A spectre is haunting Israel— the spectre of Judaism. All the descendants of Israel's Founding Fathers have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre: Academics and Intellectuals, Major Generals (ret.) and Winners of the Israel Prize, Socialist Ideologues and Post-Modern Cosmopolitans, Haaretz and Channel Two.
the parties that have not decried as Fascist and Medieval, Benighted and
Racist the upsurge in expressions of Jewish Identity and Spirituality
that has marked this country in the past two decades (especially during
the difficult days this past Summer). The Israel Democracy Institute convenes emergency conferences to deplore (and stop) the invasion of Public Space by Jewish Tradition, and and by references to God. The Council on Peace and Security has set out on a nationwide series of open meetings, and fora, in a desperate effort to stop the increased presence of Religious and Traditional soldiers in the army, lest they fomentb a putsch against the government. War hero, Lt. Col. Ofer Winter, has been passed over for promotion.
His crime? He had the temerity of invoking God's Name in his battle
orders, and for quoting the Bible. The latest spat over the Jewish State
legislation (which is really much ado about nothing- as noted by Haviv Rettig Gur)
is merely the latest lightening rod for a broader phenomenon. All told,
the reactions to the spectre of Judaism verge on the hysterical.
careful consideration, they have serious reasons for concern. The
children and grandchildren of the Founding Fathers of our country are
losing their grip. They no longer control the Knesset. They no longer
have a lock on the media (though, they are doing everything to block
competing voices, such as Israel HaYom and Arutz 20). From their
redoubts in academia, culture, and the Justice system they still sally
forth to protect their ideals and to declare that everyone has the right
to their opinions. Anything that does not pass muster with them:
Patriotism, Religious Faith and Observance, Jewish Historical Awareness,
Jewish Literacy, is excoriated as jingoistic, regressive and (the
ultimate condemnation): Destructive of Democracy. This latter is a
brilliant tactic, by which a system of government is replaced by a
specific set of unnegotiable values, dogmatically interpreted and
applied. (I guess many have never read Ralph Waldo Emerson.)
their hysteria, the children (and grandchildren) of the gods betray the
fact that they are fighting a losing battle. There comes a time in the
life of nations, that the founders cede dominance to others. It happened
in the United States in the 1820's. In his magisterial study of Andrew Jackson,
historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr., describes how Virginians and (to a
lesser degree) Bostonians strove mightily to maintain their control over
the nation that they (and their fathers) had founded. They sought
control of its resources, its policies, its values and its culture. They
saw all of these being usurped by the uncouth pioneers on the western
fringes of the country. These were represented by their bête noire,
Andrew Jackson (himself, ironically, a Virginian). As Schlesinger
notes, the declining elites made their last stand in the Supreme Court.
In the end, they failed.
The Founders of our country achieved
unbelievable things. We are beholden to them, and must cherish and value
how they created a flourishing Jewish homeland after two millenia. They
were able to do that, in part, because they were driven by a profound
Jewish identity, that was rooted in Jewish Literacy and in loyalties
they absorbed from the world of faith that they, themselves, rejected.
Their achievements were predicated upon that rich identity. They did not
think it necessary to instill the country's culture with that which
they possessed (as Yaakov Hazan sadly noted).
The resurgence of Jewish identity and spirituality that started in the
nineties of the last century, that is borne by religious and traditional
sectors of society, is a response to a deeply felt need that the
founders failed to bequeath to the country they founded.
children filled that void with a different vision. The people want their
roots. The people want to be Jews and Jewish Jews. Indeed, 85% of Israeli Jews
believe in the same God that the above noted groups would banish from
the scene (and who, tragically, is not well served by many who claim to
represent Him). Fear of the spectre of Judaism is, thus, justified on
The Jewish State, indeed, is on a powerful path to being more profoundly Jewish than ever before. With the help of God.
[First Published in the Times of Israel 28/11/2014]