not In The Fire" is something I savor. It's in the box of books that are coming with us, not going into storage....

8:35 AM, June 08, 2006  
Blogger RR said...

I know what you mean- I read that piece the other day, and when I got to the "without a trace of Yiddish" sentence I was like, HUH????

The "condolence calls at the most elegant homes" part also threw me for a loop. Hello? What does this (and most of the artcle, as a matter of fact) have to do with the price of tea in China?

5:22 PM, June 08, 2006  
Blogger Lila aus Rungholt said...

I'm a shmutznikit and I respect and admire Lau. He is a person who could bridge the gaps. I am glad you answered this article which I found distasteful, too.

12:18 PM, June 09, 2006  
Blogger westbankmama said...

rr - I had the same reaction

lila - I don't really know what a "shmutnikit" is but I can guess it is something derogatory. Don't call yourself names!

9:43 AM, June 14, 2006  
Blogger SnoopyTheGoon said...

Oh WBM, here you did make me laugh. It is "shmutznik", not "shmutnik" and Shmutz is short of Ha Shomer Ha Tzair. You call them boy scouts, I believe ;-)

6:33 PM, June 16, 2006  
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