Politicization of the Kaddish distorts what it actually says.
Kaddish elicits the deepest Jewish emotions.
Kaddish is not a prayer for the dead, but is recited by mourners upon the occasion of death.
Kaddish elicits the most profound memories and anguish. It might seem to be perfect for those who mourn the deaths of Palestinians along the Israel-Gaza border.
“Kaddish for the Palestinians” was just such an attempt at public mourning by some British Jews. However well intended it might have been, the event politicized the Kaddish, since the meaning of the prayer did not matter to the organizers, nor did the responsibility for the Palestinians deaths.
The Palestinians who were killed along the Israel-Gaza border attempted to breach this border with the express intent of destroying Israel by driving Israeli residents from their homes and their land. Many of the Palestinians at the border were armed and were using their arms, or trying to. Besides standard weapons, these arms included rocks, burning tires, burning kites and knives. That is why Israel defended itself; that, and only that, is why Palestinians died.
No Israeli military action took place at the border other than in response to the Palestinian actions. No Israeli offense was committed other than the existence of Israel and of Israeli communities, none of which, by the way, were settlements on land that Israel won in the defensive war of 1967.
Besides the politics in the “Kaddish for Palestinians” event, the plain meaning of the prayer was ignored. Although Kaddish is the prayer typically recited upon the occasion of the death of a close relative, death is not mentioned in the Kaddish, only G-d and the living.
The living who are mentioned in the Kaddish are not Palestinians or gentiles of any kind. The living mentioned in the Kaddish are Jewish. This is a Jewish prayer. It concludes:
He Who makes peace in His heights, may He make peace upon us, and upon all Israel.
So, the recital of “Kaddish for the Palestinians” was not only a politicization of prayer, and not only a misuse of the prayer (for the dead), but ignorance of the words of the prayer (upon all Israel).
This type of sacrilege is typical when Jewish prayer is exploited for political purposes.“Kaddish for the Palestinians” reflected a kind of poetic justice: The protesters’ acquittal of Palestinians for their own deaths, incurred due to the Palestinians’ attempt to destroy Israel, was matched by the protesters’ distortion of one of Judaism’s most emotional prayers, as if Kaddish were a prayer for the dead and as if it invoked peace upon all of humanity.
Judaism has universalist prayers. Kaddish is not one of them. Aleinu is.
The “Kaddish for Palestinians” event elicited extreme denunciations (“traitorous . . . self-loathing”) and threats of violence. This put British Jewry on “a path to self-destruction,” said a leader of the Reform movement in Britain. This path, she said, features one Jew wishing another dead, crossing “the boundaries of decency and we are now into violent, harassing, bullying behavior.”
True enough. Threats of violence and denunciatory messages such as “traitorous” and “self-loathing” are inappropriate and dangerous. Ironically, however, they highlight the ignorance or malfeasance of the organizers of “Kaddish for the Palestinians.” The use of the uniquely powerful Kaddish as a partisan reading of the Israel-Palestinian conflict is itself incendiary. The very same alarm raised by the British rabbi against the critics of “Kaddish for the Palestinians” could have been raised against, and should have been thought of by the organizers of, “Kaddish for the Palestinians.” They should not have been surprised at the response, inappropriate as it was.
Let the partisans argue the Israel-Palestinians conflict as they wish. Leave the Kaddish out of it.
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