Friday, May 17, 2024

What Will It Take for a Paradigm Shift?

The 5 Charedi IDF soldiers killed in a friendly fire incident (VIN)
It is with a profound sense of sorrow that I report of the accidental death of 5 precious  IDF soldiers in a ‘friendly fire’ incident. Without getting into the details, these soldiers were shot and killed by their own IDF soldiers in a case of mistaken identity.

The causalities were part of a Charedi paratrooper unit. Not that it makes any difference what their religious status was. The point is that these 5 Jews were the best of us... people willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. Which they did in a most tragic way

I mention their religious status only to emphasize something that has become much more evident since the war with Hamas began. The Charedi world has softened its opposition to serving in the IDF. 

But when I  say ‘Charedi world’ I mean the general Charedi public. Not necessarily its leadership.

It’s not a secret that Charedim are the fastest growing segment of  Jewry in Israel. It is therefore important to know exactly what their attitude about Israel and the IDF is right now. Their leadership has an outsize influence that impacts on the general public. It makes a difference what they think.

So I have to ask whether what happened to these 5 soldiers has impacted them enough to generate a significant change in attitude. Until October 7th the opposition to the state was purely ideological. They were (and perhaps still are) so opposed to Zionism that they refused to participate in anything remotely associated with the Zionist state. Including religious Zionism.  

I’m not even talking about serving in the IDF. I’m talking about saying simple prayers for the safety of the soldiers. They refuse to say them because they were composed by religious Zionist rabbis. I do not believe a single Agudah shul says that prayer even now during Israel’s longest war where there have been many Jewish casualties. Observant soldiers being overly represented in that sad statistic. Some of whom (e.g. Hesder Yeshiva students) study Torah every moment they are away from combat. And  now there are actually Charedi soldiers giving up their lives for the same reasons.

Will Charedi leaders urge their people to say that prayer now? Or will they will just continue to say Tehilim alone - which was not composed specifically for that purpose. 

This is not to discount saying Tehilim. But to refuse add a prayer specifically designed for the soldiers for political reasons is the wrong time to take a stand against religious Zionism. Israel is at war! Soldiers are being killed!. .

I’m sure Charedi leaders realize that there are more Charedim than ever serving now (albeit still a tiny fraction of them). Do they still refuse to say that prayer?  

What I do unfortunately keep hearing is the same criticisms and reasons they give for not doing so. which is based on facts no longer in existence. Although some of the early Zionists were fiercely anti religious, not all of them were. But that was at a time when there were hardly any observant Jews at all serving in government. Today, there are more observant Jews in Israel’s Knesset than at any time in its history. 

Some might retort that their main objection to Religious Zionism is their belief that the founding of the modern state of Israel has begun the process of our redemption from exile. Which Charedim believe is a false belief.

That is no excuse. One does not have to believe that in order to support innovations by religious Zionist rabbis at the founding of the state. Rav Ahron Soloveichik, was the honorary head of the Religious Zionists of Chicago (Mizrachi) for many years. He did not did not believe that either. In fact he held that if a Shul wants to say the Prayer for the State of Israel they should omit ‘Reishis Tzemichas Geulaseinu’  - the ‘first flowering of our redemption’ part of that prayer. But he required his Yeshiva to say the prayer for the safety of the IDF.

It isn't only the prayer for the IDF that they refuse to say. They reject any participation in any state functions like Yom HaZikaron – Israel’s Memorial day. Which honors all the IDF soldiers that have fallen in all its wars. Would have it been so terrible for the Charedi world to participate in that this year when so many of their own have fallen together with their fallen non observant comrades in arms? This would have been a very auspicious time to do that. Did they?

It’s true that there was a thaw in their anti Israel – anti IDF stance since October 7th. But what is their overall attitude now? I fear that it hasn’t really changed... that there has in no way been a paradigm shift whereby the IDF is given the recognition it deserves. I believe they still refuse to participate with the rest of the religious world in prayer for the soldiers or anything to do with the state.

This is the wrong time to cling to a philosophy based on things which are no longer true or relevant. It is a time to unite in common cause and to recognize that religious Zionism is not the evil partner of the  Satan they have always characterized Zionism to be. Now is the time to accept religious Zionism as legitimate form of Torah Judaism even of they don’t agree with it. And to participate jointly in prayer, observances, and celebrations of a state that impacts us all.