Monday, July 31, 2006

posted by Ofer

The Jewish Role Model: Hillel the Elder

One of the most influential and important Jewish leaders in history is Hillel the Elder, who lived in the time of King Herod, before the births of Jesus or Mohamed. Hillel considered brotherly love as the fundamental principle of the Jewish moral law. When asked to summarize the Jewish faith, Hillel replied: "What is hateful to you, do not do onto your fellow man: this is the entire law. The rest is mere commentary". Hillel spent his life promoting peace, understanding and compromise. The love of peace is embedded deep within our Jewish DNA.

Is there a single Arab leader who went down in history for his love of peace ?


Blogger Elad said...

In between smuggling anti-tank/aircraft missiles in his private helicopter, Yasser Arafat won the Nobel peace prize ;)

9:29 PM  
Blogger ran said...

I have no idea. Maybe there is. Anwar Sadat might be one (although he also waged wars). I don't know enough about the arab world and islam to answer that.
Anyway, I think our jewish genes have not only love embedded in them. There is also hate, violence, aggression (Netanyahu, Eitam, Cahana, Goldstein, and many others) like the DNA of other people. I know you meant this methaphorically. Me too.
And another point - if Hillel would have become PM of Israel, he would forget all he said before and choose violence first (like Peretz and Peres in his time).

9:33 PM  
Blogger Ofer said...

Here's a quote from Hillel to Siniora:

"In a place where there are no men, strive to be a man."

In Lebanon, there are currently only monsters and whimps. The monsters are doing everything they can to make things worse. The whimps are afraid to stand up to the monsters. Siniora, do us all a favor and be a man.

10:56 PM  
Blogger Remmy said...

Hi y'all!
I just found your blog while searching for some opinions on this ongoing terrible conflict. And I must say, I'm deeply impressed by what I see here. Y'all are doing a great job, trying to keep your minds sane (as much as possible under the current circumstances).
Being a foreigner (an to top it: a German), I'm not really entitled to give you any advice how to deal with the whole situation. What I can tell you is, that I, being a Political Scientist, have at least some basic knowledge about Israeli politics and society. I see your discomfort with your political leaders, what meets my own impression. But truely, I see and understand you dilemma as well. Your country has been attacked, your whole north is under fire, and a reaction was inevitable. It is a damn tragedy and a real dilemma, as it has become for Hizbollah a win-win situation. If your government would have negotiated to free the kidnapped soldiers, Hizbollah would have claimed victory, and now, under this military campain, I'm afraid they will come out even stronger in the end. Perhaps not military, but "morally" from their point of view. Really not a pleasant perspective!

Anyway, I could write much more, but I'll spare it perhaps for further commenting on your blog, if you don't mind.
You're really doing a great job here, please keep it up! To articulate your positions is very much needed for your country as well as for the world.

I mourn all the victims of this war, on either side.

May peace will come to y'all quickly!

Best regards,

11:26 PM  
Blogger Elon said...

Ofer, you have fallen into one of the classic traps of ethnocentricity, namely that of emphasizing the good parts of your own culture while believing that because you do not see an equivalent in the culture of the other, it does not exist.

Hillel's "Love thy neighbor as thyself" is indeed an important aspect of Judaism. There are other aspects, not less important, some of which are not that beautiful. To name just two, how about the concept of "the chosen people" that so frequently is translated into racist attitudes, or maybe about Rabbi Akiva, I believe one hundred years after Hillel, that led a crazy, zealous revolt against the Romans, a revolt that has cost the Jewish people two millennia of life in exile, and that was purely motivated by religious fanaticism. Remember that the youth movement of religious zionism is name after that crazy Rabbi Akiva and you get some insight into how we got so deeply invested in that stupid, racist project of settlements in the occupied territories.

So Judaism is indeed Hillel the Elder. But it is also many other things, not all of them to my liking.

I have no doubt that the Arab culture has parts that are just as beautiful as Hillel's ideas. It's just pretty hard to see them from here.

1:33 AM  
Blogger Jean said...


there are many men in Lebanon, but their voice is not being heard.
You want proof about their presence ?
Go surfing on the lebanese blogs, see how many speak out againt their "ball-less" government and the hizbullah.

Elon, nice blog, and thank you for your comment on my blog. would you be interested in putting a link to my blog on yours ? I of course would do the same on my blog.
Moreover, your comments are welcome on my thread about how the lebanese are viewed by the israelis.


1:30 PM  
Blogger IsrealiMom said...

Off Topic - care to do a link exchange with my blog?

You can email me at with a reply. Thanks!

7:28 PM  
Blogger Ofer said...

Elon said: "I have no doubt that the Arab culture has parts that are just as beautiful as Hillel's ideas. It's just pretty hard to see them from here."

Please, educate me. I really want to believe. Give me examples. The only Arab role model I can think of is Salah a-Din, who was a fighter.

11:50 PM  
Blogger ran said...

I am sure there is at least one arabic proverb that conveys the same message as Hillel's (I beleive they have many more proverbs than we have, like they have many more words in their language, many more poems etc).
I don't think we really know anything about the arab culture except some words in arabic, that women walk around veiled, men have beards/mustaches and the number of rockets hizbullah has.
I'm sure the arabs don't know anything about our culture too.
It's all about the images we have from the media, which are exaggerated.

1:00 AM  
Blogger Ofer said...

What makes you so sure ? Maybe you are just being naive. If such a proverb exists, it shouldn't be too hard to find.

Once again I ask: which historical Arab figure became famous for being an advocate of peace and compromise ? Is it the case that, historically, Arabs have only achieved things through the use of force ?

1:41 PM  
Blogger the perpetual refugee said...

Sheikh Zayed of the United Arab Emirates.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid of the United Arab Emirates.

One just died. One is still alive.

Ofer, you have fallen into the trap. It's not too late. Ran and Elon are right in this case. You can't generalize (and yes, I too fell into that trap).

But it's not too late.

3:07 PM  
Blogger Ofer said...

His highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan:

1. According to Amnesty International, his highness promoted corporal punishment and torture of dissidents.

2. Also, his highness was reponsible for kidnapping, starving and then forcing Bangladeshi children to compete as jockeys in his country's popular camel races.

3. He was founder and visionary of the "Zayed Centre for Coordination and Follow-Up", one of the most racist and antisemitic institutions in the world. Regular speakers there include Umayma Jalahma, a Saudi professor who has declared, "The Jewish people must obtain human blood so that their clerics can prepare for holiday pastries". Atallah Hannah, spokesperson of the Orthodox Church of Jerusalem, who openly praises Palestinian suicide bombers.

4. In August 2002, the Los Angeles Times reported that the Zayed Centre’s executive director, Mohammed Murar, proclaimed, "the truth is that the Jews are the enemies of all nations." This followed the publication of a Zayed Centre report stating, "the Zionists are the people who killed the Jews in Europe."

5. In August 2003 the UAE announced its decision to close the Zayed Center, citing activities by the Center that "starkly contradicted the principles of interfaith tolerance."

So the guy's a slave driver, a torturer, an antisemite and a denier of the holocaust. Well, nobody's perfect.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid seems like a much nicer guy. Although, he seems to be rather preoccupied with racing horses and building the tallest building in the world. But I think he's to young to be considered a historic Arab role model. He's only in his mid 50s.

6:13 PM  
Blogger the perpetual refugee said...

Ofer, you have fallen into the trap.

It's not too late.

12:25 PM  

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