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August 07, 1992 - Image 7

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1992-08-07

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Just Leave Us Aloni




Shulamit Aloni
in the post of
Minister of Edu-
cation and Cul-
ture in Israel is,
to many obser-
\,, want Jews,
roughly analo-
gous to the Rev. Louis Far-
rakhan being named Secre-
tary of State of the United
Last week, a charedi, Or-
thodox, newspaper in

Jerusalem compared the ed-
ucation of children under
O0 Ms. Aloni to "the spiritual
destruction of the children of
Israel" in the Holocaust, and
a respected Orthodox rabbi
111 in Israel questioned whether
.* it was appropriate to con-
tinue to offer the prayer for
on the State of Israel at
Sabbath services now that
Ms. Aloni holds such a key
position of power.
Why does this 63-year-old
grandmother inspire such
Throughout her long
Knesset career, Ms. Aloni,
who heads the left-wing
Citizens Rights Movement,
has been an outspoken ad-
vocate for separating re-
ligion from politics in the
Jewish state. And even Ms.
. Aloni's most - fervent sup-
porters acknowledge that
she is anti-Orthodox.
They maintain that she is
a knowledgeable, caring
Jew, a woman of integrity
who will fulfill her „mandate
O to improve the declining ed-
ucational system in Israel.
Her first priority is to head
off a teachers' strike
scheduled for September 1,
increase pay for teachers

and lengthen the school day,
which has in recent years
shrunk to four hours in
many schools.
In practical terms, an Or-
thodox deputy will oversee
funding to the religious

The real issue here is not
Ms. Aloni, though she, as a
I woman and a political
firebrand, is a natural
target. What's at stake,
rather, is one of the most
long-standing and divisive
issues facing Israeli society:
determining what role, if
any, religion should play in
Israeli life. Or, more precise-
. ly, how can one reconcile
imposing Jewish law on a
democratic society?
On the one hand, religious
Jews maintain that the very
raison d'etre of the state of


Israel is to be a Jewish state,
a fulfillment of the biblical
dream and commandment. If
you separate the Jewish
state from the Jewish re-
ligion, they say, Israel is no
different than any other
Secular Jews say that's
precisely the point. What
they bitterly resent is the
imposition of Jewish law on
their personal lives. For ex-
ample, when public
transportation, and beaches,
are closed on the Sabbath,
their only day off of the
week, their reaction is not to
go to synagogue but to ad-
vocate ridding themselves of
"religious" legislation.
In truth, Israel has no offi-
cial state religion. It is a
secular state that grants
jurisdiction over personal
status (marriage, divorce) to

The resentment is
building among the
majority of Israelis
who see not the
beauty, but only
the tyranny, of

"recognized" religions
(which translates as Or-
thodox Judaism). But the re-
ligious flavor to public life —
kosher food in public institu-
tions, suspension of bus ser-
vice on Shabbat and holi-
days, etc. — is the result of a
policy instituted by an
avowed agnostic before the
state was formed.
It was David Ben-Gurion,
Israel's first prime minister,
who created what is now
known as "the status quo"
in a letter, written in 1947,
to the Agudath Israel party.
In return for the Orthodox
party's support of the United
Nations partition_ plan, Mr.
Ben-Gurion pledged that the
future state would make
Shabbat the official day of
rest, that matters of per-
sonal status would be over-
seen by religious officials,
and that religious education
would be supported.
But the letter provided few
details, and over the years,
the rift between the re-
ligious and secular in Israel
has grown so wide and so
bitter that virtually the only
reason the religious parties
participate in the govern-
ment is to assure funding for
yeshivas and other religious

One reason for the widen-
ing gap is that the flavor of
Orthodoxy in Israel has
become increasingly
separatist and non-Zionist.
The religious Zionist ele-
ment of Orthodoxy, which
advocates active in-
volvement in the political
process and service in the
military, has been eclipsed
by the non- and anti-Zionist
charedi segment, who seek
to remove themselves from
society as much as possible.
As a result, religious Jews
are perceived by the
majority of Israelis as in-
tolerant, yeshiva-centered
draft dodgers. (An estimated
20,000 yeshiva students
receive draft deferments.)
Some mavericks, like Avi
Burg, the 36-year-old son of
former Minister of Religion
Yosef Burg, have advocated
separating religion and
state. The younger Burg,
who is Orthodox and a
leader in the Labor party,
maintains that religious pol-
itics has become "the main
barrier between Jews and
Judaism in Israel, the
reason so many young peo-
ple hate everything which
smells of Judaism or re-
"We have to save religion
from the hands of the re-
ligious establishment," he
told the Jerusalem Report.
Avi Burg succeeded in
having a resolution

Shulamit Aloni: A woman "who hates religion?"

separating religion and poli-
tics passed at a party con-
vention last winter, only to
have it amended a month
later by party officials who
feared that Labor would lose
religious party support.
To bridge the gap, move-
ment is needed on both sides.
Secularists should acknowl-
edge the importance of stu-
dying Jewish history, tradi-
tions and values in their
schools, even if they resist
following Jewish law.
And religious Jews would
do well to reconsider their
policy of religion through
coercion. They may have the
votes in city councils to ban
pork, or buses, or Friday
night movies, but the
resentment is building

among the majority of
Israelis who see not the
beauty, but only the
tyranny, of Judaism.
If the goal of religious
Jews is to spread the mes-
sage of Judaism, they would
do better to invite a secular
Jew to a Shabbat celebration
than to stone his car.
And if the goal of Shulamit
Aloni is to provide a quality
education to every Israeli
youngster, she would do
better to promote Jewish
morals and ethics in the
classroom than to denounce
traditional Judaism. In that
way, she may silence her
critics and bring a much-
needed spirit of respect and
toleratidn to Israeli socie-
ty. ❑

Honor Your Son And Daughter


Special to The Jewish News

dd another com-
mandment to the Ten
Honor your son and your
Respect them, their ideal-
ism, their moral sense of
justice, their courage, their
Jewishness. I have seen the
goodness in our youth. I
have witnessed the response
from many young people
who brought (after the Los
Angeles riots) packages of
food, clothing, diapers, baby
formulas to the synagogue
and into the devastated inner
Our parent generation has
expected too little from their
young. Around graduation
time we say that they are
our future. That is patroniz-

Rabbi Schulweis is spiritual
leader of Cong. Valley Beth
Shalom in Encino, Calif

ing and procrastinating. Our
youth is our present. I can
testify to their hunger for
Jewish grandeur, their
desire to act out the
preachments and the
teachings they have heard
from teachers in schools and
rabbis from the pulpit. They
want to live out the pro-
phetic tradition.
One of Alan Patton's
characters in his African
novels confesses his fears
and cowardice. "When I go
to heaven the Big Judge will
look at me and ask 'Where
are your wounds?' And I will
answer 'I have none.' And
the Big Judge will ask 'Why
is that? Was there nothing to
fight for?' "
Our children are taught in
the classroom that there is
much to fight for and that we
have been in battles all our
lives. It is in our text and in
our history. We were born in
slavery; we know its lashes
and it has left indelible scars

which we should carry with
pride. There is meaning to
Jewish struggle and suffer-
ing. It shapes our character .
and has something impor-
tant to say to the world.
One verse more than any
other in the Bible, resonates
in our tradition. Found no
less than 36 times in the
Torah, it reiterates "You
shall remember the stranger
for you were strangers in the
land of Egypt." It is used as
the major rationale for our
concern with others. The
stranger is every man and
woman alienated in our
society. We Jews know the
heart of the stranger.
Our youth must under-
stand that while we are a
small people, we own a large
vision. We care about God's
world and the strangers
within it. We are not man-
dated to convert the world to
Judaism but to raise the

Continued on Page 10



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