Esor Ben-Sorek

What once was old is new again

My daughter rightly complained about the clutter of papers in my room. My file cabinets are overflowing, papers are piled high on my desk (impossible to find what I need when I need it) so she convinced me to begin my Pesach cleaning earlier.

In arranging what to keep and what to discard, I happened to come across the June 30, 2017 edition of the HAARETZ newspaper. Glancing through its pages I had the impression that I was reading current news. But instead, I discovered that what was once old news is new again.

In a box on page 1, the reader is advised to turn to the page 5 article, headlined “Dear U.S. Jews: Snub Netanyahu” and subtitled “The only way you’ll ever get his attention, or make your views and voice heard, is to boycott him. It’s the only language he understands”.

The reference was of course to the lack of religious pluralism in Israel and his broken promise and commitment to resolve the war of the Kotel issue. On the same page was a lengthy article by Yossi Verter  entitled, “A Historic Break”. The opening theme of his article was a condemnation of our Prime Minister’s lack of trust. “ By caving in to the ultra-Orthodox while throwing U.S. Jewry to the dogs, Prime Minister Netanyahu reached a new low this week…. Time and again, we rediscover that to ensure his personal and political survival, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is ready to pay a high price. Not at his own expense, heaven forbid, nor from his own pocket….he took the Jewish community in the United States, which is his greatest supporter and whose representatives, leaders and lobbyists he wields like a seasoned puppeteer, and simply threw it to the dogs, without batting an eyelash.”

In caving in to the demands of the ultra-Orthodox, a minority segment of our Jewish population which can make or break a government, the Prime Minister broke his pledge and promise to the leaders of the non-Orthodox Jewish movements to provide a plan for pluralistic and egalitarian worship at the Western Wall.

The writer goes on to describe Netanyahu’s shameful broken promise to the leaders of the American Conservative and Reform Jewish leaders by supporting the monopoly of the ultra-Orthodox rabbinate. No longer will conversions performed by representatives of the non-Orthodox rabbis be recognized but under the new legislation tens of thousands of immigrants from the former Soviet Union who live in Israel, serve in the army, pay taxes and raise children, cannot be officially registered as Jews.

Tempers flared. Of the ten members who attended the cabinet meeting, only one, Yuval Steinitz (Likud) had the courage to speak out against the cancellation of the Western Wall plan. With passion he declared, “this is a wretched decision which will cause a serious rift with the Jewish people. We agreed upon a compromise, we passed it in the government…why are we backtracking? What kind of talk is this?”

A  bitter response came from another member of the Likud, Yariv Levin, who shouted out “We don’t owe the American Jews anything .They don’t live here so they shouldn’t complain.”

To his disappointment Steinitz shot back. “I thought we called ourselves the Jewish state, not the state of the Israelis alone”. He expected support from other members of the government but sadly got none.

Describing them as “power hungry”, Verter writes “Israel’s cabinet ministers and prime minister have never looked so pathetic and cowed. They are slaves of the Haredi politicians who represent only ten percent of the public”.

And then he goes on to strike the final and truthful blow. “It’s not the Haredi politicians who should be blamed; it’s those who capitulate to their demands and abandon the general Jewish public in order to stay in power”.

Several more pages of this edition of HAARETZ are dedicated to the condemnation of a Prime Minister who lies, makes and breaks his promises only to keep his seat warm in the halls of government.

GUSH SHALOM included a paid advertisement in large bold letters.

“For many years American Jewish Leaders gave blind support to Israel’s government.

But when Netanyahu spits in their faces …”

A full page, analyzed by Chemi Shalev, appears in bold headlines.

“19th Century Rabbis Dictate Prime Minister’s Anti-Zionist Capitulation” summing up with a statement that “the American Jewish leaders refused to accept that in Israel everything is transitory— except for the political power of the ultra-Orthodox”.

On the same page, signatures of Jews living in Israel and abroad, adjoin a poignant statement, quoted from our national anthem. “Lihiyot am chofshi b’artzenu”… to be a free people in our land” with Pluralism, Tolerance and Equality for All.

I am glad that my daughter instructed me to clean up the over-flowing piles of papers. It made me more clearly understand that in our Israeli political system… a theocracy rather than a democracy… what once was old is new again. A promise from our Prime Minister is not worth the paper on which it was written.. If he tells us that today is Tuesday, we can be sure that it’s really Friday.

Chaval m’od.  A great pity.

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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