Esor Ben-Sorek
Esor Ben-Sorek

And Nothing In-Between

It is now apparent that our prime minister is taking lessons from the American president.

Trump makes promises. Trump breaks promises. Trump lies. Bibi makes promises. Bibi breaks promises. Bibi lies.

We need to recite the kaddish prayer for the death of our “democracy” and to pray for an end of the hostilities between Israel and Diaspora Jews. Those hostilities from the diaspora side are growing more intensively day by day.

Due to the years of harassment by Orthodox men at the Wall against women who are not Orthodox and who wish to pray at the Wall, as is the right of every Jew, some members of government persuaded Bibi to accept the ruling of the High Court which favored the women’s petition. He was instructed to permit the establishment of a second area at Robinson’s Arch, facing the Wall, where liberal Jewish men and women could pray together and women could read aloud from the Torah scroll.

It seemed an acceptable compromise for the non-Orthodox Jews but was defiantly rejected by the Orthodox. And they, using their powers in the coalition government and threatening to topple the government, were successful in causing the Prime Minister to break his promise, an important promise, to those who had petitioned the courts for justice and for freedom of religious worship.

This situation has not bothered the secular Israeli population who really could not care less. Most Israeli secular Jewish men go to the Kotel for a bar mitzvah celebration and secular Israeli women hardly ever go to pray at the Kotel. So the problem has become a battle between Israeli Orthodox Jews and liberal Jews from Diaspora countries.

The only accepted form of Jewish worship in Israel is Orthodox. And nothing in- between. Reform and Conservative observances are completely alien to the average Israeli, religious or secular.

But the blind must put on eyeglasses to see that the majority of all Jews in the world are NOT Orthodox and the government of Israel owes it to them by stating that we recognize all streams of the Jewish people. There is one Wall for one eternal people.

Was it only Orthodox Jews who were gassed at Auschwitz or burned alive at Treblinka? Did Eichmann give orders to murder only Orthodox Jews? On Kristallnacht in Germany, were only Orthodox synagogues attacked?  We died together as one people with the Shema Yisrael on our lips.

Orthodox Jews do not know nor understand streams of Jewish beliefs and practices other than their own. Thousands of years ago there were Pharisees and Sadducees, Hasidim and Sycarii and Zealots.

There was a positive Hillel and a negative Shammai. There were Jews who fled to the caves at the Dead Sea and Jews who died on the top of Masada. All Jews, proud and devoted to the Jewish faith, but with different interpretations. If all had agreed and there were no discussions, there would never have been the Talmud, the record of contrary points of view on Jewish law.

The Orthodox cannot and should not accept the ways of the non-Orthodox but they should respect them as fellow members of one faith. Kol achim areivim zeh l’zeh… every Jew is responsible for another Jew. We live together. We die together. And we are buried together.

Reform Judaism was born in Germany in 1848 following the emancipation when restrictions against Jews began to end. German Jews, like their fellow Christians, prayed in German rather than in Hebrew and installed organs in their temples to enhance worship with lovely music, prohibited in Jewish worship since the days of the destruction of King Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem.

Reform abolished the kosher dietary laws and like their Christian neighbors, observed Sunday as the day of prayer, rather than the Saturday Shabbat. Men prayed with uncovered heads.

Some years later, as a protest against Reform, the Conservative movement was born in Germany and it adhered to the Jewish laws of kashrut and Shabbat observances.

At the beginning of the 20th century both Reform and Conservative Judaism were transported mainly to the United States and eventually to other Anglo-Saxon countries. These two branches of Judaism did not exist in Palestine (nor later, Israel) where Jews were either Orthodox in observance or secular. But changes began in the 1950s when American and Canadian non-Orthodox Jews made aliyah to Israel.

Most Israelis do not understand these two foreign branches on the Jewish tree. They are alien to the Israeli mind. But the troubles began several years ago when a small group of women, known as the Women of the Wall, raised loud voices in objection to Orthodox regulations for separate and segregated worship at the Kotel for men and women. The Orthodox sector declared “war” on the women and the heated battle continues.

Now, since our prime minister has broken his promise to permit separate space for egalitarian worship, the battle is, and will continue to be, a source of dissent and disgust by  non-Orthodox Jews in the great diaspora.

Already, thousands of English-speaking Jews are withholding contributions to Israel. Their wives are suggesting visits to the Caribbean instead of Israel. And who will suffer the most? The Israeli tourist industry and in particular, Israeli hotels will see a decline of overseas guests.

It has been rumored that a group of 1000 Jewish women will march, on an unpublished date, to the men’s section of the Wall. There will not be enough police to arrest all of them. The best that the police can do will be to prevent physical rioting.

That such a situation could happen in Israel is mind-boggling. In the end, I predict that the Orthodox will win because for them, there is only Orthodoxy … and nothing in between.

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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