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The explosive comedy stylings of Jeremy Gimpel

If you care about Israel, here’s a disconcerting prospect: Jeremy Gimpel could be a member of Israel’s next Knesset and possibly a member of the governing coalition.

And if you wish Israel ill, you may welcome this.

Israel’s Channel 2 broadcast part of a 2010 speech Gimpel delivered to a Christian audience in Florida, in which he appeared to welcome the prospect of the Muslim shrine the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem being blown up.

“I’m being recorded so I can’t say blown up. But let’s say the dome was blown up.”

Right. You can’t say it. But you said it.

He added that if this happens, Christians would surely rush to Israel. (And then what?) Not only does he welcome the destruction of the Dome (see also here), but the prospect of millions of evangelical Christians suddenly making their way to the Jewish state doesn’t seem to bother him.

Gimpel would be a little easier to ignore if he were not number 14 on the slate of candidates of the far-right Habayit Hahyehudi party of Naftali Bennett in Tuesday’s election. Polls indicate the party could win as many as 14 seats, which would put Gimpel in the Knesset. And if Bibi Netanyahu puts together the next governing coalition, it could well include Habayit Hayehudi.

Gimpel said he was joking for a Christian audience. Ha ha. Maybe you have to be an end-times Christian to appreciate that kind of humor. Bennett, who stands to be a major figure in the Israel’s next government, said he was “proud” of Gimpel and stood behind all the candidates on his Knesset slate.

Tzipi Livni of Hatnuah, Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid and Shelly Yachimovich of Labor denounced Gimpel and Bennett. Netanyahu dodged questions about him.

Although there are lots of good, constructive, reality-based American olim (of various political persuasions) in Israel, Gimpel is among a fairly large number of US-born wingnuts there who insist on seeing Israel less as a real place with real people trying to raise families, educate their children, make a decent living, etc., and more as a semi-mystical fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. Thus they see the whole Land of Israel (including of course the West Bank) as something more holy than temporal. The dream of many Israelis– that their country will one day be at peace, just one nation among many, and no more newsworthy than, say, Norway– is not theirs.

For some reason, there aren’t as many British olim of this sort.

Jeremy Gimpel and his fellow American oleh Ari Abramowitz make their pitch here. (Abramowitz later dropped out of the Knesset race.) Note the knock at gay-friendly Tel Aviv, among other targets.

Gimpel is a vocal proponent of American Jews coming to live in Israel. I’m all for encouraging aliyah– especially among young, idealistic American Jews– but his focus is aimed at a rather narrow segment, and almost seems designed to turn others off the idea.

Writing at Haaretz, American olah Allison Kaplan Sommer takes a look at Gimpel’s and Abramowitz’s close links to Christian evangelicals in the US and concludes:

It’s a delicate and controversial tightrope act that Gimpel and his partner Rabbi Abramowitz perform. They are Orthodox rabbis who profit from teaching Torah to Christians in churches, and they work to bring Christians close to Judaism, while attempting to distance themselves from the fact that their friends and supporters in these ministries also are interested in bringing Jews to Jesus, or as they like to call him, Yeshua.

Update: Argie writes in the comments:

While wishing that HaBait Hayehudi don’t pass the threshold, I must disagree with the vision of Israel as “no more newsworthy than, say, Norway”. I wish for Israel to be more newsworthy than America. In the fields of science, culture, Jewish knowledge, economy, power, development, help to other countries, etc. We came to this land to make Israel the best country in the world. Not Norway.

Well said. And fair enough.