Bibi— Son of Benzion
The Netanyahu legacy.
Aug 13, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 44 • By MEIR Y. SOLOVEICHIK
For Benzion Netanayahu, Spanish Jewry’s complacency, and their embrace of a convenient narrative, reveals “man’s natural reluctance to draw radical conclusions which imply uprooting oneself from a comfortable spot.” Just as German Jews “failed to foresee Hitler’s rise to power at any time during the period preceding that rise, so the Jews of Spain failed to notice, even a few years before the expulsion, the mountainous wave which was approaching to overwhelm them.” The failure by one of the greatest communities in Jewish Diaspora history to sense this threat was “nothing short of proverbial.”
Now, the son of this scholar leads the Jewish state and must decide how seriously to take the anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic rhetoric of Iranian leaders, as they seek the ability to build a weapon of which the ancient and medieval enemies of Jerusalem and of the Jews could only have dreamed.
As it happens, Benjamin Netanyahu has written with reverence of his father’s scholarship, and of its underlying lesson. The Tisha B’av expulsion from Spain, as he sees it, is an eternal warning to Jews that one of the great threats to their wellbeing is their own complacency. Several months ago, he chose to close his eulogy at his father’s funeral by referring to the latter’s academic work:
It was this Tisha B’av, the first without his father, that Netanyahu stood with Mitt Romney and warned his nation, and the world, that after centuries of persecution Jews had learned to take anti-Semites at their word. How Netanyahu will choose to deal with the Iranian threat is unclear. Yet one thing is certain: He will have his father and his father’s lifework in mind as he makes his choice.
Meir Y. Soloveichik is director of the Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought at Yeshiva University and associate rabbi at Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun in Manhattan.