Herzog, Receiving Synagogue Council Award, Decries Extremism in Israel
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Herzog, Receiving Synagogue Council Award, Decries Extremism in Israel

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Declaring that “one of my greatest fears” is extremism in Israeli society, Israel’s President Chaim Herzog charged here Saturday night that “some of the most provocative extremist elements” in Israel are funded by groups in the American Jewish community.

He said that although the phenomenon is marginal and belongs to the periphery of Israeli society, it is a problem not only of Israel, but of the Jewish people as a whole. He urged American Jews to address themselves to it.

Herzog, who is on a state visit to the United States, the first ever by a president of Israel, addressed rabbinic and lay leaders of Conservative, Orthodox and Reform Judaism at a private dinner given in his honor by the Synagogue Council of America at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. It was attended by about 80 people.

Herzog, who earlier in the week met with President Reagan and addressed a special joint session of Congress, appeared at the Saturday evening dinner to receive the SCA’s Covenant of Peace Award for 1987, a statuette of the prophet Isaiah. The presentation was made by the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Elie Wiesel.

The Israeli president also was to receive an honorary doctor of laws degree from Brandeis University Sunday before returning to Israel Sunday night.

In his remarks to the SCA, Herzog did not identify the extremist elements in Israel, but he appeared to be referring to Rabbi Meir Kahane and his Kach party, which advocates, among other things, the expulsion of Arabs from Israel and the administered territories.


As he spoke, several thousand Satmar Hasidim, a sect of anti-Zionist ultra-Orthodox Jews, demonstrated outside the hotel. They assailed Herzog and denounced Israel as a “Nazi state.”

The Israeli president referred to the demonstrators as an example of religious extremism and intolerance. They prompted Wiesel to remark, “I am ashamed that these are religious Jews. What they do to the religious reputation of our people is unforgivable.”

In the course of his speech, Herzog stressed the urgency of Jewish education and aliyah, noting that when education is intensified, aliyah increases. It was the same theme he sounded when he spoke at a breakfast hosted by the Young Leadership Network of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York Friday morning at the Plaza Hotel.

On that occasion, Herzog declared that “aliyah is the answer” to demographic trends that threaten to result in the Arab population becoming the majority in Israel.

“World Jewry plays a major role in Israel’s demographic future,” the Israeli president said. He added that Israel hopes for mass Soviet Jewish immigration and at the same time expects the Jewish youth of America to come and “meet the challenge” of life in Israel.

He also stressed that Jewish education is the tool for preserving Jewish identity outside of Israel.

Addressing the leadership of the SCA, the umbrella organization of Conservative, Orthodox and Reform Judaism in America, Herzog spoke of “the centrality of Israel” in the life of world Jewry.


The logical conclusion of this is to encourage aliyah, which will not only solve Israel’s demographic problem but is also an answer to the problem “of erosion of the Jewish people” through intermarriage in the United States and in large diaspora Jewish communities elsewhere.

“Where there is highly (motivated) Jewish education there is more aliyah,” Herzog declared. Education also can prevent further assimilation of Jewish youth and Jewish communities throughout the world.

Herzog cited Australia as an example. In that country, where 80 percent of Jewish children receive a Jewish education, aliyah has increased in recent years and there is a very low percentage of assimilation, he said.

Herzog also expressed confidence that as Israel has resolved its ethnic problem between Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jews, so it will bridge the gap between religious and secular Jews in its society.


On the issue of peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors, the Israeli chief of state observed that in the 10 years since President Anwar Sadat of Egypt made his historic visit to Jerusalem, there has been “slow but steady” progress toward peace in the Middle East. He credited this in large measure to the efforts of the United States. “Our people in Israel yearn for peace,” Herzog said.

Rabbi Gilbert Klaperman, president of the SCA, announced at the dinner that his organization is launching a new outreach effort to help Christian clergy and lay leaders to better understand “the meaning of the land of Israel and its centrality to the people of Israel everywhere.”

He said, “Our recent exchanges with the Vatican proved once again that Israel plays a key role with the non-Jewish community. It is therefore essential that the priest and minister, the businessman and businesswoman, the political leader and neighbor-to-neighbor learn all they can about the monumental achievements of Israel, especially on her 40th anniversary.”

Klaperman explained that the SCA will expand its dialogue on “a peer-to-peer basis” with Christian institutional leaders and at the same time “we will work with our constituent agencies to coordinate existing outreach programs to the Christian community.”


At the JCRC breakfast Friday, Sen. Daniel Moynihan (D-N.Y.) presented Herzog with a congressional resolution calling for the overturn of the 1975 United Nations General Assembly resolution equating Zionism with racism. The congressional resolution was unanimously approved by the Congress and signed by President Reagan earlier in the week.

The senator called for “globalization” of the resolution in a campaign to prepare the ground for the repeal of the anti-Zionist resolution by next September, at the 43rd session of the General Assembly.

Both Herzog and Moynihan represented their respective countries at the United Nations when Resolution 3379 was adopted by an overwhelming majority of the membership.

Herzog also met Friday with U.N. Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar at the United Nations headquarters. According to officials who accompanied Herzog to the meeting, it was friendly, lasted longer than an hour and dealt with the issues of Israeli prisoners of war still held in Lebanon and Syria, as well as Resolution 3379.

Herzog urged the secretary general to use his influence on both issues, the officials said, and congratulated him for his Nov. 6 decision to open files on Nazi war criminals stored in the U.N. archives.

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