Picture this scenario:
It’s a Saturday morning in Jerusalem, some distant time in the future, and its main thoroughfare, Ben Yehuda Street, is bustling with traffic and pedestrians. Store lights flash brightly beckoning passersby to come in. People are dining boisterously in restaurants and chatting on electronic devices as they saunter up and down the block. The clamoring sounds of jackhammers, drills and hammers reverberate in the air as city employees make needed repairs. On this erstwhile holy, blessed, consecrated day of rest, it’s business as usual in the city which is animated with its citizens shopping and working and going about their day just as they would any other day. Indeed, there are few signs that Israel is the Jewish state it once was: Shabbat and Jewish holidays are memories of a bygone era, none of the men walking around wear yarmulkes, one would be hard-pressed to find a single Star of David etched on a building exterior.
In this in-the-distant-future fictional representation Israel is now essentially a wholly secular country where everything is open seven days a week, and synagogues, the few that are still standing, that is, are mostly not houses of worship but museums that people from around the world visit out of historical curiosity, like the Louvre or any of the Smithsonian institutions. All the country’s settlements it once had are now thriving territories of foreign lands.
As is evident to its citizens, Israel is not much different from any other country of the world these days with one exception: the majority of its population is made up of people with a Jewish ancestor. They have Jewish blood, yes, but they are not practicing Jews. Judaism, once the national religion of what was known as the Jewish homeland, has all but disappeared with the exception of a few tiny pockets of religious Jews scattered around the country, the last vestiges of the once flourishing Jewish religion. The same may be said about the practice of Judaism around the world.
What caused this apocalyptic transformation of Israel from the Jewish homeland to a country merely of Jewish descendants?
It wasn’t the pernicious parade of bombs that were hurled from neighboring antagonistic nations that caused the change. It wasn’t the piercing fear that erupted from the scores of Israelis brutally murdered by its enemies. It wasn’t the rabid worldwide anti-Semitism that caused the demise of the Jewish religion in Israel. No, for sure it wasn’t any of these destructive factors.
The demise of the Jewish religion in Israel—that is, the complete secularization of the country–came from Jews themselves.
Forgive me if the scenario I have described sounds extreme but I worry about the consequences of left-liberal Jewish activists. On that note, permit me to continue with my dystopian reverie:
Jews who forsake their religion have almost always been a part of the history of the Jewish people. When Moses delayed in coming down from Mount Sinai the children of Israel cast aside their faith and built a calf from the golden rings in the ears of the wives and sons and daughters present and declared that this object they fabricated from personal adornments was the god of Israel who brought them out of the land of Egypt.
Over time other Jews also lost their way but the intrinsic bond between the children of Israel and God was always so vibrant and powerful that while many perished or suffered harshly in Inquisitions, persecutions, pogroms, exterminations and sundry other forms of virulent anti-Semitism, the survivors tenaciously clung to their Jewish faith and unabashedly kept it going century after century. It turned out, however, that this bond wasn’t indelible. As time marched on, a confluence of factors eventually led to the downfall of Israel as a true Jewish nation.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, millions of Jews fled Poland and Russia and other countries for America, where they disembarked at New York’s Ellis Island. The New World offered these Jewish immigrants the freedom to practice their religion freely, enter jobs and professions as they wished, and start a whole new life where their children would have opportunities as everyone else there. The New World wasn’t a perfect Garden of Eden, with its own forms of discrimination and anti-Semitism, but it was better than anything the Jews had known before.
While many Orthodox Jews remained in New York City where they created their own insular enclaves, the non-Orthodox Jewish immigrants settled not only in the New York metropolitan area but other parts of the country as well, and many of them did not affiliate with a Jewish denomination or they joined the Reform movement, which began in the 19th century in Germany. The Reform movement unfettered itself from the strictures of Jewish law in the belief that a Jew should be free to practice his or her religion as the person sees fit, and hence its followers indulged in work and sundry entertainments on the Sabbath and Jewish holidays, dispensed with kashrut, and practiced egalitarianism in religious services.
As if their religious practices, which contravened halacha (Jewish law) weren’t enough salt in the wound of traditional Judaism, many Reform Jews were left-liberal Jews who embraced social views that they purported to be in the spirit of Judaism but aligned with politically-correct views of the times and were considered objectionable to the values and beliefs of traditional Judaism.
Moreover, there were elements among the liberal Jews that maligned Orthodox Jewry and Israel. They excoriated Orthodox Jewish practices, saying they were antiquated and discriminatory. And on college campuses they joined anti-Israel groups in impugning Israel as an apartheid state. Their rhetoric emboldened anti-Semites around the world (who were delighted, of course, to see Jews slander other Jews and the Jewish homeland) and it all built a chorus of individuals, organizations and nations that loudly and rancorously derided Orthodox Jewry and Israel.
The disparity between non-religious and observant Jews made it seem to some like they were of two different religions. On opposite sides of the religious-social-political spectrum their only common thread was seemingly that they were Jewish, and even that came to be in dispute when the Reform movement replaced the Jewish birth-mother requirement of halacha with either parent.
There were pleas for all Jews to consider themselves one people of different streams. All the movements seemed to go along with this notion grudgingly, until the liberal movements forcefully tried to inject their social beliefs into the media, Jewish schools, and among all Jewish people. They promoted legalized abortion and tried to promote in literature, books, music, film, television and advertising such things as romances between Jews and any other people, as well as lifestyles the Orthodox considered antithetical to halacha.
Over time the rift between the Jewish movements widened—some referred to their conflict as an internecine war—and left-liberal Jewish activists stepped up their campaigns of promoting their social beliefs and disparaging Orthodox social beliefs.
With intermarriage and assimilation soaring like never before, the portrait of Judaism in America by the end of the 21st century was indeed grim. As it turned out, most birth Jews in the country identified only as cultural Jews or agnostic or atheist. A few continued to give Chanukah gifts and have Seders but for the most part they eschewed Judaism’s religious and cultural conventions. Their connection to Judaism was minimal, at best, and with little if any Jewish identity being passed down to their children, who passed down even less Jewish identity to their children, and so forth, the thread to Judaism by successive generations became virtually nonexistent.
Moreover, the Orthodox movement, once considered the bedrock of halacha and the last bastion of true Judaism, was itself cracking. Although in the early 21st century its future looked bright with its rapidly increasing numbers, over the years pressure from other Jews who castigated their practices endangered the movement. Their vitriol had a particularly negative influence on the Orthodox religious youth, who were also being exposed to all types crude and salacious secular influences on the Internet (attempts by their elders to stave of these influences were for the most part unsuccessful). Further, its Modern Orthodox segment as well as other liberal Orthodox segments had continued spiraling so far downward from being strictly Torah observant that they were now commonly regarded as non-Orthodox.
Reacting to the rising tide of negative opinion, the Orthodox movement’s main religious authorities themselves moved in a more liberal direction by easing various restrictions such as permitting women to have rabbinic titles; it too was then criticized for having compromised halacha as well as other traditional beliefs by the few remaining ultra-Orthodox. Some Jews blamed the Orthodox movement for the crumbling of the Jewish people, saying that as the backbone of the Jewish religion it had an obligation to be a sort of spokesperson for all the Jewish people but it lacked a strong, central and vocal leadership and focused only on the Orthodox.
The liberal winds from the US blew around the world and of course over to Israel, which was having its own internal conflicts. Never much of a religious country to begin with, even if it was the Jewish homeland, the enmity between the ultra-Orthodox and other Jews was great. Left-liberal Jews opposed all government practices in which amenities were made to the ultra-Orthodox and they initiated campaigns to make all the country’s cities as secular as possible.
They were eventually able to keep right-wing parties from office and with liberals now in complete control of the government, over time they removed all of Israel’s exemptions for religious people as well as all of its religious publicly-practiced customs and conventions and were able to transform it into a wholly secular country that they considered socially progressive. As a result, almost all synagogues closed; Charedim were drafted into the military; rabbis of any denomination (that is, the few who were left) could marry anyone they wanted to as well as perform marriages and handle conversions and divorces; the Western Wall had no divisions separating men and women; kosher stores and food suppliers went out of business.
Liberal causes were advanced so that those who engaged in practices once considered immoral became part of the fabric of everyday Israeli society in virtually every town and city. The few remaining ultra-religious Jews took refuge in outposts of the country and in their self-imposed seclusion were regarded as historical anomalies much like the aborigines in 20th century New Guinea and the Amazon.
By any mark, Israel at the dawn of the 22nd century was not the same country it was 100 years earlier. In fact, it was unrecognizable to anything it had ever been since its founding.
There were those who saw the end of the Jewish religion being a religion and Israel losing its genuine Jewish identity, and so at this time urgently called for an international conference of Israelis and Jews of all denominations, as well as those who were unaffiliated to see if they could rescue the religion and Israel’s veritable Jewish identity. At this conference massive numbers of left-liberals stormed the meeting, fearing the restoration of religion to the nation of Israel and to Judaism itself would make a great step backward for all people of Jewish descent. Their impact and influence was so enormous that the conference didn’t accomplish anything except bring worldwide attention to the disunity among Jews. Sadly, those who signaled the sirens of a Jewish implosion were muffled by the left-liberal forces who by now had assumed autocratic control of the country.
With all the staggering anti-religious changes, Israel became a Jewish nation void of what it really meant to be Jewish, where secularism became the new religion and being Jewish only meant that someone—anyone—in a person’s past had been born a Jew or converted to Judaism in any way, shape or form. In the new Israel, every day was the same, anything went, and gone were the things that once made it a great Jewish homeland.
Once exciting and dynamic, Israel now remained stagnant. Few people of Jewish descent immigrated to Israel because it was no different from their own countries, and what did being Jewish mean anyway? Furthermore, Israel’s homegrown population didn’t increase as hoped for, thanks in part to country’s ultra-liberal abortion policies and the high number of abortions its citizens had.
In the new Israel, a darkness crept over the country although few realized it because their hearts and minds were impervious to belief in Hashem. They didn’t realize that a country founded essentially on religion that becomes bereft of religion is bereft of its soul.
And so it came to pass in this new Israel where its people, devoid of belief in G-d and Torah, and oblivious to their religious history, concerned themselves only with their comforts. That was apparently their new religion. They loved their electronic devices which effectively ruled their lives, controlling how they went about their days and did what they did. They essentially worshiped their electronic devices, fabricated of human-made parts, which in the new land of Israel became their modern-day Golden Calf.
What you have just read is (at least mostly) a fictitious account of what could happen to worldwide Jewry and Israel from dangers imposed upon them from Jews themselves. It is meant only to reinforce the many warnings already issued that such things as assimilation and intermarriage could change the face of Judaism and Israel.