It's now official. The Religious-Zionist community in Israel has its own Noah Feldman. His name is Hanoch Daum, one of the more gifted young journalists. (As he lives in nearby Alon Shvut, he's also something of a neighbor.) He recently published a gut-wrenching, personal expose ('אלקים לא מרשה' or 'God Does Not Allow') in which he laid bare the dirty laundry of the world in which he was raised, and the process that led to to living as a 'reverse Marrano;' i.e. Religious on the Outside, secular in private.
As opposed to Feldman, Daum's excruciatingly frank apologia pro vita sua is not an arrogant, self-serving manifesto, though he does present the reader with a demand for validation, on his terms. As one reviewer summed it up:
What Daum seeks is to observe religious commandments out of love, not fear. He wants to put on tefillin when he feels like it, to have Shabbat dinner but sit down at the computer afterward. Many secular readers may not understand what the fuss is about. All this pathos for a swig of Coke on Yom Kippur? Many of them would prefer a clear-cut message at the end of the book. They would like to see the author tossing away his skullcap and leaving Gush Etzion. But Daum wants to have his cake and eat it, too. He has learned to write trendy Hebrew with no trace of a "religious accent." His imagery stems from secular culture. "I am a loaded gun of doubt and longing," he writes on two different occasions.
Like Feldman, Daum does present his community with some serious questions. In Feldman's case, he forced the Modern Orthodox Community to question its priorities, especially regarding the relationship between Torah and General Culture and Society.
Daum, on the other hand, highlights the unbending and absolute identification of Judaism with 'the question of Eretz Yisrael' (עניין ארץ ישראל). He points out the unforgivingly high standards of religiousity that are set by the religious leadership of the Religious Zionist Community, and its educational institutions. His own experience, as one afflicted by OCD, sheds light upon the obtuseness of religious educators to the personal needs of their students.
As he himself writes:
"Maybe everything is fine in our sector. The social and political Jewish and religious codes - all perfect. But we will never know for sure unless we start out from the very opposite assumption: that we are settlers by inertia, religious by inertia, and above all, suffer from a huge, almost existential, superiority complex. We live with a sense of self-righteousness, harboring the insufferable belief that we know something others don't, and should the day ever come when everyone will think the way we do, we will all be better off. We think that everyone should keep the laws we keep, observe the commandments we observe, and have a political agenda with the same priorities we have."
Obviously, while I am truly sorry to see Daum's pain, I do not accept his solutions. However, I sincerely hope that the members of the 'sector' (as it styles itself) will not dismiss his story, and undertake the appropriate חשבון הנפש.