What should a Jewish State really be?

One often gets the impression that the charedi political parties have forgotten what a Jewish State ought to look like, although they claim to favor one.

We have numerous kashrut authorities such as the Chief Rabbinate, the Edah Hachareidis Badatz and Badatz Beit Yosef, but it is arguable that all of the meat and poultry certificates they issue are invalid.

Anyone who lives in Israel and has seen the way that animals are taken to the slaughter in double deck trucks while shockers are used to herd them, or has seen the crates crammed with chicken being transported at night, so that people won’t see the way they are treated, will understand that the meat being sold is in fact treif.

One of the seven Noahide Laws listed in tractate Sanhedrin, laws which are considered to be a prerequisite of any civilized society, forbids us from causing suffering to animals.

The charedim and other religious parties have been part of government coalitions for decades, but have done nothing to legislate against cruelty to animals.

The Torah explicitly forbids us from turning families into paupers by charging interest on loans, and insists that people be released from their debts in the seventh year, Shn’at ha-Sh’mitah, so that they can make a fresh start, but it doesn’t happen.

Hillel the Elder already created a legal fiction in the 1st century called the Prosbul to get around the law. However, what a wonderful idea it was to enable people to start a new chapter in their lives. Needless to say, no one even considers that mitzvah to be binding!

And what about reaching out to our enemies to make peace? After all, that is what the Torah commands us to do in Deuteronomy 20:10. Yitzhak Rabin z”l tried, was called a traitor and was assassinated by a so-called religious Jew for doing so.

The religious and charedi parties have allied themselves with the right-wing in Israeli political life and have done little to advance the cause of peace. Perhaps they have forgotten the words of Psalm 34: “Seek peace and pursue it.”

If all of that were not enough, the charedim ally themselves with those who would legislate to weaken the power of the Supreme Court. It will be recalled that Isaiah prophesied that “Zion will be redeemed by justice” (1:27).

Politicians like Shas party head, Aryeh Deri, a convicted criminal, need to be reminded of Isaiah’s castigation: “Your very rulers are rebels, confederate with thieves; every man of them loves a bribe and itches for a gift; they do not give the orphan his rights, and the widow’s cause never comes before them” (1:23).

One can insist that El Al not fly on Shabbat, forbid construction work on the light railway from taking place on the Sabbath, separate men and women at public gatherings, call for women not to serve in Israel’s defense forces, forbid them from reading Torah at the Kotel and deny children a core education, but that is not what will make Israel a Jewish State.

About the Author
Made aliyah from the UK in 1985, am a former president of the Israel Council of Reform Rabbis and am currently rabbi of Kehilat Yonatan in Hod Hasharon, Israel.
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