Fast Track Zionists - as Jews are leaving Israel
in droves, the zionist state is shipping Peruvian Indians to man
their colonial outposts on the occupied territories.
-- Youre Jewish
The Jerusalem Report
4 August, 2002
When it comes to the settlement movement,the
sky is now the limit,including a crash course of 12 working days
in how to transform from an Andes Indian into a settler Jew.
The Ha'aretz newspaper's weekend magazine of July 19 carried a
cover story about 90 Indians from villages tucked far up in the
remote mountains of Peru who had been converted to Judaism in Lima
in a record two weeks. They were then flown to Israel where they
were sent directly to two Israeli settlements on the West Bank,
Alon Shvut and Karmei Tzur, where they will study in yeshivah and
pray, at the states expense, for the messiah to arrive.
The 90, constituting 18 family units, remarkably, were converted
by an official rabbinical delegation sent from Israel with the blessings
of Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Israel Lau. Though they cannot speak a
word of Hebrew, the 90 were given Hebrew names. Though they have
never heard of Theodor Herzl, they are ardent Zionists who do not
doubt for a minute that Israel is the Jewish state. And while Israeli
politics are a total mystery to them, as is the debate over the
future of the territories, that Judea and Samaria belong to the
State of Israel is beyond question.
Why the 90 Peruvian Indians wanted to become Jewish was not made
quite clear in the piece, other than a general sentiment that Abraham
was the father of us all. What is made clear is that the 3,000-strong
Peruvian Jewish community told the rabbinical delegation that they
could convert whomever they want, as long as the converts dont
remain in Peru. The Jewish community, it was explained, has enough
difficulties of its own without having to deal with the "socioeconomic"
problems the new converts would have brought with them.
One explanation for this passion to become Jewish, though, may
be that a warm mobile home in the Judean Hills was a better propsect
than scratching out a living in the Andes. Another is Sigundo Villanova,
now Zerubavel Tzadkiya, a former Peruvian Indian who somehow arrived
here in 1990 and moved to the radical West Bank settlement of Tapuah
with his wife and six children. The children, who now have their
own families, all continue to live on Tapuah, as do Zerubavels
brother and his family. All are now firmly ultra-nationalist, messianic
and determined to bring as many other Peruvian Indians over to Israel
Adding to our numbers is admirable in these troubled times, but
why a serious and staid Jewish scholar like Rabbi Lau would go along
with the scheme is an enigma. One can understand the folks at Alon
Shvut and Karmei Tzur being happy to get their hands on anyone prepared
to join them. But it is hard to believe that Israel would send out
an official rabbinical delegation to convert these people to a religion
they know nothing about and bring them slap into the middle of a
conflict they have no part in.
To have done so is, frankly, incomprehensible and becomes all the
more so when viewed in the context of the rabbinates attitude
toward others who have tried to convert. Why, one wonders, does
it take only two weeks to convert a Peruvian mountain Indian while
tens of thousands of immigrants to Israel from the former Soviet
Union, who have been here for a decade, serve in the army and have
become the backbone of society, are put through the wringer before
they are accepted as Jews? The criteria demanded of them for conversion
are so strict that most simply cannot go through the process. In
consequence they have to continue going to Cyprus to get married,
and are buried outside the cemetery wall, even when they die for
their country. And here we have people who dont know a mohel
from a shohet who are immediately inducted into what is supposed
to be a non-proselytizing religion and brought to Israel to live
on the dole.
I am all for the ingathering of the exiles and I have nothing against
Peruvians, Indian or otherwise. But I find it confusing when someone
like Sigundo Villanova seems to get one up on someone as undeniably
brilliant as Rabbi Israel Lau and on the government of Israel by
circumventing the regular immigration route of the Jewish Agency.
As always, it seems that when it comes to supporting the needs
of the settlement movement, at the end of the day, the sky is the
limit, including a crash course of 12 working days in how to transform
from an Andes Indian into a settler Jew. The main requirement is
that our 90 new brethren believe that all of the Land of Israel
is ours and like their leader, the now-Zerubavel Tzadkiya, dividends
will come down the road when the children and grandchildren, many
of them, will make places like Tapuah thrive.
Tapuah, apple in Hebrew, was once considered a rotten apple by
the mainstream settler movement, a place inhabited by fanatics who
adhered to the hate philosophy of the late rabbi Meir Kahane. The
community was an embarrassment to serious Land of Israel idealists
who claimed they had an aspiration to coexist with the Arabs. That
they should now be bending even the most sacred rules to make the
spirit of Tapuah thrive is a sign of just how desperate and confused
the settler movement -- and the rabbinate that is effectively supporting
them -- seems to have become.
90 Peruvians became the latest Jewish settlers
August 7, 2002
When a delegation of rabbis travelled to Lima
to convert a group of South American Indians to Judaism, they added
just one condition: come and live with us in Israel. As soon as
these new Jews arrived in the country, they were bussed straight
to settlements in the disputed territories. So how are they coping?
Neri Livneh tracks them down.
In a prefab structure at a school in the West Bank settlement of
Alon Shvut, a few dozen people are sitting and singing a popular
Hasidic song: "The whole world is a very narrow bridge and
the main thing is not to be afraid." They are singing with
feeling, even though most of them don't understand a word of the
song. As is the custom in religious schools, the class is divided
into a men's section and a women's section. The women are wearing
hats and the men's heads are covered by knitted skullcaps. The men
and women alike have distinct South American Indian features.
Almost unnoticed, a new branch of Jews is springing up in the settlements,
Jews who are connected to Israel and all things Israeli by a very
narrow bridge indeed. They have yet to visit Tel Aviv or Haifa,
and have never even heard of Degania, the very first kibbutz, or
its neighbour, Kinneret. Miki Kratsman, the photographer, and I
had the privilege of being the first secular Jews they had ever
met. Nevertheless, they are fired with a historic sense of their
right to this land.
"We are of Indian origin," says Nachshon Ben-Haim, formerly
Pedro Mendosa, "but in Peru, in the Andes, there is no Indian
culture left. Everyone has become Christian, and before we became
Jews, we also were Christians who went to church."
The miracle of the creation of this community of new Jews has to
be chalked up wholly and exclusively to the credit - or debit -
of the chief rabbinate of Israel. At the order of the Ashkenazi
chief rabbi, Israel Meir Lau, a delegation of rabbis travelled to
Peru. During their two weeks in the country, they converted 90 people
to Judaism, most of them of Indian origin.
"We found a small river between Trujillo and Cajamarca and
everyone immersed in it. We took the people from Lima to be immersed
in the ocean and then we also had to remarry them all in a Jewish
ceremony according to the halakha [Jewish religious law],"
says Rabbi Eliyahu Birnbaum, a judge in the conversion court and
a member of the delegation.
The rabbis converted only those who said they were willing to emigrate
to Israel immediately. "We laid down that condition because
in the remote areas where they live, there is no possibility of
keeping kosher and it was important for us to ensure that they would
live in a Jewish environment. In fact, there was no need for the
condition because they were in any case imbued with a love of the
land of Israel in a way that is hard to describe," says Rabbi
David Mamo, the deputy president of the conversion court.
"Because we saw their enthusiasm for the land of Israel, we
understood that conversion was part of a complete process including
aliyah [immigration to Israel], so we told them: just as you live
in a community here, you should join a community in Israel, too,"
says Birnbaum. "Rabbi Mamo and I both live in Gush Etzion [a
group of settlements south of Bethlehem] and we believe that when
it comes to community-oriented settlements, there are none that
can compare with Alon Shvut and Karmei Tzur [both in Gush Etzion],
which said they would be willing to absorb the new immigrants."
The 90 new immigrants, comprising 18 families, were taken straight
from the airport to the two settlements. Leah Golan, director of
the Jewish Agency department responsible for immigration, says:
"We, as the Jewish Agency, bring to Israel anyone who has been
defined as being entitled to aliyah - that is, anyone who has been
recognised as a Jew by the chief rabbinate or the interior ministry.
"Generally, the potential immigrants are in touch with our
aliyah emissaries and are given very reliable information about
housing, employment and education possibilities in Israel. But in
Peru, we do not have an emissary: there is only a small Jewish community
of about 3,000 people there, so we only have an office in Lima that
is staffed by a local woman. Therefore, the Jewish Agency was not
involved in any way in the decision about where these new immigrants
would live or what kind of work they would do. All the decisions
on those subjects were apparently made by the rabbis." Theoretically,
the new Jews had the option of joining the Jewish community in Peru,
but that was ruled out.
"How can I put it without hurting anyone?" Birnbaum says.
"The community in Lima consists of a certain socio-economic
class and did not want them because they are from a lower level.
There was a kind of agreement that if they were converted, they
would not join the Lima community, so there was no choice but to
lay down the condition that they immigrate to Israel."
The new Jews have not encountered similar difficulties in the settlements,
where they have been integrated smoothly. "Now, thank God,
we live where the patriarch, Abraham, the number one Jew, roamed,"
says Ephraim Perez, who until two weeks ago, in Trujillo, Peru,
was known as Nilo.
It turns out that Peru also had an ancient Jewish forefather of
its own: "It is known that Christopher Columbus was a Jew,"
Batya Mendel who, until two months ago, was a Peruvian citizen whose
first name was Blanca says. "And since he was in Peru, many
Jews have been born there."
Columbus was Jewish? "They always say that about him in Peru,
and he visited many places in Peru and left Jewish blood everywhere,"
says Mandel. "There are also a lot of Christian sects that
obey the commandments since then. When we were Christians, we also
observed all kinds of commandments, such as Pascha [sic] and Shavuot."
So, in fact, are of Jewish origin? "No. In Peru everyone is
a mixture of natives and all kinds of conquerors, but there was
a great deal of Jewish influence through the Marranos [Jews living
during the Spanish Inquisition who secretly kept their faith despite
converting to Christianity] and through Columbus. When we were still
Christians and went to the church we observed some commandments
such as Shabbat and holidays."
Rabbis Mamo and Birnbaum, along with officials of the settlements,
refer to the 90 new Jews as the "third aliyah " as there
were two previous groups who came over from Peru in 1990 and 1991.
Batya Mendel decided, on the occasion of her immigration to Israel,
to Hebraize not only her first name, but her surname as well: "I
Hebraized my name to Mendel," she explains, "because every
year in the 1990s, a rabbi named Miron Sover Mendel came to Peru
at Passover and he would always spend a few days in Trujillo and
a few days in Cajamarca and a few days in Lima, and teach us Judaism.
He died about half a year ago, so when they asked me at the conversion
about a name, I asked in his memory that my surname be changed to
What made you come to this settlement? "The Absorption Ministry
told us to go here and thank God they sent us here," says Mendel.
"This is the land of the patriarch, Abraham, and the people
here are very nice."
According to Ben-Haim, "the idea that there are Palestinians
here at all is a lie. The Palestinian people never existed
and only when the Jews leave their country, the Arabs come
in and try to take over and prove they have a right here.
But we cannot agree to that because the Lord gave the land
to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob for all time, and all the Jews
will be united and love the Lord with all their heart, and
then all the problems will be solved."
What is the solution? "In Peru I thought that all the
Jews in Israel were religiously observant," says Mendel.
"It was only when I came here that I heard that almost
30% of the Jews are not religious, and that broke my heart."
"The Arab has the
instinct of murder and killing like all gentiles, and only
Jews do not have that instinct - that is a genetic fact."
Is that what you were told, I ask - that the majority of the Jews
in Israel are religious? "Yes, the majority but not everyone.
But if they all become fully religious and unite, the Messiah will
come and the problems with the Palestinians will be solved because
they will get out of here."
Mendel's eyes glitter as she talks: "It will be the most wonderful
day in the world when all the Arabs will become Jews and observe
the commandments and love the Lord and when the Messiah comes, there
will be no one in the land of our fathers who does not love the
Lord and Judaism with all their heart."
You only became a member of this nation a few months ago, and have
been in the country less than two months, I say. Do you know that
there are Arabs whose families have lived here for hundreds of years?
"But God said that whomsoever becomes a Jew with a full heart
and observes the commandments - only to a Jew like that will He
give the land for generation unto generation."
Ben-Haim is not bothered by the fact that by being sent to a settlement,
he has also been effectively recruited to a particular political
group: "We knew we were coming to a place that is called 'territories'
because people we know immigrated earlier and are living in the
settlements in the territories. But I have no problem with that
because I do not consider the territories to be occupied territories.
You cannot conquer what has in any case belonged to you since the
time of the patriarch, Abraham."
Ben-Haim says that after he finishes the Hebrew course, he may
join the army, "because I wasn't in the army in Peru and that
is something I lack, and also because I want to defend the country
and if there is no choice, I will kill Arabs. But I am sure that
Jews kill Arabs only for self-defence and justice, but Arabs do
it because they like to kill."
He bases this belief on his scientific view of Judaism: "The
Arab has the instinct of murder and killing like all gentiles, and
only Jews do not have that instinct - that is a genetic fact."
But if you were not born a Jew genetically, don't you have that
instinct? "Maybe it was there, but it makes no difference because
now we are all Jews."
This is an edited extract of an article which first appeared in
the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz.