Rav Kook: Mystic in a Time of Revolution
by Yehudah Mirsky
Yale University Press, 288 pp., $25
efore his burial, while his body was still lying in state on the grounds of the Knesset—before his family even had the chance to begin mourning—the late Ariel Sharon was being vilified, not only in the Arab street, as a butcher and war criminal, but by some Israeli rabbis and parliamentarians, as a treacherous turncoat. Rabbi Baruch Marzel wrote that Sharon “will be inscribed for eternal damnation in the Book of Traitors to the Jewish people.” Orit Struk, a Knesset member from the Religious Zionist party, Ha-Bayit Ha-Yehudi(Jewish Home), went so far as to proclaim that Sharon’s 2006 stroke had been a “blessing,” Religious Zionist yeshiva students in Yad Binyamin mounted posters that read “Heartfelt Mazal Tov to Ariel Sharon on the Occasion of His Death,” and so forth.
One of the sickening ironies of this is that such sentiments came from ultra-nationalist Orthodox Zionists, commonly referred to in Israel as “chardalim” (an acronym for haredim dati’im leumi’im and a play on the Hebrew word for mustard), who claim discipleship of the saintly Rabbi Abraham Isaac ha-Cohen Kook. Kook was born in the Russian Pale of Settlement in what is now modern-day Latvia in 1865 and died in Jerusalem in 1935. He was the first chief rabbi of modern Israel and an irenic mystic who never once spoke ill of his religious and political adversaries, of which he had many who publicly defamed him for decades.