My mom and I had a few battles over my wedding. She disagreed on the place. She disagreed on the theme. She disagreed with some of the traditions. I am a Choser B’Teshuva, or someone who grew up a reform Jew, then became orthodox.
Fortunately for me, my wife stepped in, and settled everything.
After the wedding, I got a call from my mother.
“David, it was the most beautiful event I have ever been to. It made me realize that once you take the tradition out of Judaism, you also take out the joy.”
She taught me a fine lesson.
Who Rules Israel
I have had the honor to live on this sacred soil for the better part of 15 years. Politically, Israel is a meritocracy. It doesn’t have to be a perfect one. What political system is perfect in any ideology?
Take hi-tech, for example. It’s run by the secular. Why? The secular spent the last 30 years working 16 hour days mastering C# and the Internet of Things. They worked. They tried. They failed. They learned. They got better, and they succeeded.
We, the religious, have been putting our 16 hour days in Torah learning, the Land of Israel, and education. As a result, the national religious leader is the Minister of Education, but well over 90% of all hi-tech employees are secular.
They earned it.
The same goes for the army. While we religious were praying that the nations would stop harassing us, the secular built up an army. While we prayed for strength, the secular fought off enemies far greater in number and resources. They did this with G-d’s help, but it was a mainly secular army that fought for every inch.
As a result, the army is run by the secular. However, this is changing. Over the past 30 years, the religious are filling the ranks of combat units, special forces platoons, and the officer corps. Even the Haredi (ultra-orthodox) are joining the IDF in increasing numbers. The influence of the religious on the army comes from nothing more than their taking on more responsibilities in protecting the State.
In both situations, power is awarded on merit.
It also goes for the religious institutions. From the beginning of the State, the Orthodox in Israel created the Rabbinate. From National Religious to Haredi, Orthodox Jews serve as local, regional, and national Rabbis, answering questions of Jewish Law. They oversee the Kosher status of the IDF. They make sure there are public mikavot in every city. They underwrite every marriage in Israel by verifying that the husband and wife are Jewish, and they oversee the conversion process, making sure that those who convert to Judaism will practice it once they become Jews.
This is part of the reason why the agreement between American Jewry and Israel regarding the holiest site of today was shelved. The reform don’t live here in significant numbers. I live in Netanya. There is one reform temple, and 200 orthodox shuls. As long as the merit of their contribution to Israel is marginal, their power and influence will be marginal as well.
This lesson was learned the hard way by the Orthodox over the last 70 years.
The other part is that the Orthodox in Israel vote, American Jews do not. No Israeli leader can govern without the 21 Knesset seats held by religious parties. All the donations and influence in the world won’t do a party leader any good if he is stuck as head of the opposition.
We are all waiting with excitement for the day millions of our brothers and sisters return home from their 2,000 year exile. Once that happens, your contributions to the nation will be counted, and you will have real influence.
Enjoy Our Wonderful Gift to American Jewry
Orthodox Israel is not a curse for Conservative or Reform Jews. I was a Reform Jew half my life. In America, I always felt uncomfortable in my own flesh. It was difficult to talk about being a Jew. If I was in a room next to someone religious, it felt very awkward.
The only time I ever felt good about being a Jew was when I was in Israel. In college, the 6 weeks I spent in Israel during the summer infused me with the energy to feel strong in my religion for the next 10 months.
Israel is a place where a Jew can feel as at peace wearing a a kippa (head covering) as he does a baseball cap. You don’t stand out by wanting to eat Kosher food. You don’t have to explain why you cannot go out Friday night. Everybody knows what Shabbat is.
The average secular Israeli can tell you what is L’ag B’Omer, and what is Shavuout. The fierce dedication of the Torah community has raised the level of Jewish awareness to a point where everyone can be a Jew in peace.
The Jew of today can be fully observant, and at the same time, fully integrated into every level of society. In America, even the observant make compromises. When was the last time you saw Jared Kushner in a Kippa? A Jew in Israel never has to compromise on anything.
Preserving the status quo on the Western Wall is our way of upholding the religious standards of the majority of the country. As a result, it raises the level of Jewishness that anyone who comes here can soak in, and make a part who they are.
As an Israeli, it gives me unceasing pride to say to all of my brothers and sisters, wherever you are:
You are more than welcome to it.
David Ben Horin writes for the website 1,001 Reasons to Love Israel. I developed www.succeedinisrael.com, a 5-hour, 20-video series on how to have successful career and enjoy a happy life in Israel. It’s available for $99.