I don’t think anyone in Israel has done more to turn secular Israelis away from their faith than those who should be doing the exact opposite.
We call them the “Ultra Orthodox”, those who have rejected the world around them and sought to create an inner world where the Rebbe holds sway, Shabbat is holy and where a lifetime of learning Talmud is the most important career a person can choose.
For many this is an idyllic way of life and I can understand why. I studied a tract of Talmud for only a brief period of time and was enthralled by the way in which pure wisdom seemed to have been imprinted on the page. I was mesmerised by the way in which a book could feel alive how conversations, debates and arguments could spring from those magic letters and be held all around me rather than being locked in a prison of paper, ink and binding.
But I wonder at what point the freedom to choose became written out of that great pillar of Judaism?
Was it ever there at all?
At what point did it become an absolute necessity to raise generations who were denied the education they need to decide for themselves whether devoting themselves to their religion is the life they wish to lead?
We are at a pivotal moment in the battle for the Jewish soul of our country. The announcement as to who will be the next Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi is expected on Wednesday, the election has done more to hi-light just how irrelevant the winner is to Israelis rather than anything else. A big fuss has been made over the candidacy of Rabbi David Stav, a man who seeks to make Judaism more accessible to Israelis and marriage an easier process. I doubt that the ultra conservative religious establishment will allow a man like him into the post. He’s already been attacked both verbally and physically, the famous and oh so learned Rabbi Ovadia Yosef said of him that;
“He is not worthy… this man is dangerous to Judaism, dangerous to the rabbinate and dangerous to the Torah.” He added that electing Stav would be like “bringing idolatry into the temple,”
Ovadia Yosef isn’t one who is known for holding back. But it’s not just the election for Chief Rabbi that has uppped the ante in the battle for the soul of the nation. Recent attacks against Ultra orthodox soldiers by their own community is yet another phenomenon in a long, long list of things that has left a terrible scar on the reputation of our religion and forced many people to look away in disgust at the things happening inside the ghetto.
The truth is that for decades as long as the ultra orthodox lived in their ghettos then no one cared about the little world they had created for themselves. The fact that ultra orthodox were willing to desecrate their own Sabbath by throwing stones at cars they saw was more a quirk than a crime. People foot the bill for the ultra orthodox lifestyle because…well that’s just what we did. But now the Ultra Orthodox have grown in numbers and have moved to take the walls of the ghetto and surround all of us within them.
The politicians representing their interests talk about the populace as if there are two opposing forces in this country, as though it is necessary to impose things upon us as an expression of their power.
And that’s the big word here: POWER
When all is said and done this is what it all comes down to. It’s not about living in the service of God at all, it’s about the imposition of the will of the few over the many. It’s about removing the freedom to choose from the life of Israelis. Over time the representatives of God on this earth have forgotten him in their quest for more power. Denying the crimes that go on within their own communities, denying their own children the education to which they have a right and thereby denying them the ability to truly decide what path they wish to take in their future.
I am ashamed of the representatives of God on earth and when I look at their actions and listen to their words I feel more divorced from my faith than ever before.