Who Would Rabbi Froman Have Voted For?


Rabbi Menachem Froman was the controversial Israeli "settler rabbi for peace." I followed him for over five years (until his death in 2013), and he is the main character of our soon-to-be-released documentary, A Third Way -- Settlers and Palestinians as Neighbors.

Froman was my "Jewish Zen master" -- he was known for his total irreverence, for thriving on contradictions, for not taking sides in the painful Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Instead, he took all sides, and often answered questions with his cheeky but on-target answers. When I asked him, with a straight face, what he would do if his Israeli settlement became part of a future state of Palestine, he chuckled, then answered, "I'm a citizen of the state of (pause)...God. It's not so important who is the man, the government."

In other words, as he said at another point, "We belong to the land, the land doesn't belong to us."

So I ask myself: In the recent Israeli elections in March of this year, who would Froman have voted for? (You may know that we Israelis don't vote for an individual, but for a political party, each of which has a "list" of potential members of the Knesset or Israeli Parliament. The first on the list of the party that gets the most votes becomes Israel's Prime Minister; and proportional to how many votes the party receives, it gets more or less Knesset members. Then, in the crazy mess that is Israel, the party that gets more votes than any other, has to try to assemble a coalition, whose members must add up to a majority (61) of the 120 members of Knesset.)

Netanyahu's Likud party got the most votes (after he famously uttered his racist warning to get out the vote, two days before the election). Not a chance Froman would have voted for such a party.

What about the "Jewish Home" party? Probably not -- another time Froman summed up, "We Jews are famous for our arrogance." The Jewish Home party is headed by loudmouth Naftali Bennett, who famously said that Palestinians are like "shrapnel in your butt."

Froman probably wouldn't have voted for the "Zionist Camp" party either (Froman said in general that he himself had more success peacemaking than the Zionists did). I have a feeling Froman may have voted "across lines" for the Arab Joint List, an amalgam of three Arab-Israeli parties (though which have several Jewish members). Throughout his adult life, Froman developed warm relationships with many Palestinian politicians and religious leaders, including Arafat and Sheikh Ahmed Yassin (the religious founder of Hamas.) The current head of the Arab Joint List is Aymen Odeh, who is a relatively quiet but eloquent lawyer, who recently gave this amazing inaugural speech in the Knesset, describing a dream he has for a better future in Israel/Palestine.

And Froman definitely would not be in favor of Netanyahu's current attempts at creating additional governmental ministers (as a lure to get more members of Knesset to be happy to join his coalition) -- one writer called these attempts "a government built on a foundation of bribery."

Instead, as one Palestinian character in our documentary recounts, during a meeting Froman was having with Yasser Arafat, Froman had asked Arafat about the possibility of there being Jewish citizens (who were previously Israeli settlers) of a future state of Palestine. Arafat had supposedly smiled, and immediately responded to Froman, "Yes, and you will be the Minister of Jewish Citizens in Palestine." So yeah, maybe the motivation for creating new ministers should be healing, not bribes to keep a Prime Minister in power.

One night last week I was feeling a bit crazy, so I started to create Fromanesque memes (like the ones on the top and bottom of this page) from stills from our movie. It is sometimes said in Jewish mysticism that when someone dies, three percent of their soul remains on earth, affecting us humans. I certainly feel that Rabbi Froman is still affecting me, filling me with optimism, hope and humor in these dark times in the Holy Land, when it seems that the real religion is, "Me, me, me" -- not anything having to do with healing, or dreams of a better reality for all the inhabitants "between the River and the Sea."