The following is the text of HaRav Lazerson's farewell speech to the Knesset, delivered two months ago.
The shocking incident of a shul being burnt together with its sifrei Torah in the Gilo neighborhood of Yerushalayim is bad news for all of us. Even if the identity of those behind this shameful deed remains unknown, the fact itself that something so fiendish can happen in our country is enough to shake each one of us.
Some weeks have passed since that terrible incident happened. Such an occurrence should in normal times upset the peace of mind of every Jew who feels an attachment to our holiest article, a sefer Torah, that is the air we breathe -- the secret and foundation of the existence of am Yisroel through its many wanderings. But that did not happen. Everyone seemed to be tongue-tied. The same politicians who instigated against chareidim were suddenly speechless.
Day and night the media finds fault with the Torah-true. On Holocaust Day the government radio dared to broadcast a song full of heresy and indignity to Hashem, something that should prick a Jew's ears and require one to tear keriah. But after this appalling act the radio was strangely silent. Israel's Justice Bureaus who tremble whenever they seem to find "dangers undermining the foundations of society and the rule of law" and alert us against such a threat whenever it finds it appropriate, curiously did not comment.
As a representative of the chareidim in the Knesset I was lately privileged to be involved in helping in a case of the prolonged and tormenting administrative detention of a chareidi young man in Yerushalayim. He is a father of six small children, and has been held a number of months in jail, charged with participating in a protest against two missionary agents who worked in the heart of Meah Shearim, the prime chareidi area in Eretz Yisroel and Yerushalayim. In his case, I personally saw how active the country's law authorities can be when they are interested in doing so. Only through tireless efforts and bail of 50 thousand NIS was he allowed to be together with his family on the seder night and just on the first day of Pesach. (He had to go back for chol hamoed.) Is it not amazing that even this humane request to be with his family -- at the time he was not convicted of anything -- was confronted by strange opposition from the State Prosecutor?
Who can correctly depict the absurd condition in which we are living in this country? On the one hand -- total silence in reference to the burning of a shul together with its sifrei kodesh, and on the other hand -- total involvement of all government authorities to deny the freedom of a Jew, while disregarding minimal humane considerations.
This contradictory attitude and shameless disproportion regarding how both the government authorities and media -- especially the State-owned television and radio -- act, oblige us to initiate a thorough discussion and exhaustive self-examination concerning the values that are being implanted in the State of Israel.
What is happening here? How is it possible that within the borders of the Jewish State, government officials can be so indifferent as to what is happening to chareidi Jews? How can they completely overlook incitement that contains obvious antisemitic tones? How can High Court judges prevent Jews from buying apartments only because of their being lomdei Torah?
Was the "Jewish Country," as defined in the State's "Proclamation of Independence," founded so that Torah- observant Jews, who are continuing the Jewish heritage passed down through the generations, will feel such suffocation? In this country they feel persecuted because of their faith and their attachment to Jewish heritage. To preserve this heritage, all generations of Jewry -- ours and every Jew's fathers and forefathers -- sacrificed themselves, preferring death to relinquishing their emunah in Hashem and the kedusha of the Torah and its mitzvos.
Dear Knesset Members. How far can this situation deteriorate if we do not do something to immediately stop this terrible wave of anti-chareidi incitement?
Lately an ephemeral, but dangerous, party has appeared on the political map [this refers to Tomy Lapid's Shinui Party -- Editor]. It is a party that holds high the torch of hatred toward the guardians of tradition in the State of Israel.
Acts of this sort cannot defeat generations upon generations of Jewish tradition. Chazal (Avoda Zorah 18a) teach us that when a Roman official burned R' Chanina Ben Tradyon together with a sefer Torah, his talmidim asked him what he saw. R' Chanina answered: "Parchment is burning but the letters are flying away."
It is only possible to burn the body of a sefer Torah -- but not its letters, not its neshomoh. In the annals of history many nations tried to destroy am Yisroel. They destroyed their bodies but not their spirit nor their neshomoh, since "the letters fly away" -- the eternity of Judaism is promised by the Ruler of the World Who testifies through His novi (Yeshaya 43:21): "This people have I formed for Myself; they shall relate My praise."
But I am worried, and this should actually be everybody's concern. There are multitudes of young boys and girls who are not privileged to be educated with the light of Torah and Judaism. What will happen to them and where will they be dragged if we do not stop this decline? The central idea instigating this provocative violence is spreading throughout Eretz Yisroel like a contagious disease. I ask of you, Knesset Members. Please! Enlist every remnant of moral power to prevent this grave deed: this spiritual, educational devastation that parents, teachers, and educators are helpless to stop.
@BIG LET BODY = In conclusion, please allow me to say something personal before I leave the Knesset after a short tenure of only five months. Precisely during this brief period, many high-strung topics surfaced in the Knesset plenum and its committees concerning the state-religion relationship, in safeguarding halachic issues, and concerning the friction between secular Jews and chareidim.
On my frail shoulders fell the heavy duty to be on the alert, to warn and cry out bitterly for Torah Jewry, the most loyal torch bearers of true Judaism. It was not a light responsibility. I went through many hours of strong internal emotion when more than once I faced an inconceivable force of self-hatred of one Jew for another, and of alienation to the Jewish past and to the eternal ancient sources.
Dear Knesset Members. The law enacted several years ago forbidding Knesset members to hold any additional administrative position -- as commented upon only recently by the Knesset Chairman saying that it drives away talented people from the Knesset -- has unfortunately forced me during the last half year to sever entirely my connection with the educational enterprise, the Chinuch Atzmai, the pride and largest educational undertaking of Torah Jewry in Eretz Yisroel. I was privileged to serve it for the last twenty years. Now before the elections for the fifteenth Knesset, despite the importance and indispensability of the parliamentary activity to which I have devoted myself with all my strength, I prefer to leave the Knesset at the end of this tenure and to return to the realm of education. I want to contribute what I can and use all my time and energy in forming the future generation, and ensuring an authentic Torah education for tens of thousands of Jewish boys and girls.
It is naturally difficult for me to be objective when evaluating what I have accomplished. Nonetheless, I feel satisfaction and pleasure that during the few months of my serving in the Knesset I worked to the best of my ability to express how I feel and to represent the consistent stand and Torah outlook of the Torah-loyal regarding what is happening in the country, and to show our sincere concern for the spiritual welfare of the entire nation.
Likewise as a believing Jew who clings to the tradition of our fathers I could also clearly show my deep pain at the estrangement of the State from all that is sacred and precious. I am also full of gratitude to Hashem Who gave me the privilege to serve for the short period of several months in the Knesset, to offer assistance to the many who needed my help, and represent them in fulfilling their requests. I pray to Hashem that this zechus will remain with me and help me to continue in my way.
It is a pleasant obligation to use this opportunity to transmit from this public platform my thanks to the thousands of people from all groups, the gedolei Torah and communal leaders, the rank-and-file Jews who, on hearing of my resignation from the Knesset, wrote to me and emotionally expressed their sincere sympathy and estimation. I was particularly moved by that. I cannot answer everyone personally and therefore am relaying to them my gratitude from the Knesset's rostrum. I also wish to thank the Knesset chairman and its deputies, the Knesset's secretary, and all the devoted workers of the Knesset who helped me to fulfill my duty.
In conclusion, I wish to convey heartfelt blessings to my colleagues in the United Torah Jewry bloc and representatives of all other blocs with whom I participated in the crucial campaigns for Torah values. May they be privileged to continue their blessed mission in the coming tenure too and to raise the Torah's honor and that of Judaism, and make the name of Shomayim beloved by all of the nation until we soon and quickly be privileged to the realization of the destiny told us by the novi Yeshaya (Yeshaya 11:9), "They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of Hashem, as the waters cover the sea."
Rabbi Avrohom Yosef Lazerson was previously a Knesset Member for the United Torah Jewry and is now the Secretary General of Chinuch Atzmai.