Sunday, June 05, 2016

‘Printed in E. Israel’ and Other Slights

Yom Yerushalyim at the Kotel in 2011
‘I do what Ben Gurion does, I don’t say Hallel and I don’t say Tachanun’. This was the clever and humorous response of Rav Yosef Kahaneman, founder and Rosh HaYeshiva of Ponevezh in Bnei Brak when asked if he said Hallel on Yom Ha’Atzmaut (Israel's Independence Day). (One does not say Tachanun on certain occasions one of which is on the anniversary of  significant event such as the return of our land after 2000 years of exile.)  

This was a man of integrity who as a Charedi refused to be cowed by the anti state political correctness in the Charedi world of his time. He appreciated the value of the return of Eretz Yisroel into Jewish hands and the Neis Nistar (hidden miracle) that got us there. He expressed his gratitude publicly by recognizing the significance of the creation of the State of Israel. Not only did he not say Tahcnun - his entire Yeshiva did not say it on that day (with the exception of one faculty member, Rav Shach).  Another thing he did on that day was fly the Israeli flag atop his Yeshiva in Bnei Brak. I believe they still do this.

Despite these feelings about the State, Rav Kahaneman is venerated by the entire Charedi world. But his views on this subject are far from venerated. They are rejected in their entirely now. As is the views of another Charedi hero who also recognized the value of Israeli s defense forces, Mir Rosh HaYeshiva, R’ Chaim Shmulevitz. 

The more common approach by the the Charedi right in Israel is to not even recognize Israel’s existence. I have noticed an increasing tendency for Charedi publishers of Seforim (religious works) to say ‘printed as E. Israel’. Which of course stands for Eretz Israel. While that is a true statement, it clearly shows disdain to refuse saying  ‘printed in Israel’. God forbid that be interpreted as recognition. These are not publications by Neturei Karta. These are mainstream Charedi publications.

Just yesterday, I was informed that Eliyahu Kitov’s monumental work, Sefer HaToda’ah is now published (Hebrew edition) in censored from. In the original version he had a section where he evenhandedly discussed both sides of the debate about Yom Ha’atzmaut between Religious Zionists and Charedim. This is not good enough for the right. That section is now gone in the newer editions.

Unfortunately, the Charedi world in America seems to increasingly feel the same way. The rationale of not saying Tachanun onYom Ha’atzmaut applies to Yom Yerushalyim. Which we celebrate today. This is the day in June of 1967 during the 6 Day War where Israeli General Mordechai 'Motta' Gur entered and recaptured the old city of Jerusalem and announced ‘Har HaBayit B’Yadenu’ – the Temple Mount is in our hands. 

Once again hidden miracles took place and the holiest place in the world to the Jewish people was again in our hands. For the first time in 2000 years. An occasion to be recognized by at least not saying Tachnunun on its anniversary. The Shul I attended this morning said Tachnanun. Not such a surprise since it is a Charedi Shul. But not every in that Minyan this morning was Charedi. So when I stood up waiting until the Shul was finished saying Tachanun, I was able to notice if there were any others that felt as I do. Unfortunately I was the only one.No one seemed to care what happened this day in 1967. It was just another day - same as the next one.

I understand the feeling on the right that Israel is not a religious country - and that it should be. I also understand that the right is upset by how they are treated by the secular government. I understand all of the feelings about the anti religious activities that some of the founders and their surrogates were perceived responsible for at its founding. There are many stories about that. Although I believe those stories are exaggerated, I do think there were some people in that era that did everything they could to undermine religion. And yet in spite of this knowledge, people like Rav Kahaneman still understood what having Israel back in Jewish hands meant. And did something concrete to show it.

What’s more. Israel is nothing like that today. Not only is there little attempt to destroy religion,  Charedim are active members of the Kenesset and of the ruling coalition. One  of those members, Rabbi Yaakov Litzman has for the first time accepted a ministerial portfolio; Minister of Health. I am told that there are now more religious members of the Keneset than a any time in history. The head of the Mossad, Yossi Cohen, is an observant Jew. And the upper echelon of the military hierarchy now has observant generals. Not to mention the fact that - if I understand correctly - there are more people studying Torah full time in Israel than at any other time in history.

The progress that the religious world has made in Israel cannot be denied. Nor can it be denied where at least some of the credit goes. It is the height of arrogance to ignore that fact, and continue to actively and publicly refuse to recognize Israel as a State. How ironic it is that there was recognition of Israel by Gedolei HaDor in its  early  days  whereas today, when things are so much better - there is less recognition - if there is any at all.