In the Jewish Vatican, Who Is the Pope? Yitzhak Yosef or David Lau?

Israel is called a democracy but in truth it is really a theocracy. All aspects of personal life events, from birth to death, are governed and dictated by a corrupt Chief Rabbinate whose tentacles ensnare every Jew in Israel.

All marriages must be authorized by the Chief Rabbinate. All births must be registered with the Chief Rabbinate. All divorces must be granted only by the Chief Rabbinate. All conversions must be sanctioned by the Chief Rabbinate. All burials are recorded with the Chief Rabbinate. Jewish life for the secular or for the religious Jew is determined by the laws of the Chief Rabbinate.

Isi Liebler wrote a strong opinion piece in the Jerusalem Post calling for the abolition of the Chief Rabbinate, respected mainly by its cohorts in the haredi ultra-Orthodox communities and despised by the majority of modern Orthodox and secular Jews.

This dictatorial system has changed over the years from piety and justice to extreme piety and injustice.

Gone are the years of Chief Rabbi Kook and Chief Rabbi Uziel of the Ashkenazi and Sephardic communities. They were giants who walked with their feet upon the earth and their heads and hearts in the heavens. Men who went out to the Jewish settlements, to the kibbutz and to the moshav, to socialist Jews and to atheist Jews, to secular observers and secular non-observers, with no condemnations and with words of love and respect for the builders of the new Zionist society.

For them, every Jew was holy. Every Jew was respected. They did not criticize Jews who did not follow Torah laws but they offered to teach anyone willing to learn. They were never politicians and were free from any association with political parties.

The problems we face today with large aliyah from many corners of the globe can be solved with understanding and goodwill, both lacking in the Jewish Vatican.

Jews from the former Soviet Union who were deprived of a Jewish education for seventy years, Jews from Ethiopia who had been detached from the main Jewish communities for two thousand years, Jews from the hills of Burma and villages in India claiming descent from biblical tribes, all these Jews now in Israel have brought with them their own traditions and customs and ways of worshipping from centuries of exile.

And the Chief Rabbinate has put stumbling blocks in their paths at every opportunity. No effort has been made to understand the plight of these Jewish communities who have returned to their ancestral homeland.

Our Chief Rabbis are scholars of Talmud. They know nothing of the literature of the wider world. Shakespeare or Tolstoy are as far away from them as Venus or Mars in space. They have never heard a Beethoven symphony or a Verdi opera. Their heads bobbed up and down as they swayed over a tractate of Mishna.

But all their lives have been spent only in the medieval ghettos transferred from Europe to Israel. They do not know nor understand the average Jew who walks on the streets of our country.

They are hopeless, without compassion, thinking only with a head but never with a heart. Their followers have included rapists, swindlers, embezzlers, and corrupt men in the ultra-Orthodox milieu.

Israel desperately needs Chief Rabbis like Riskin and Stav, great rabbis who reach out to their people with love, who speak the language of their people, who understand modern and secular society… rabbis who have been educated in universities and who were taught to appreciate the art and culture and science of western civilization.

What we do not need and what should be dispensed with is the office of the Chief Rabbinate, first established when we lived under Ottoman Turkish rule.

Break down the heavy doors of the Jewish Vatican in Jerusalem and escort the two Popes, Lau and Yosef, outside into the sunlight of a modern world and a liberal and tolerant Jewish society.

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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