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Oct 25, 2012

Israel's Official Religion Is Orthodox Judaism

David Landau has written a piece in Haaretz that I largely agree with, but one point in it was new to me.

The article is about the Women of the Wall fight about davening at the Kotel, Anat Hoffman being arrested. The article surprised me, especially considering it appears in Haaretz.

In it Landau posits that Hoffman and the other Women of the Wall are being provocative. Landau compares her, and their, antics, to imagining a Protestant Christian cleric leading a group in Catholic Rome. They wouldn't be tolerated, but would be removed. A protestant cleric in a Catholic church in America would also not be tolerated. The Satmar rebbe going into a Reform temple and leading a group according to the customs of Satmar would also not be tolerated.

Landau's position and argument is based on his statement that Israel's state religion is Orthodox Judaism. Considering that point, his argument makes sense, though it seems more like Landau is being cynical in order to get to his main point, the conclusion. A very important point he makes in conclusion is that the only way to change that is by more non-Orthodox moving and living in Israel. Only in that way will they be able to have more influence, and change things like this.

Israel's state religion is not officially Orthodox Judaism, but it seems to be so by default. As many have said, for many of the secular, the shul they don't go to is an Orthodox shul. Funding and governmental support is directed unequally in favor of Orthodox institutions to the detriment of the Reform and Conservative organizations that are really very small. The only way to change that is not to provoke the system but to get more numbers on the ground. If they bring more Jews associated with the Reform and Conservative movements to live in Israel, they will bring more equality to the distribution to those groups, and they will obtain more influence on society.

And, yes, I think more Jews should come to Israel regardless of their affiliation.


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21 comments:

  1. That's actually a very interesting way of looking at things. I disagree about anything being an official state religion, because there is no such thing. But now that he points it out, I think his argument about the kotel still makes a lot of sense, because the Kotel is an Orthodox Jewish site, no less than St Peter's is Catholic, l'havdil elef havdalos. I make this bold assertion, because frankly the Conservative and Reform movements have no connection to the site, being that they denigrate the need for, or longing for, the rebuilding of the Temple. Since they see no need for a Temple on that site, it is clear that to them its location is incidental, definitely not "holy", and their coming to assert their "rights" there is like Protestants coming and asserting their "rights" to use St Peter's basilica for their prayer groups. Why don't they demand rights to pray on the Temple Mount, too? It's motivated by politics, not by any desire to serve G-d.

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  2. well, you could say that that WAS true, but now these women of the wall are making, or trying to make, such a connection, but others arent allowing them to. so is the contuned lack of connection their fault or because somebody is actively preventing it?

    just like they should be advocating for prayer on Temple Mount, all those who go to Har Habayit and wish prayer was allowed there should be supporting the right of these women to pray.

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  3. My point is that they are not doing this because they believe the site is holy to them. V'hara'yah: ask any one of them if they would want or pray for the Temple to be rebuilt. Or ask straight out: do you believe in G-d? Do you believe this site is intrinsically holy, and your service of G-d here is more meaningful than any other place? If so, why? Why do you want to pray here, and not on the Temple Mount? Are you choshesh for kareis? Or maybe you believe the Temple Mount is a Muslim holy site, not a Jewish one? And if the Temple means nothing to you, then what significance does the kotel have?

    Bottom line, I think it is very clear that the only reason they have chosen this site to pray at is because they are opposed to Orthodoxy, and they are trying to score political points at Orthodoxy's holiest site.

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    1. Having grown up in a Reform home, I strongly disagree that the kotel is merely incidental to non-Orthodox Jews. They might not speak of it as "holy," at least not how the Orthodox use the word, but I believe many or most Conservative and Reform Jews do have a very strong connection to the kotel. Whether this connection is religious, historical, emotional, or some combination of the three, may be debatable, but the connection is much more than incidental. And if one wishes to talk about things being political, I think you could just as easily argue that the strong and sometimes violent opposition by some Orthodox to the Women of the Wall is political, based on a desire to prevent non-Orthodox groups from gaining the sort of recognition that would be implied by allowing them to pray in their fashion at the kotel.

      By the way, I think it's worth noting that David Landau is, I am pretty sure, Orthodox.

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  4. yet http://finkorswim.com/2012/10/22/is-anat-hoffman-a-victim-of-religious-persecution-at-the-western-wall/ argues her behaviour is not against haalacha.....

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  5. I agree they arent doing anything against halacha. But they are doing things against societal norms, and against tradition, and against normal behavior at the Kotel (though so much other abnormal behavior is going on there, that this shouldnt even register as a blip on the radar screen). especially if you accept Landau's point that orthodox judaism is the state religion, or if you take it to just mean orthodox judaism is the dominant sect here and what sets the tone for acceptable public religious behavior.

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  6. Given his feelings about rape, it's pretty hard to swallow that he's Orthodox.

    As to the comment about political opposition, I don't think it's any more political to expect people to respect the Kotel by abiding by Jewish tradition, than it is for Muslims to expect visitors to their mosques to take off their shoes. Everywhere else people understand that you respect the local customs. Why, when it come to Jewish holy sites, does that not apply?

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    1. Hi Shaul, long time no talk! About David Landau, hey, look at Yeshayahu Leibowitz - about as left wing as they get, but I don't think anyone questions his Orthodoxy.

      About the Kottel, my main point was that non-Orthodox Jews have a very strong connection to the Kottel, even if it is based on different factors than for the Orthodox. In general, I agree about respecting Jewish tradition at the Kottel - for example, I think it is completely appropriate to ask people to dress modestly at the Kottel. I think the women's issues that have come up over the years are more complex, although I'm not equipped to argue about it in detail. But for example, I'm not sure how women wearing talisim should offend people on strictly religious grounds, yet women have been assaulted for doing just that at the Kottel. Somebody has to decide where respecting tradition stops and enforcing Orthodox or haredi sensibilities starts, because I don't think those two things are identical.

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    2. This is an example where religious pickiness has clouded our better judgment. Are we really going to defend the fact that it's "illegal" for women to daven with tallitot or read from the Torah at the Kotel? Seriously?

      The ONLY reason it's currently "prohibited" is due to extreme elements who riot, throw chairs over into the women's section and other such barbarism, so it was decided that as a matter of safety and maintaining public order to say women can't do it.

      Who the heck cares if women want to hold their own service? We're acting like a bunch of spoiled children here. We have a Jewish State, b"H, where we can come to the Kotel and daven all day long if we like. It's time for us to grow up, be grateful for all we have, and exercise a little "live and let live" for crying out loud!

      Normal Orthodox folks should be SUPPORTING the Women of the Wall...

      1) because what they're doing is not unreasonable or disrespectful, even by Orthodox standards,

      2) because accommodating the needs of others is an important middah, not to be brushed aside simply because we're in control,

      3) because do we really want to live in a country where this kind of thing is "illegal", and

      4) because if we jump on the condemnation bandwagon, we're simply aiding and abetting extremism.

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  7. This POV might hold water if it wasn't the site of military induction ceremonies and didn't hold a central place in our collective national consciousness as well our collective religious consciousness. St. Peter's Basilica is not a monument of national significance. It's purely religious. Non-religious Italians might admire its architecture and historical significance, but it doesn't hold a central place in the Italian people's collective national consciousness. I don't think the way the kotel does.

    The soldiers who liberated it in 67 weren't necessarily religious, AFAIK. But they and all the generals and the army and the whole nation appreciated the significance of liberating it. And it wasn't because they all suddenly became baalei tshuva. It's because it's a central piece of our history as a people in addition to be a central piece of our religion. I just don't think you can blithely divorce the two.

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  8. Rafi,
    It appears you are saying that the majority get rights and not the minority. So until the minority increases their numbers, they don't have the right to be treated fairly in their eyes. I don't believe this is correct. Don't we Western Jews believe in minority rights???

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    1. I am not saying that at all. As a matter of fact, democracy is meant to protect the rights of the minority.
      however, that isnt the issue here. if you look at it like Landau, orthodox Judaism is the way to go and anything else is a provocation and a public place like the kotel is really just an orthodox shul so just like you would go into a mosque respecting their traditions and a church their traditions, by the kotel you should respect the traditions as well.
      I personally dont loook at it like that. I thought it was clear from my variety of posts on the subject that I actually support their right to prayer. it does bother me that they do it in such a provocative way, but I dont believe we should be stopping them from praying or arresting them for it.

      here is something I wrote on the topic on an email discussion list I am a member of:

      Step back for a moment and look how ridiculous the conversation sounds. Basically what we have is "woman arrested for praying". And some people support that. if it happened anywhere else, there would be cries of anti-semitism, how dare they stop Jews from praying etc.

      If a woman isnt supposed to pray (I am not sure why anybody is supporting a position that women should not pray - thats not what the females in my family were taught in Beis Yaakov), and she does anyway, that is between her and God. Why do we need to arrest her for praying?

      If she started a fight, disturbed the peace, created a ruckus, went into the mens section, that would be another thing. But if all she did was pray, why should she be stopped and/or arrested?

      She prayed a little too loud and it bothered someone? He can move a little further away, out of earshot, if it really bothers him

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  9. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JcIdyJtmYgI


    Someday I hope you'll rise your voices against your own discrimination of the palestinian people. You're repeting somthing you've sufferd... Israel is based on pure racism and evil.

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    1. To say that ANY country is "based on pure racism and evil" is to live in a comic book reality. You have to stop talking like that if you want anyone to listen.

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  10. Shaul -

    That you don't understand, respect or appreciate the majority streams of Judaism is obvious from how you assume and state your understanding of their views. But just because you don't understand how most Jews view and live Judaism doesn't make your minority sect 'right.'

    There are many cultural/historical/religious sites that share space with other sects and other religions - Church of holy sepulcher is an example.

    The issue is this: if the orthodox are righteous and correct, why does landau fear them looking like backwards benighted fools for behaving in their normal fashion?

    Furthermore, given that orthodoxy is not the state religion, shouldn't non-violent acts of civil disobedience be encouraged in a democracy? Or if Orthodoxy is the State Religion, what does that do to the orthodox argument of Israel is a secular state and not to be supported?

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    1. Way: see, you yourself give the game away when you talk about "non-violent acts of civil disobedience", (presumably) in reference to women wearing tallis/tefillin at the Kotel. Civil disobedience is not a religious act; it's a political one. In other words, these people are doing it to score political points, not to serve their Creator. You, by definition as our local atheist evangelist, cannot possibly claim that you are motivated by a will to serve G-d, so all your opposition to Orthodox control over the Kotel is unquestionably political.

      Would you take your shoes off if you visited a mosque?

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  11. And, yes, I think more Jews should come to Israel regardless of their affiliation.

    Fine words, as they say here in Jersey, butter no parsnips.

    As potential returnees to Israel, my wife and family not only have to consider the country's shaky economy, its poor political standing in the word (but nothing there has changed in the last 64 years) but now also a nation that constantly seems to be standing on the very precipice of civil war between warring Jewish factions.

    If the good folks of Israel in general, and RBS in particular, are still spitting at young girls, throwing rocks and worse at their fellow citizens whose standards of Yiddishkeit do not appear to match their own I think I shall carry on here in Jersey.

    Yes, I have to have almost every single item that my family and I use or consume flown in, either from the British mainland or from Paris, but thank G-d I am spared seeing grown and apparently mature Jewish men behaving like animals. No, that is a grave discourtesy to animals.

    We have a shul here, we have a cemetery here. What we lack, though, is the stress and general bloody-mindedness that has come to typify orthodox Judaism in Israel over the past few years.

    I do not see those phenomena among Jews in the United Kingdom, nor do I see it in France or in Belgium. If Israel really wanted religious Jews - of any stripe - to make aliya then the nation really needs sort sort out its mess - right now.

    Tzuress? Israeli religious/political tzuress? Who needs them?

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  12. Darth Zeidah: So much to say in response, but I'll just leave it at a suggestion to you to do a thorough study of Parshas Sh'lach, and consider which group of spies you want to identify with.

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  13. Thank you, Shaul B, for your kind suggestion. I was aware of Parashat Shlach many years ago - and probably even before your parents met. It happens to be my barmitzvah portion, so I learned it and its implications in great depth. I am aware of the current realities of life in Israel, too.

    Meanwhile, I shall let the so-called "tzadikim" living in Israel beat the living daylights out of each other, to say nothing of their attempting to impose their own life-style on chilonim who want absolutely nothing to do with it or them.

    Organised religion is one thing, but ramming a religion down the throats of people who have little interest in it is downright iniquitous.

    Ironically, there is an historic precedent: the Spanish Inquisition.

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    1. Darth: My apologies for any disrespect to you personally.

      The point I am making is not that I am denying that we have problems here in E.Y. as you described - but that rather than complain about them and use them as a reason/excuse not to live here, we should see it as our sacred duty to make a difference by doing what we can to fix those problems. As Calev said, "כִּי יָכוֹל נוּכַל לָהּ".

      Respectfully, I think that sitting in chu"l and making public pronouncements about how bad the Jews in E.Y. are is every bit as bad as what Shamua ben Zakur et al said, if not worse, seeing as it's loshon hora not just on the land, but on the Jews who live in it, too. We do have a bad element among us, but don't judge us all by the antics of these meshuggenehs. I have lived in RBS for 10 years, and I love it. It is a community filled with Torah, chessed and Ahavas Yisrael. We are surrounded by friends and neighbours, most of whom, in their own way, are striving to be the best people they can be. The more people who come here and add to the culture of tolerance and mutual respect, the better.

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  14. I happen to agree with Darth in pretty much everything, especially what he just wrote, except one main point. in my opinion, even with all the above being true, it isnt a reason to avoid Israel.

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