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Schach Denounced for Degel Speech Calling Kibbutzniks Not True Jews

Rabbi Eliezer Schach, leader of the strictly Orthodox Degel HaTorah party, has been hit by a fierce backlash for attacking the kibbutz movement on grounds that it has forsaken religion.

The Lithuanian-born rabbi from Bnei Brak delivered his polemic at Degel’s convention in Tel Aviv on Monday night. He claimed that the kib-butzniks, from whom the Labor Party draws much of its support, arc not true Jews because they spurn religious practices.

Although they were seen as a repudiation of Shimon Peres’ efforts to induce Degel to join a Labor-led coalition government, the elderly rabbi’s remarks drew angry criticism from all over the political spectrum.

He was said to have wept when told of the reaction of Knesset member Rafael Eitan, the former Israel Defense Force chief of staff, who heads the extreme right-wing Tsomet party.

“I suggest that he visit the military graveyards where lie the kibbutz war dead,” the retired general said.

“Were it not for their supreme sacrifice, Rabbi Schach and the community he represents would find it difficult to articulate the views he voiced Monday.”

Editorial cartoonists in Ha’aretz and Ma’ariv independently arrived at the same conclusion. They depicted the rabbi delivering his speech amid the graves of kibbutz war dead.

Sources close to Schach quoted by Ma’ariv on Thursday said the rabbi did not mean to disparage war heroes, even by implication.

But they tried to justify his charge that kibbutz members aren’t real Jews by noting that Druse and Circassians do not become Jews just because they also serve and die in the Israel Defense Force.

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