The Celebrity-Monotheist: It has been twenty years since the tragic assassination of Rabbi Meir Kahane.
Rabbi Kahane was American-Israeli Orthodox rabbi, an ultra-nationalist writer and political figure and a member of the Israeli Knesset.
In the 1960s and 70s, Kahane organized the JDL, the Jewish Defense League. Its goal was to protect Jews in New York City's high-crime neighborhoods and to instill Jewish pride. Kahane was also active in the struggle for the right of Soviet Jews to emigrate. By 1969 he was proposing emergency Jewish mass-immigration to Israel because of the imminent threat of a second Holocaust in the anti-Semitic United States. He argued that Israel be made into a state modeled on Jewish religious law, that it annex the West Bank and Gaza strip and that it urge all Arabs to voluntarily leave Israel or be ejected by force.
By sheer coincidence, in 1982, I traveled with Kahane on a long Tower Air flight from New York to Israel. As was common on flights to Israel, Jewish men gathered on the plane as the sun became visible in the Eastern sky, to form a minyan, kind of an ad hoc synagogue. I prayed the morning services with Kahane and the others at the back of the jumbo jet plane. After that, during the remainder of the flight, I introduced myself and politely challenged Kahane at length about his radical political views.
In 1984 Kahane became a member of the Knesset representing his Kach party. In 1988, the Israeli government banned Kach as racist. On November 5, 1990 at age 58, Kahane was assassinated in Manhattan by an Arab gunman after delivering a speech that warned American Jews to emigrate to Israel before it was too late. In 1994 Kach was outlawed and listed by the U.S. State Department as a terrorist organization.
Bearing all this in mind, in my new book, in my discussion of the celebrity-monotheist archetype of the synagogue, I call my illustrative character Rabbi Meir.