Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Hating Religious Zionists

Another step was taken last week in the divide between Orthodox Groups. From Ynet:

Ultra-Orthodox leaders in Jerusalem are threatening to cut off all ties with the municipal rabbinate if the city elects a Zionist chief rabbi. Mayor Nir Barkat recently declared that he is committed to appointing a Zionist rabbi for the city.

"If there's a rabbi whose level or halachic views do not correspond with the haredim's demands – the spiritual leaders will call on the community to shun the Jerusalem rabbinate," declared city council member Shlomo Rosenstein (United Torah Judaism).

I can understand Charedi opposition to a Rabbi from one of the non Orthodox movements. But to reject another Orthodox rabbi to the point of boycott shows their true agenda. It is all about control. They are so opposed to religious Zionism that they will reject someone with a legitimate Semicha who is completely observant of Torah and Mitzvos. It is almost as if they would prefer a Conservative rabbi over him.

I understand their objections to religious Zionism. Anything attached to Zionsim - even if religious - is itself ‘Treif’. They reject the notion of a anti religious State in any incarnation ruling over religious Jews - all the while calling itself Jewish and at the same time trying to undermine the very foundation of Judaism: -Torah and Mitzvos.

While I do not see today’s Zionists in those black and white terms, I do understand why they feel that way. I am not a religious Zionist either. Never was. But I respect their views just like I do the views of Charedim on this issue. It is the extremists of both sides that I reject.

But this is not about opposing extremes. It’s about politics. Charedim are feeling their oats! They now have a critical mass of people living in Israel- all with voting power. There are enough Charedim to have real clout in government affairs. And they are taking full advantage of it.

I can’t really blame them for doing that. But it shows a lack of ethics and refinement to use their new found power to run roughshod over everyone else – in the way they are attempting to do it here.

This kind of activity reinforces the view that actions taken against Religious Zionist Rosh HaYeshiva Rabbi Chaim Druckman was completely political.

Though I don’t think that was the entire reason – I do think it was a substantial part of it. There were legitimate issues. But Charedim pounced with glee against Rabbi Druckman -condemning him and rejecting - wholesale- hundreds of his converts(!) - instead of examining individual problems. They ruined Rabbi Druckman’s reputation.

Let us be honest. This was a political move as much as anything else. Charedim want 100% control over all of religious life in Israel and they are not about to share any of it with religious Zionist rabbis. And they don’t mind destroying people and religious institutions in the process - as long as they are not Charedi.

I will never forget the impression made upon me by Yeshivat Merkaz Harav. My son used to live about a block away from there. When I visited him then, we used to sometimes Daven Mincha there on Shabbos. Walking into that Beis HaMedrash was a beautiful experience for me. I saw hundreds of Bachruim learning with real Hasmada – intensity and seriousness. They were of all ages- some not old enough to grow a beard, many with Peyes, many with beards some with both. Many wore their Tzitzis out. Kipot were large - and they were crocheted. That was about the only difference between them and what I saw at Yeshivas Mir. And for the record, Merkaz boys too are exempt from the army.

I pointed this out to my son and he acknowledged their Hasmada and Ehrlichkeit. But when I asked him if there was any interaction or contact between these two populations he told me there was absolutely none. Zero.

Charedi Yeshiva students are not ‘Gores’ Merkaz HaRav. That is a Gemarah expression that basically means they barely acknowledge their existence. If and when they ever do - it is usually not in a flattering way. It took a massacre to change that for one brief moment in time. But now it is back to business as usual.

How low our generation has fallen. Things were not always this way. One of the greatest Gedolim of pre-State times was Rav Issar Zalmen Meltzer (Rav Aharon Kotler’s father in law). No one would dispute his Charedi credentials. No one would doubt his anti Zionism. Who did he think was the Gadol HaDor? Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook. That was made evident in an anecdote told about Rav Meltzer when he visited an ailing Rav Kook. Rav Kook is of course one of the intellectual giants of religious Zionism.

Where are such leaders now? The answer is that they do not exist. Those leaders have gone on to their eternal reward. They have today been replaced by a Taliban like leadership who rules through hatred and intimidation. And we wonder why we are still in exile?