Gary Schiff
a resource consultant and guide connecting Israel and the US

While the Physical Onslaught Continues, so does the Spiritual

– In Defense of Avi Maoz. Lost in the current horrific physical onslaught of our people in Israel is the continuing spiritual onslaught. One lightning rod who is trying to protect us is Minister Avi Maoz and for that he may be the most vilified member of Knesset. His strong stand for traditional Torah and family values and against woke cultural trends has made him a pariah in most of Israel’s and America’s media. They have defined him as a far-right extreme misogynist and homophobe. Yet, the reality of what he has been pushing forward, would surprise many. Most of what he has been advocating would be widely supported by the majority of Israelis.

His top priorities have been: 1) setting up a committee to examine if the current “any Jewish grandparent” criteria is too broad for an immigration (aliyah) standard, 2) offering an alternative government “form” for the majority of the traditional and religious public that asks for the name of one’s mother and father instead of parent 1 and parent 2 and 3) turning over much of the decision making on external programming in the schools to the parents of the children in those same schools. These seem to be basic steps in trying to protect Israel’s Jewish character and “spiritual security.”

First is the question of who qualifies for immigration/aliyah? For the last several years, most of those who made aliyah (from Russia and the Ukraine) had neither a Jewish mother nor a Jewish father and many were actually practicing other faiths. This is not about a Reform Judaism definition of who is a Jew; i.e., patrilineal descent. There is coaching available in Russia on how to beat the system in Israel and it is reported that many of those who immigrate to Israel return to Russia pocketing Israel’s generous benefits. Is this what the founding fathers and mothers of Israel had in mind when they developed the law of return so Israel could be a homeland for the Jewish people? What does this do for the future make-up of our Jewish State?

How a government form is written seems trivial, but MK Maoz sees it as indicative of a cultural slide. If there is parenting where there is an arrangement other than a mother and father running the household, that is a model that traditional and religious Jews might be able to accept but don’t want to encourage. Why can’t those with other family structures simply cross out mother and father and write the title that fits? That should be the exception and not the rule. The traditional family as the basic unit of Judaism, is something he passionately wants to protect and so do most Israelis. Besides there is a practical aspect. The majority of donated blood had been coming from yeshiva and seminary students. Their Rabbis advised them not to give blood until they changed the forms back to the way they were a year ago; i.e., mother and father. The Rabbis haven’t budged in their perspective of the issue and hence Israel’s blood bank has shortages. Whether one agrees with the Rabbis’ approach or not that is the reality.

In terms of external education programming, there is good reason to be concerned about the New Israel Fund’s (NIF) agenda being promoted in Israel’s schools. Most of the students in Israel’s public schools come from families with traditional values. Parents are working hard and don’t have a lot of time to pay attention – but most expect their children will learn history based on the Hebrew Bible and have a general sense of the holidays on the Jewish calendar. Instead the Ministry of Education has been pushing externally funded programming that is often anti-zionist and anti-traditional values, much if funded by organizations such as NIF. The NIF funds education often via other organizations such as pre-military programs focused on “the occupation” and organizations focused on teaching and celebrating transgender, gender fluidity and other concepts that the traditional and religious public does not support. MK Maoz wants parents to decide their children’s special programming especially when the topics are advocating either directly or indirectly support for anti-zionist or anti-traditional values. According to his staff, the Education Ministry bureaucracy pushed back and he does not have the backing to move this forward.

Most likely due to other pressing national security priorities focused on Israel’s physical security, the Prime Minister’s (PM) Office has not yet followed through on the commitments in support of these measures as laid out in the coalition agreement. Due to the lack of progress he was able to make from inside the PM’s Office, MK Maoz announced his resignation as a special assistant to the PM. Perhaps one could argue he should have been more patient as it has only been a few months since current coalition has been at the helm. Yet, from another perspective, he will now be free to introduce bills and work with coalition partners to advance legislation that moves these initiatives and other legislation supporting traditional values.

The political response to his resignation has been as expected. While the opposition is focused on judicial reform they have taken the opportunity to celebrate. They believe his resignation shows them that they can be successful in their vilification campaigns and it is for them a case study to share with current and potential allies of the PM as to why the PM’s Office can’t be trusted to fulfill their commitments. Politics aside, this masks the importance of what he is trying to accomplish for the people of Israel.

MK Maoz has accomplished so much in his career. He was a principle force in opening the doors for Soviet Jewish immigration. He is vilified based on comments that demonstrate his principled stand on culturally sensitive issues. Yes, he has stated his opposition to a pride parade being held in the world’s holiest city. Many traditional and religious Jews as well as Muslims and Christians would agree with him. That the PM’s Office has not yet been able to support his efforts is disappointing but understandable given their current priorities. God willing, he’ll be able to be more effective working on these issues from the outside and that despite the political pressure and vilification, he will ultimately be successful in helping protect Israel’s Jewish character and “spiritual security.”

About the Author
Gary Schiff is a resource consultant and guide connecting Israel and the US