Allen S. Maller

Power tends to corrupt; and religious power tends to corrupt religiously

The Islamic organization Nahdlatul Ulama believes it is essential to the well-being of Muslims to develop a new vision capable of replacing the long-established aspiration, rooted in Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh), of uniting Muslims throughout the world into a single universal state, or caliphate.

The group said: “It is neither feasible nor desirable to re-establish a universal caliphate that would unite Muslims throughout the world in opposition to non-Muslims. As recently demonstrated by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, attempts to do so will inevitably be disastrous and contrary to the purposes of Sharia (Islamic law): i.e., the protection of religion, human life, sound reasoning, family, and property.”

And in Israel less than a third of Jewish Israelis say they have significant trust in the Chief Rabbinate, according to recent survey data from the Israel Democracy Institute. Among self-identified secular Jews, who represent 41 percent of Israel’s Jewish population, less than 10 percent say they have trust in the Chief Rabbinate — the lowest rating ever.

The poll released last week, which assessed public trust in national institutions, found that 30 percent of Jewish Israelis in 2022 said they had “quite a lot” or “very much” trust in the Chief Rabbinate, the government body that oversees all official aspects of Jewish life in Israel, namely marriage, divorce, burial, conversion and kashrut certification.

Public faith in the Chief Rabbinate is particularly significant as the current ultra-religious coalition government, the most religious in Israel’s history, has explicitly called for expanding the Chief Rabbinate’s power and limiting oversight, particularly in rabbinic courts.

People who identified as religious tended to have greater faith in the Chief Rabbinate than did those who said they were secular or traditional. Last year, 71 percent of ultra-Orthodox, or Haredi, Israelis said they had faith in the Rabbinate, as did 54 percent of national-religious Israelis, compared to 33.5 percent of people who said they were traditional and 9 percent of secular Israelis.

And yet, when looking at longer-term trends, public trust in the Rabbinate has been steadily decreasing over the past 20 years among all Jewish Israelis, from ultra-Orthodox to secular.

This has been more pronounced among traditional non-Orthodox Jews and secular Israelis, where it has dropped from 50% and 32% in 2003, respectively, to their current levels of 33.5% and 9%. But it can also clearly be seen among ultra-Orthodox and national-religious Israelis, which decreased from 80% and 76% in 2003, respectively, to their current levels of 71% and 54%.

I think the current right wing coalition will cause trust in the Chief Rabbinate to decline further and faster in accordance to the well know insight that power tends to corrupt; and religious power tends to corrupt religiously.

The evidence of the wisdom of this saying is that the government is expediting a law imposing sweeping restrictions on the freedom of worship at the Western Wall, banning egalitarian, mixed-gender prayer at the section of the holy site where it is now allowed, criminalizing the activity of the Women of the Wall prayer rights group, and banning visitors from wearing attire deemed immodest.

The legislation, which penalizes offenders with a six-month prison term or a NIS 10,000 ($2,900) fine, drew fierce and widespread condemnation.

About the Author
Rabbi Allen S. Maller has published over 850 articles on Jewish values in over a dozen Christian, Jewish, and Muslim magazines and web sites. Rabbi Maller is the author of "Tikunay Nefashot," a spiritually meaningful High Holy Day Machzor, two books of children's short stories, and a popular account of Jewish Mysticism entitled, "God, Sex and Kabbalah." His most recent books are "Judaism and Islam as Synergistic Monotheisms' and "Which Religion Is Right For You?: A 21st Century Kuzari" both available on Amazon.
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