A Threat to the Jewish Nation
We all read, hear, and are cognizant of the conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis.
In this blog post, I want to focus on a potentially more dangerous conflict that threatens not only Israel but the Jewish nation as a whole : the conflict between religious and secular Jews.
The conflict could be first represented in the form of a joke. What is a joke if not a fear or an aggression packaged for laughter? In the following joke is an expression of rejection, an aggressive stance, towards a Rabbi, a religious leader in Judaism.
The joke is this:
A couple preparing to get married is involved in a car accident. They both die.
When they arrive in heaven, they ask the receiving angel if they can get married in heaven.
The angel says, “Let me see,” and disappears for two months.
When he comes back, the angel looks exhausted and preoccupied.
“Yes, you can,” he says.
“And if it does not work, can we get divorced in heaven?” they ask.
“What?” he screams, exasperated. “It took me two months of hard work to find a Rabbi in heaven to marry you, and now you want me to find a lawyer in heaven?”
Do you read the criticism of the Rabbi in this joke?
Here is an experience that deeply disturbed me: I was standing in line to board a plane to Eilat, a city on the Red Sea in Israel. It was a long line. A bearded man dressed in black, with a top hat and peyes (the long, curly hairs around the ears), moved from the end of the line to the desk at the front. The people in the line dressed secularly started screaming at him. These screams were accompanied by curses and expressions of hatred. “You parasite,” they yelled. “Who do you think you are?”
These were curses and accusations I had heard as a child in Europe, only coming from those who hated Jews.
I am pretty sure that if a secular Jew were to make this move, there would be shouting and requests for him to get back in line. But, I do not believe that there would be the degree of hatred I heard in those people’s voices that day.
The man turned around and said, “All I wanted was to ask a question, you anti-Semites.” Anti-Semites? These were Israeli Jews. How could they be anti-Semites?
And yet, they can be.
I know more than one person in Israel who actually hates those Hasidim, those “religious Jews.” The hatred is getting deeper by the day.
Quite a few Israelis refuse to get married under religious arrangement or ritual. Instead, they get married in Cyprus in a civil ceremony. Quite a few Israelis marry Thai or Filipino or Ukrainian women and do not ask or expect them to convert.
What is going on?
In Israel, the religious have established their own political party. They use their political power to implement laws the secular Jews reject. In other words, the religious Israelis are using their political power to get their way. They even refuse to serve in the defense forces.
It is known that when A pushes B, B will naturally push back. The harder A pushes, the harder B will push back. This kind of power—using coercion of the law rather than influence parties have the opportunity to contribute to—works in the short run, but it creates dysfunctional, dangerous collateral damage in the long run.
The schism is expressing itself beyond Israel’s borders. In response to pressure from the Israeli religious political parties, the government of Israel legislated that only orthodox Jewish conversions are accepted as “real” Jewish conversions.
What about Reform Judaism, which is most prevalent abroad? Although Reform Jews have supported Israel since its inception (without them, I do not know if Israel would exist today), they are now rejected by the religious establishments in Israel.
For sustainable Judaism, this schism is very dangerous.
Years ago, I saw a show in an Israeli vanguard theater. There were two characters on the stage: Theodor Herzl, the father of secular Zionism, and Sabbatai Zevi, who hundreds of years ago claimed to be a messiah. When under threat of the Ottoman Sultan, Zevi converted to the Muslim religion, thousands of his followers converted, too. The Jewish people lost a large part of their population. In the show, Zevi says to Herzl, “Maybe you are a false messiah, too.”
God forbid Israel ceases to exist. If not in the next hundred years, perhaps in the next thousand—but, it can happen. Countries disappear. What will happen to all of those Israeli Jews who have rejected organized religion? Yes, they have some traditional rituals, but these rituals are shallow and will slowly be diluted over time. With the passing of generations, these rituals will become meaningless. What about those who hate the Orthodox Jews for forcing them to not drive on the Sabbath, to close stores on the Sabbath, for making divorces extremely difficult, for refusing to serve in the military, etc.
How many Jews will the Jewish nation lose?
If I had the power to do what needs to be done, I would forbid the existence of religious political parties in Israel and separate state from religion by law. For the sake of protecting the sustainability of the Jewish nation, let people discover religion, not be forced to practice it.
Ichak Kalderon Adizes