Thursday, June 24, 2010

Ohr Somayach issues an "apology" to Ma'ale Adumim citizens

For Parshas Baha'aloscha, "OhrNet", yeshiva Ohr Somayach's weekly PDF parsha sheet made an unfortunate mistake by not checking its facts before publishing a short piece on the city of Ma'ale Adumim, causing a lot of its residents to get rather upset.

First off, I do not believe for one second any of the accusations made by some dati-leumi people in Ma'ale Adumim that Ohr Somayach were motivated by anti-Zionist feelings when they wrote these negative comments about their city. I however do believe that it was sloppy research. I also believe that their apology could have gone further. It seems that they managed to upset a lot of people.

Here is the original piece:

I happened to be at a Sheva Brachos in Ma'ale Adumim that Shabbos and overheard a heated conversation about this. I barged into the conversation and expressed my belief that I thought that their suspicions that OhrNet had written this for Anti-Zionist reasons was unfounded. I told them that I knew many of the Rabbanim there and that they would not have done such a thing intentionally.

As a general comment, I want to say that yeshiva Ohr Somayach is an amazing organisation that has done so much for Am Yisrael. It is one of the leading kiruv yeshivas in Israel with branches around the world. It quite simply takes Jewish kids from non-religious backgrounds and fills their Jewish neshamas with Torah and love for Hashem. I know quite a few who walked into Ohr Somayach just to spend a free Shabbos with them "just to see what it was like " and decided to stay. These guys came out 6 years later with smicha with the right to call themselves "Rabbi". The atmosphere is relaxed and you can learn at your own pace and level. The Rabbanim who teach there, including Rav Samett, Rav Eli Merril, Rav Dovid Orlofsky, Rav Zev Leff, Rav Berel Wein, Rav Dovid Gottlieb, Rav Asher Wade and many others are simply brilliant and will answer any question thrown at them by the most argumentative of kids. No question is off limits! Regarding Zionism. From my experience, although clearly being a "black" Chareidi yeshiva, the views of the Rabbanim there range from non-Zionist (Rav Dovid Gottlieb) to pro-Zionist (Rav Berel Wein). All would agree however that it is HaKodesh Boruch Hu's ratzon (will) that we should be here in Eretz Yisrael and show support for the State of Israel.

For those who are mystified over what caused such anger, here is an explanation:

The legend they refer to is actually used today in Arab propaganda, meant for the consumption of Western Xstians . It draws parallels between the supposed "bloody" past of Ma'ale Adumim and the establishment of the modern city.

This legend is attributed to Burchard of Mount Zion, a German Xstian Dominican priest who travelled to the Middle East at the end of the 13th century. The pilgrims he refers to are not Jewish but Xstian pilgrims who travelled to Yerushalayim during the Byzantine period. He wrote about an area called "Maldomim".

Arab tour guides who escort the Xstian tourists around Israel relate this legend to their groups and explain that the robbers were actually Jews who slit the throats of Xstian pilgrims. This of course is another twist on the Jewish blood libel. They then go on to say that the establishment of modern Ma'ale Adumim was built on Arab owned land. They further claim that the Arab inhabitants of the land were forcefully thrown out. All of these are lies but the Xstians tourists lap it up. Simply do a Google of "Burchard of Mount Zion" and you'll get quite a few blog posts about this, written by Xstians who were on tours in Israel.

In the 1980s, the ulta-leftwing movement Shalom Achshav petitioned the High Court to demand that they release information regarding the ownership of the land that Ma'ale Adumim was built on. Before they had even received a response, they published "estimated" figures (which they received from the Arabs) of almost 90% Arab owned land. The figures later released show that 99.5% of the land was state owned land with a dispute regarding 0.5%. The inhabitants of Avu Dis claim to have documents of ownership but these have never been registered and are suspected forgeries.

The erroneous Shalom Achshav figure of 90% Arab owned land continues to be quoted however by the UN as well as Western media. They further claim that Israel forcefully transferred an entire Arab village, destroying their homes and murdering those who resisted. The truth is that there are Beduin who travel throughout the area, living in tents. Some Beduim were encamped around Maale Adumim at the time and were asked to move. There was no destroyed village or any blood spilled.

Burchard's myth of red as blood Maale Adumim as well as the 90% figure is told to all Xstian pilgrims by Arab tour guides as they drive past the area either from or to Jericho.

By the way, it is ironic that the current Head for "Palestine Refugees in the Near East United Nations Relief and Works Agency" a pseudo-name for a vicious anti-Semitic department of the UN that denies all Jewish connection to Eretz Yisrael, is a Mr Matthias Burchard!

I am still puzzled why OhrNet decided, in this very short piece to quote this Xstian legend about Ma'ale Adumim rather than quote from Jewish sources! Indeed, the title of the section states:

 "Selections from classical Torah sources which express the special relationship between the people of Israel and Eretz Yisrael".

It would seem that, at least for this edition, the piece managed to do exactly the opposite of its aim!

The obvious Jewish source which they should have quoted from was of course sefer Yehoshua 15:7. Whilst describing the eastern border of Yehuda's territory, the Tanach tells us that:

"The border ascended towards Deber from the valley of Achor and northward facing Gilgal which is opposite Ma'ale Adumim, which is south of the valley".

Ma'ale Adumim is also mentioned in Meseches Rosh Hashana 22b.

The Gemara quotes the Tosefta which relates that the Baisusim (a sect of Jews who rejected the Torah ShebeAlpeh - the Oral Law) paid two people 200 Zuz each to give false testimony in Beis Din that they saw the new moon. One of the two hired witnesses decided to reveal the plot during his testimony. As part of his eidus before Beis Din, he gave a very strange description of the moon that he saw. He told Beis Din that when he ascended Ma'aleh Adumim he saw the new moon crouching between two rocks. Its head was like that of a calf and its ears were like those of a goat. Its horns were like those of a gazelle and its tail was between its legs.

He said he fainted when he saw it, and that if Beis Din does not believe him he has a bundle of 200 Zuz in his pocket to prove it.

Incidentally, I was listening to a shiur given by a Rav from Ma'ale Adumim who said that if you know the view from Ma'ale Adumim then you'd realise that the witness's eidus that he saw teh new Moon from Maale Adumim shows that he was talking complete narishkite and that the Beis Din would have realised the "joke".

He explained that Ma'ale Adumim is lower down than Yerushalayim with rolling hills in the way. If the new moon could have been seen from Ma'ale Adumim then it meant that it would have been clearly seen by thousands in Yerushalayim. A difficult to see new moon in Yerushalayim could not have possibly been seen from Ma'ale Adumim.

Anyway, on the 19th June, the Ohr Somayach website published a page that admits their mistake although they do not actually apologise to all those residence of Ma'ale Adumim who they had seeing red! (pun intended).

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