The newest member of the Israeli Knesset since May 2016 is Yehuda Glick (Likud), an American-born 51 year-old who moved to Israel as a child and has been called by some “the most dangerous Jew in the world.” He assumed his position when MK Moshe Yaalon resigned from the Knesset. A father of eight, he lives in the West Bank settlement of Atniel.
I was assigned as a member of the Board of Governors (BOG) of the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) last week to lobby MK Glick about three important issues of concern to the Jewish Agency; religious pluralism, support for the anti-BDS movement, and greater support for aliyah – all of which we were in agreement.
Our 120-member Board lobbied 26 MKs that day followed by a larger meeting with PM Netanyahu, Speaker of the Knesset Yuli Edelstein, Opposition Leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union), and Chairman of the Executive of JAFI Natan Sharansky.
In October 2014, Glick was shot four times in the chest in an assassination attempt by an Arab terrorist who apologized before shooting him saying; “I am sorry – but you are an enemy of Al Aqsa!” His assailant was eventually found and killed by Israeli security forces. Though wounded very seriously, Yehuda spent three months recovering in the hospital.
When we met, I told him that I was happy he was alive. He knew that I am the Chair of the Association of Reform Zionists of America and was a co-chair of the national Rabbinic Cabinet of J Street, both liberal Zionist organizations supporting a two-states for two peoples resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He joked, “Given your background I’m surprised you’re glad I’m alive.”
MK Glick shared with me his passionate vision of a united Jerusalem and a city of peace, his strong belief in human rights for all peoples, and his support for religious pluralism in the state of Israel. As an Orthodox Jew and strong supporter of the settler movement, I was surprised that he voted for the right of Reform and Conservative converts to use state mikvaot and for the government’s plan to build a new egalitarian prayer space in the southern Kotel plaza beneath Robinson’s Arch.
“What difference does it make to me that women want to wear t’filin, that you want to pray at the Kotel according to your practice, and that Reform and Conservative Jews and Women of the Wall want equal rights in Israel – they should have equal rights and be able to pray at the Kotel any way you like in a new prayer space!” he said.
Glick spoke movingly that Jerusalem should be an example of co-existence and mutual respect, that it should be a light to the nations of the world, where the three great faith traditions live peacefully and respectfully side by side, willing to share space.
“It works in the cave of the Machpelah in Hebron,” he reasoned. “Jews pray at certain times and Muslims pray at other times. If we can do that there why not in Jerusalem?”
Before coming to the Knesset this past summer, he had worked for years for the Jewish right to pray on the Temple Mount (Har Habayit) as the head of the Temple Mount Institute. That organization is focused on the belief of Jewish ownership of all the land of Israel and the right of Jews to pray on the Temple Mount, which has been forbidden by the Israeli government since 1967 in accord with the Muslim Wafq that controls the mount Muslims call Haram al Sharif.
I said; “Yehuda – You realize, of course, that yours is not only a utopian vision, but that if Jews tried to erect a synagogue on the Temple Mount the Muslim world would rise up in revolt and World War III would result?”
He understood the argument, but said that this vision will one day be fulfilled anyway. “It’s a process,” he said, “and it will take time.”
We spoke also of the 2-state solution. He believes that the time has passed for two states, as do most of the Palestinians he knows. He is for one-state, a Jewish state, in which all people, Arabs and Jews, would be equal citizens. All citizens would enjoy equal rights, equal privileges, equal government services, equal resources for education and their communities, and equal access to business opportunities and modern living.
He confessed, however, that Gaza does not fit into his plan. He claims that 90% of Palestinians would want to live in a Jewish state as opposed to a Palestinian state, though its political leaders in the Palestinian Authority, who he calls “gangsters”, say otherwise.
He isn’t worried about Palestinians having more votes than Jews in national elections. Palestinians living in the West Bank and Israel today represent only 35-40% of the total population of Israel, and he doesn’t see a time when the state will no longer be governed by Jews as the majority people. He said that there ought to be more Arab ministers in the Israeli government.
Yehuda believes in a Jewish right of return but not a Palestinian right of return because, after all, Israel is a “Jewish state.” Jews should have this privilege and the right of return should never be given to Palestinians.
“And what about the Palestinians who fled or who were forced to leave in 1948 and 1967,” I asked. “Should they not have the right of return to Palestinian territory? And what about their right to national self-determination? Should that too be denied?”
“No and yes to your questions,” he said categorically.
I don’t agree with Yehuda on these two issues, the one state solution, the lack of compensation of some kind to the Palestinians and their right to return to a Palestinian state, or the risks that Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount would present. However, I was stunned by how thoughtful, pluralistic, non-violent, civil, and compassionate a man Yehuda Glick is.
When I returned to our delegation, our Israeli Reform leaders asked me what I thought of him. I told them my impressions, and they agreed that he is a remarkably unpredictable and openhearted man, extreme in his vision for Jerusalem, and though probably not the most dangerous Jew in Israel, one who creates tumult and provokes unreasonable risk.
My parting question to Yehuda was what he thought of J Street. He smiled and said:
“J Street people are left-wing Zionists – and are impractical.”
As opposed to many in the American Jewish community and the Israeli government, Yehuda understands that J Street is a pro-Israel American Zionist organization. When he called J Street impractical, I was amused. He is, without doubt, the pot calling the kettle black!
After the larger meeting with Netanyahu and company, Yehuda made a special effort to find me and wish me well. He is proof positive that there is no country like Israel where people of opposite positions can actually at times civilly talk to each other, and no country in the world with as much diversity in its government as the Jewish state.
See Wikipedia for Yehuda’s full biography – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yehuda_Glick
david kanter said:
Fascinating encounter, John.
P Klein said:
Hi, this is a blog from the rabbi at our temple. Interesting view of the situation.