Sometime in 1994, I got a ride home with a colleague. I was a relatively recent oleh, (only a year in the country). We were discussing the political and religious situation when he offered, 'I feel really badly for you. You never got the chance to live here when Israel was a Jewish country.' The spur to his remarks was the anti-Jewish onslaught that I discussed in my previous posting and which was gathering steam at just that time. [ It blew up with Rabin z'l's murder and the buses that followed.]
As I noted, this push has been ongoing, though recently it has achieved greater intensity. The Supreme Court, for example, has comsistently ruled against almost any and all Jewish content to the country. The recent approval of Reform and Conservative conversions is a case in point. Indeed, Chief Justice Aharon Barak ultimately maintains that the Jewish character of the state can be reduced to universalist pablum based upon the prophets, a position that brought him into constant conflict with Justice Menahem Elon. (See my posting here and the article about Prof. Ruth Gavizon, here. - Thanks to Geviha b. Pesisa for the latter reference.) In this, the court merely serves as the agent of post-Judaism in Israel. [True, the court ruled in favor of Shabbat last week. Close study of the ruling, however, proves that it was a mixed blessing.]
On Erev Shabbat, columnist Amnon Lord, highlighted the intensified efforts of the media cum academia cum cultural elite to, once and for all, denude Israel of its Jewish character and replace it with an ephemeral 'Israeli' civilization (I haven't a clue what that means.) I found Lord's article both disturbing and comforting. It was comforting, because I felt validated. It was disturbing because I was hoping that I was wrong.
In any event, this trend is naturally causing considerable angst among religious Jews in this country. If Shabbat goes, and conversion goes, and Hesder Yeshivot go, and the Dovrat Commission eviscerates religious education, and the media falls over its feet to ridicule the Torah, then what is our Zionism about? [Living in Eretz Yisrael, you will recall, is always a mitzvah.] Thus, there are those who are ruminating out loud that Haredi-like withdrawal is the only answer.
I deeply feel the pain that such people express. I hope, however, that they are wrong.
First, if Judaism is under attack it is for two reasons. On the one hand, there is the vicious self-hatred of the Left and the vacuous pseudo-intellectual prattle of the cultural avatars of Israeli society. On the other hand, we give them plenty of ammunition. If the courts acknowledge non-Orthodox conversion, it's in no small portion due to the obstructionism of the rabbinate. If rabbis are ridiculed, it's partially because they tread where they don't belong. More to the point, the religious leaders of Jewry in Israel are overwhelmingly incapable of making the case for Torah in a manner and mode that would (at least) command a hearing in general society. [Yes, this is yet another pitch for the creation of a principled Modern Orthodoxy in Israel.] Furthermore, many of those Orthodox intellectuals who might be able to present Torah respectably either 'go native' once they mix with the hoi palloi or lack the Talmudic credentials to responsibly fill that role. [A prominent and precious exception to this rule is Professor Shalom Rosenberg.] As a result, we aid and abet the attack on Torah. 'For the sin that we have sinned before Thee by misrepresenting Your Torah.'
Second, as the Rov zt'l pointed out in Qol Dodi Dofeq, one way of dealing with the real tragedies that have and are befalling us is to ask: 'What shall the sufferer do to allow him to live with his suffering?' I think that the answer is clear. We must reaffirn our determination to conquer the hearts of the Jewish population of Israel for Torah (eretz Yisrael will come willy nilly. However, without Torah there is no Eretz Yisrael). This will require moving back into secular communities or teaching there. Every Jew must become a messenger. Lay persons will be more effective here than rabbis. It doesn't matter, though. We need to create a massive number of facts on the ground. That way. the forces arrayed against us will not stand a chance. In this connection, we would do well to recall that the Essenes disappeared. They chose purity of life over involvement in the general community.
We can't afford to do that. The survival of Israel; and of Diaspora Jewry, depends on our following this recipe. We don't have the luxury of running back to the ghetto. Do we really want the souls of four million Jews on our consciences?