Journalist or Charlatan?

Q: You religious Zionists write all the time about the importance of ‘Eretz Yisrael’ as if the issue is in agreement and obvious, and you even challenge the Haredim who don’t engage in ‘yishuv ha’aretz’ (settling the Land). However, in reality, according to the opinion of most ‘gedolei ha’Torah’ (eminent Torah scholars), the Land of Israel is not important at all. I have heard discussions from important rabbis who attack you, claiming that your occupation with ‘Eretz Yisrael’ is all political, at the expense of engaging in Torah and mitzvoth. And even if you have rabbis upon whose opinion you rely on, shouldn’t you act according to the majority?

A: There cannot be ‘gedolei Torah’ who believe that ‘Eretz Yisrael’ is not fundamentally important. If you heard such things from people who, in the judgment of their listeners, are considered ‘gedolei ha’dor’, then they are not eminent Torah scholars at all. Perhaps they know how to give a sermon, or analyze certain aspects of the Torah, but they are not eminent Torah scholars. An eminent Torah scholar cannot ignore entire portions of the Torah, Prophets and Writings, or overlook the words of Chazal, Rishonim, and Achronim. Can you imagine if one of the ‘gedolei ha’dor’ claimed that there is no mitzvah to observe Shabbat?! This is exactly how someone who claims that ‘Eretz Yisrael’ is not a fundamentally important is regarded. Nevertheless, there can be certain differences of opinion on the method of settling the Land.

My advice to you is to listen to the Torah reader on Shabbat, and learn the portion of the week with Rashi’s commentary; do this for the future portions as well, and it would be advisable to review the portions of ‘D’varim’ and ‘Va’etchanan’. Had you done this last year, you would never have thought to send such a question. If you want to delve deeper in this issue, you can study the great and wide-ranging book “Sha’ar Ha’Hatzare” by Rabbi David ben Shimon ztz”l (author of “Tzuf D’vash”) published by ‘Machon HaTorah v’Ha’aretz’, which deals entirely with the importance of ‘Eretz Yisrael’.

Nachum Barnea

About three weeks ago (7/20/12), the journalist Nachum Barnea wrote in the newspaper ‘Yediot Achronot’: “A few months ago, a reader sent me a variety of pictures of Minister of Education Gideon Saar’s visit to Har Bracha…the main host was Eliezer Melamed, the Dean of the Yeshiva there. Rabbi Melamed is famous for his call to his students to refuse serving in the army, and for other statements condemning the State. As a result of these statements, the Defense Minister revoked the Yeshiva’s status of as a Hesder Yeshiva. The Defense Minister’s decision did not deter the Minister of Education from “sitting pleasantly together as brothers” with Rabbi Melamed. In the picture, he looks quite happy. I asked Saar how he finds himself in the company of someone like Melamed. He explained that it was unintentional. He had no idea. He arrived for a visit to the community, and the Rabbi was there. What could he do? In conversation with me, he flatly denounced the Rabbi and his conduct, in a way that could rival the likes of Yossi Sarid, Shulamit Aloni, and Yuli Tamir…”

Seeing as it is helpful to periodically examine the level of credibility of the Left-wing media in general, and ‘Yediot Achronot’ in particular, there is room to relate to these statements, which can be characterized as a representative example. Being that it is impossible to keep track of the elusive connection between the truth and all of Nachum Barnea’s various statements, when it comes to an issue I am intimately acquainted with – at a level of certainty beyond doubt – his reputation can be scrutinized.

The Importance of Army Service and the State

My readers will of course remember that in the framework of my column ‘Revivim’, I wrote at least ten articles confirming the significance of the important Torah mitzvah to serve in the army. In the last few weeks I devoted two articles to this issue. Even after the crime of expelling Jews from Gush Katif and northern Samaria was carried out, I still continued to explain that since the main function of the I.D.F. is to protect Israel and the nation, it is a mitzvah to serve in the army. In my book ‘Pininei Halacha: Ha’am v’Ha’aretz’, I devoted the entire fourth chapter to this issue.

I have also written several articles about the importance of the State of Israel, and in my book ‘Pininei Halacha: Z’manim’, in the chapter dealing with ‘Yom Ha’atzmaut’ (Israel Independence Day), I wrote that ‘Yom Ha’atzmaut’ was crowned with three sanctities: 1) the sanctity of the mitzvah to settle the Land, which exists through the employment sovereignty. 2) Sanctification of God in the eyes of the nations through the realization of the Prophetic visions. 3) Rescuing Israelfrom its enemies.

Indeed, occasionally I criticize the government, and in my opinion, it is forbidden for a soldier to commit the crime of expelling Jews from their houses, but I never denounce the State; on the contrary, I recite ‘Hallel’ on ‘Yom Ha’atzmaot’, the day of the State’s revival. It seems to me that even an intellectually-challenged person like himself should be able to distinguish between the State and the Government. And presumably he would admit that, although I am not counted amongst the Leftist aristocracy as he himself is, and thus not entitled to all the privileges reserved for them by law, still, even a person like me can criticize the Government occasionally.

Perhaps this renowned journalist can claim that my positions were hidden from him, and in spite of all his journalistic capabilities, he had no way of knowing they existed. The problem with this argument is that the books with my opinions were published in tens of thousands of copies, and the articles are read by more than 200,000 readers (according to the survey of Professor Katz, ‘Ma’agar Mochot’).

An honest journalist should know how to read, and not only how to write. Perhaps this delusional journalist is incapable of reading Judaism-related content – not even the titles; and yet, he insists on writing about these issues without the slightest understanding.

Minister Gideon Saar’s Response

Let’s continue. Friends asked Minister Gideon Saar if this is what he said to Nachum Barnea. His answer, confirmed in writing, was:

“I did not slander, condemn, or denounce Rabbi Melamed.” “Barnea is known to be a charlatan, and presumably conjured up a conversation that took place long ago, and completely tampered its’ content.” True, Saar disagrees with my position regarding refusal to expel Jews, but: “There is no basis to what Barnea wrote against Rabbi Melamed.” He even expressed his desire to meet with me to discuss cardinal issues in-depth.

In addition, he also directed us to review what he wrote (‘Walla’ Web-site 4/15/12) in response to another one of Barnea’s columns. It turns out that in that column also, Barnea did not bother to read the material which he wrote about, and mixed-up two different Government decisions in order to base his claim that “Saar legitimized the capitulation to the Haredim.”

This is what the Minister of Education wrote in his response to Barnea’s words: “Barnea devoted the opening paragraph in his column to a story that is completely the brainchild of his frantic mind…” His column “clearly embodies Journalism at its worst, “based” on a lack of minimal knowledge of the material, and misleading the readers.” “Even the slightest use of an Internet search engine could have prevented the confusion.” In short, in order to write a column like Barnea’s, “there is no need for a diploma in Journalism. It’s enough to be a charlatan.”

Where is Ruppin College Located?

If anybody has any more doubts about his credibility, have a look at the continuation of his remarks. The aim of his article was to blame the Minister of Education who supported turning the College ofAriel into an official University (I assume a negligent journalist like himself is unaware of my connection to Ariel University). To strengthen his arguments against turning it into a University, he wrote: “The immediate casualty will be the Ruppin Regional College, a fifteen minute drive from Ariel. Out of the 3,500 students there, 1,000 will switch-over to Ariel, and Ruppin will lose its livelihood.”

I suspect that most readers are laughing right now. Ruppin College is near Netanya, and Ariel, as everyone knows, is three quarters of an hour drive away. Is Nachum Barnea incapable of finding out this basic fact as well? Is he incapable of looking at a map? It’s also not clear why he chose to defend Ruppin College specifically, when there are other colleges closer to Ariel. And as it happens,Ruppin College is unique in its own right, so the concern over its continued existence is totally unfounded.

In short, this man is a joke of a journalist. And when someone like himself is considered by his friends from the Left as being a valued journalist – and according to their recommendation, he even received the Israel Prize for Journalism – one can understand the many failures of the Left-wing, Israeli media. They are incapable of understanding the nationalistic and religious motives of the nations of the Middle East in general, and of Israel in particular; insist on erring in their assessments; and engage in bits of gossip casing profound processes that are beyond its understanding.

‘Yediot Achronot’

Thankfully, the newspaper ‘Yediot Achronot’ is gradually losing its status. Ten years ago, if they had written such things about me in the Friday edition of the newspaper, the same day someone would have told me about it. This time, the article appeared on Friday, and only on the following Tuesday evening did I find out. Earlier that week I met with some friends from the Left for a frank and thorough discussion, and none of them had even read his comments.

Approximately two and a half years ago, when ‘Yediot Achronot’ published an article condemning me, I estimated and hoped that their readership would continue to decrease rapidly, since over the four previous years, it had lost nearly a quarter of its readership, and dropped to being the second largest newspaper in the country, after ‘Yisrael Ha’Yom’. In practice, it indeed continued to drop, but at an upsettingly slow pace. Apparently, the rapid decline was halted when they started to distribute a lot of newspapers for free, and instead, moved their focus to the fields of gossip and sports. It appears that the number of readers of its news reports, probes, and investigations is declining rapidly. This is why its influence has weakened.

Brothers of Fate

Nevertheless, Nachum Barnea is a bereaved father whose son was killed in a terrorist bus attack inJerusalem, simply because he was Jewish, and in this respect, he is our bereft compatriot in the sacred mission of the Jewish nation. And I also believe that his pursuit to withdraw from our sacred Land stems from a pure desire to prevent bloodshed, and bring peace.

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