David Ben-Gurion, the bushy-haired father of our country and head of the Labor party, rejoiced in his greatest moment of triumph on 14 May 1948. He rejoiced when he saw the British Union Jack flag lowered for the last time. He rejoiced when he saw the last British High Commissioner and soldiers sailing back to Britain. Forty years of the British mandate in Palestine had come to an end.
And a few hours later, he rejoiced again when he read aloud to the assembled signators the Declaration of Independence in what he proclaimed to be the State of Israel. Two thousand years of waiting and yearning and praying, the Jewish homeland had been returned to the Jewish people.
It was the greatest achievement of his life. And his name lives on eternally in the love and history of the Jewish people within and without the Jewish state.
But for many like me who treasure his name and his memory he made his biggest error which is the major thorn in our side to this very day.
He gave complete power of life and death to the religious parties. From cradle to grave the religious parties headed by the rabbinate have power unbelievably autocratic from birth, marriage, divorce, conversion, death and burial. We live in what Ben-Gurion created— a Jewish theocracy.
Unlike all other democratic nations which separate religion from state, Israel is burdened by the power of the rabbinate. Their political parties in the Knesset and Cabinet can make and break the rules of law established by an elected government. Without the religious parties bloc there can be no ruling government in the State of Israel.
Leading members of the rabbinate who are in power have been in past convicted of crimes and have served time in prison. And one major rabbi, when freed from his prison term, used his influence to be re-elected to his previous position of power in the Knesset.
We suffer from the disease of blindness, not only regarding rabbinical authority but now even the blindness of keeping an indicted corrupt criminal non-religious prime-minister in his rule over us.
Many (too many) of our rabbis have been convicted of bribery and fraud. Many were convicted of sexual offenses. Many, who for a price in cold cash, will close their eyes to a misconduct or a matter of law.
The Chief Rabbinate has long delayed the extradition to Australia of an orthodox woman, formerly head of a school for religious girls in that country , found guilty of sexual abuses against several of her female pupils. To escape from the court in Australia she fled back to Israel where she was imprisoned and awaiting a return to face justice and to confront her victims in Melbourne, Australia.
Her extradition, on the false claim of mental illness, has been delayed, denied and detained by Rabbi Litzman, minister of health in the Israeli parliament (who resigned his position this week over his poor treatment to the coronavirus issues).
More than three thousand wives of Jews from the former Soviet Union who cannot produce evidence of their Jewishness and who are in fact born Christians, cannot be converted because they refuse to practice orthodox Jewish laws and they refuse to be coerced by orthodox rabbis whom they detest.
Upon death, they are forbidden to be buried in a Jewish cemetery next to their deceased husbands. Children born to them are not recognized as Jews and cannot be married in Israel, a country that due to Ben-Gurion’s biggest error does not have civil marriage nor civil divorce. All is in the hands of rabbis of a sixteenth century religious mentality.
For many thousands of Israeli citizens marriages and divorces take place in civil ceremonies on the island of Cyprus. Same-sex marriages which are acknowledged by the civil government are not recognized by the Israeli rabbinate, requiring the couples to fly to Cyprus for the ceremony. Children later adopted by the couple or born through surrogate arrangement are not recognized as Jews by the Israeli rabbinate, but are recognized as citizens by the government.
Religious Jewish sects of Conservative and Reform Judaism, the largest Jewish denominations in the world, are not legally recognized in Israel and ceremonies performed by their rabbis are not accepted as legal by the powerful orthodox zealots.
All this is due to the error which David Ben-Gurion made in 1948… an error which, in disgrace, makes life difficult for the 80% of Israeli Jews who do not practice the ways of the 20% orthodox minority.
In Ben-Gurion’s last years of life on a kibbutz in the negev desert, he made a daily practice in his exercises, seen and known to everyone, of standing on his head.
His comrades said it was to keep him young, to keep blood flowing into his brain.
But I know the real truth. He stood on his head every morning crying out, “Oy, vey iz mir..oy va voy li… how could I have made such a stupid mistake by giving almost total power to the rabbinate. Where did I go wrong ?”
And every non-orthodox Jewish citizen in Israel pays to this very day the steep price of the Ben-Gurion boo-boo.
Now, if Bibi Netanyahu could stand on his head it might cause the blood flowing into his brain to realize his two biggest mistakes— Sara and Yair !
And on most recent controversial news, Bibi Netanyahu has declared a national lock-down to begin on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, the sacred New Year on the Jewish calendar, which will prevent millions of Israelis from going to solemn worship services at synagogues across the entire country.
While still standing on his head he should realize that lock-down is not the solution. But lock-up is. And he must be the very first one to be locked up.
Freedom to the people !