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October 28, 1988 - Image 27

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-10-28

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

ELECTIONS

DAVID MARGOLIS

Special to The Jewish News

have an Israeli friend whom
I'll call Dorit, a young married
woman who grew up in the sort
of family that, in Israel, is called
secular: they kept kosher and
were committed Jewishly, but did not
observe Shabbas completely or feel
bound by Jewish law. Married now
and living in America, Dorit thought
she might like to light candles on Fri-
day evenings, as her mother often did,
in order to bring some Jewish
spirituality into her and her hus-
band's life.
But she was afraid, she told me,
that if she began lighting candles, she
would end up being "like one of those
miserable Haredim."
To Dorit, the Haredim (the black-
coated, so-called "ultra-Orthodox")
represent traditional Judaism, and
she would not want in any way to be
identified with them. That this is
foolish of her does not mean there is
no reason for it.
One reason Israelis will give you
for their hostility to the ultra-
Orthodox is that Haredi young men
sit in yeshiva while other young men
risk their lives in the army. Another
is that Orthodoxy legislates issues of
marriage and divorce. Dorit had to
pay her state-salaried neighborhood
rabbi $150, even though another rab-
bi was performing the ceremony.
Then she had to see a state-salaried
rebbitzen and undergo mikvah (ritual
bath) before her wedding. She didn't
want to go to mikvah — didn't under-
stand it, didn't like it, didn't care
about it — but Israeli civil law forces
mikvah on every woman before she
marries.
The rebittzen, a bureaucrat Dorit
had never seen previous to their lit-
tle chat about this intimate part of
her life, instructed Dorit in the prac-
tice of taharas hamispocha, the "fami-
ly purity" laws, and told her that
women who do not use the mikvah
monthly are likely to bear defective
children. This did nothing, you may
be sure, to overcome Dorit's distaste
for the state-imposed religion of her
people.
I believe — I know — that the laws
of "family purity" are a wonderful,
marriage-renewing discipline. But
that is not the point. In Israel, the
power of the state is intertwined with
religion in numerous ways that are of-
fensive and repressive and, as in
Dorit's case, only bring Judaism into
disrepute among the Jews.
"All its paths are peace," we say
of the Torah. You can't force peace

I



8

Orthodoxy With
A Human Face

A new religious political party in Israel
advocates a gentler approach,
and is willing to trade land for peace

Checking the politcal headlines in Jerusalem.

down someone's throat. If you want
people to live you way, what you have
to do (all you have to do, it seems to
me) is demonstrate in your life how
pleasurable, meaningful and useful
that way is.

In other words, the fact that Or-
thodox Judaism seems monstrous to
many secular Israelis is not only the
fault of secular Israelis.
Luckily, a lot of Orthodox Jews
besides me, both here and in Israel,
find religious coercion distasteful —
more than distasteful, a chillul
HaShem, a desecration of God's
reputation in the world. The oddest
thing — odder, I think, than the fact
that Arab members of the Knesset
help decide whether non-Orthodox
converts should be considered Jewish
for purposes of immigration or that
the buses don't run in Tel Aviv on
Saturday — is that there are many
non-religious American Jews, people
who would repudiate any state-
sponsored religious intrusion into
their own lives, who applaud it in

Religious News Service

Israel. I suppose there are always peo-
ple who are glad to send others out to
war.
My impulse for this discursion in-
to the corruption of religious authori-
ty in Israel was a recent "parlor
meeting" sponsored by Meimad, the
new Israeli religious Zionist party.
Parlor meeting, in the code of our
times, means a fund-raiser in
somebody's living room: Meimad's
need is to gather enough shekels to
do an advertising blitz in the final
days of the Israeli election campaign
(and incidentally to put itself in a
good position for the next campaign.)
Meimad represents what is now
generally called centrist Orthodoxy
(the phrase "Modern Orthodoxy" is
falling out of favor, apparently
because the word "modern" implies
something bad — which itself shows
how far down the slope of absurdity
we have already slid). The party
stands for classic religious Zionism —
not only the centrality of Jewish
tradition in Israeli life, but territorial
compromise with the Palestinian

Arabs, an end to coercive religious
legislation, open dialogue between
the religious and secular communi-
ties and full integration of women in-
to public and political life. The depth
of Israel's crisis may be understood
simply by the fact that such a plat-
form should require a new political
party and that many religious Jews
subscribe to none of these goals.
The speaker at the parlor meeting
was Maimad's treasurer, Yitzchak
Sokoloff, an American-born Israeli.
According to Sokoloff, the National
Religious Party,_ which has till now
represented religious Zionism in the,
Knesset, has moved so far to the right
that it is claiming that halacha
(Jewish law) prohibits return of any
part of Eretz Israel to the Arabs.
Not all halachic authorities would
agree. One of them is Rav Yehuda
Amital, Meimad's main man. Amital,
a founder of the hesder yeshiva move-
ment, in which young men combine
Torah study with army service,
himself lives on the West Bank, but
he has said he would trade the land
both his home and yeshiva stand on
in return for peace.
Says Sokoloff, in Meimad's name:
"Yes, the whole land belongs to us.
But we have to articulate priorities —
first the People of Israel, then the
Torah of Israel and only then the
Land of Israel:'
Meimad's leaders, staff and sup-
porters are not professional political
people. They are Jews'from all walks
of life who believe in the possibility
of a sane and humane Israel with a
social covenant that binds together
secular and religious Jews. The
leaders especially seem people raised
up by necessity, politicians despite
themselves: they would rather be pur-
suing their religious careers.
My friend Dorit is, of course,
mistaken in identifying all Judaism
with the Haredim and foolish to aban-
don her own spirituality because she
has been hurt by Israel's religious
politics. She is also blind to overlook
the noble examples of commitment to
Torah, spiritual intensity and com-
munal warmth which the Haredi
communities offer to • the Jewish
people.
But I sympathize with Dorit, and
that is , why I feel, in the establish-
ment of Meimad, a renewed
hopefulness for the possibility of na-
tional reconciliation in Israel — a
time of remembering that the people
of Israel come first. Love, goes the say-
ing, is the most complex form of
politics. Though love can't be
legislated, I wish Meimad 61 seats in
the next Knesset.

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

27

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