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December 25, 1987 - Image 27

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-12-25

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give-and-take in responding to questions.
The bitterness between Peres and
Shamir is such that they do not speak to
each other, according to insiders. And in
one swipe at his rival, Peres, referring to
Israel's role regarding the increasing rate
of the Arab population, asserted that "the
situation is dynamic, even if the leadership
is static."
At another point he noted that while
some say he and Shamir agree on the ends
but disagree on the means to achieve
peace, he suggested that if you don't take
the risk, you cannot achieve peace. Or, in
Peres' words, "if you don't open the box,
how will you find the food?"
With national elections scheduled for
next year, the prospects are strong that
Labor and Likud will face another
stalemate, with neither party gaining
enough votes to form a majority govern-
ment. But the chances fOr another national
unity government of shared or rotating
power appear bleak. Shamir of Likud and
Peres of Labor will gut out their remain-
ing days in office but will do all they can
to avoid another go-round of shared power.
Israel may well be in for a bitter cam-
paign leading up to the elections, and
whichever major party receives the most
votes will probably sell its soul to the small
parties, primarily the religious ones, in an
effort to form a majority without its chief

The Fractious Jewish Family
While the image of a state whose two top
political leaders do not speak to each other

Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir addresses the international Jewish
media conference. Rather than an official state seal on the podium,
there is only a roll of masking tape.

may be troubling, Rabbi David Hartman
would prefer to think of Israel as a large
Jewish family — complete with feuding
• The dynamic American-born rabbi who
founded the Shalom Hartman Institute in
Jerusalem some years ago, uses the
analogy of Israel as a family homecoming.
It is the anticipation of a family reunion
that may be more pleasant than the ex-
perience itself, he says. In fact, after spend-
ing time together, relatives often feel the
tension level increase.
In Israel, according to Hartman, where
Jews from more than a hundred countries
live together under the additional threat
of war from neighboring Arab states, it is
only natural — and often healthy — that
disagreements surface.
But in his passionate presentation to the
conference, focusing on the religious-
secular strife that is tearing at the fabric
of Israeli society, Hartman suggested that
"the greatest shame is seeking to impose
one's definitions on others."
A self-described Orthodox Jewish philo-
sopher, Hartman stressed that the issue is
far deeper than the Knesset debate over
Who Is A Jew legislation, and that the
journalist's responsibility is not to solve
but to clarify the conflict.
Hartman noted that until two centuries
ago, all Jews were guided by a common
"covenantal framework," whether or not
they lived by these laws themselves. But
with the emergence of alternative
theologies like the Conservative and
Reform movements, Jews were no longer
equally bound. The boldest aspect of the
Zionist revolution, according to Hartman,
was the decision to rebuild a Jewish na-
tional home in the midst of this lack of
"Zionism is not just a quest for nor-
malcy," he said. "The soul of the Zionist
decision is to bring together Jews who do
not share the same values."
He said the ultra-Orthodox are seeking
to de-legitimize the very notion of religious
Zionism and the State of Israel as the nor-
mative arm of the Jewish people. And on
the other extreme, nationalists in Israel see
the Jewish state as a replacement of
Hartman has worked hard to bridge the
gap between the religious and the secular
elements in Israel. "I try to get them to
learn together if not practice together," he
said, "to understand that my brother
shares my destiny even if he does not share
my dream." Though committed to follow-
ing Halacha personally, he advocates allow-
ing Conservative and Reform Judaism to
thrive in Israel. "Pluralism doesn't mean
that everyone is right, but that the state
won't use its instruments to prevent the
non-Orthodox from building autonomous
Jewish communities."
Not surprisingly, it has been an uphill,
frustrating effort for Hartman and he has


of ihe
Jewish \Media

Rabbi David Hartman addressing the conference: think of Israel as a
family, complete with feuding relatives.

been vilified by some ultra-Orthodox Jews
for his work.
"I don't want unity," he noted, "I want
them to argue with respect in this battle
over the Jewish soul, over who we are and
what is the meaning of a Jewish state." He
wants to see the Who Is A Jew issue taken
out of the political context and into the
theological realm. "Knesset members
should build roads and leave the soul
alone," he maintained.
"But no one group has the power to de-
legitimize the other. That's the meaning of
Zionism," he concluded.

Israel As Home
Those who have not been to Israel can-
not understand how deep and serious the
issue of aliyah is to Israelis. It is more than
an ideal — that Jews from all over the
world will come "home" to live in Israel —
or even a mitzvah, a religious imperative
from the Bible. It is, to them, the guarantee
of their survival and their children's
The numbers tell the simple story: the
Arab world surrounds Israel and prefers
that she did not exist. The Arab popula-
tion within Israel is growing far more
rapidly than the Jewish population. How
long can we hold the upper hand, Israelis
worry, without an influx of Jews from
Everywhere in Israel that our group
visited after the media conference, the
issue was present, a strong undercurrent
whether articulated directly or not.
In a Jerusalem suburb, I visited with
friends who moved from the U.S. more than
a year ago out of a sense of religious and



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