Recognizing Reform — for What It Is

The relentless campaign of the Reform movement has set its sights on the holiest and most sensitive areas of Judaism in Eretz Yisrael — including the Kosel, giyur and mikvaos. They have chosen the highest-profile targets they could identify, where they believe they can have the greatest impact (and do the most damage) in pressing their demand for official recognition in the State of Israel.

Recently, however, they added another, lesser-known target to their list, but with aims no less insidious: Israel’s Channel 20, also known as the Heritage Channel.

Channel 20 was fined 100,000 shekels (nearly $30,000) for refusing to allot broadcast time to non-Orthodox Jewish groups. The fine was imposed by the Council for Cable TV and Satellite Broadcasting, which is responsible for licensing, on the grounds that the broadcaster was in violation of licensing conditions.

CCSB Chairman Dr. Ben Chai Segev wrote that “exclusion of different groups from the channel’s broadcasts violates the license, which obligates the channel to give expression to various streams in the public. Channel 20, as the Israeli Heritage Channel, should reflect all the voices and shades in Israeli society.”

In response, Channel 20 was defiant, maintaining that it is not obligated to cover the Reform and Conservative “streams” because they exist — or “flow” — outside traditional Judaism.

“We hereby state categorically that we don’t think Channel 20 should present attempts to divide and split the people of Israel,” the broadcaster said in a statement. “There are fake Rolex watches and Adidas shoes all over the world. Let’s not counterfeit Judaism, let’s not divide the Wall.

“If one can’t divide Yerushalayim, and one can’t, then surely the Western Wall plaza can’t be divided. That’s the beginning of the end. If our license is revoked, then let it be so. The integrity of the Jewish people and of the Wall plaza are much more important and larger than anything else, even us.”

Prior to the levying of the fine, “complaints” had been lodged against the channel for not giving airtime to Reform and Conservative representatives, according to Haaretz, another good friend of egalitarianism. The complainants were not named, but who in Israel would be concerned enough to complain? Who would even notice?

Maybe someone like Gilad Kariv, director of the Reform movement in Israel? In a statement welcoming the council’s decision, he complained about the channel’s “exclusion of Reform Jews from [its] screens, and accused it of “incitement, baseless hatred and exclusion…”

And the month before, the Reform movement had petitioned the High Court to force Channel 20 to recognize it as a legitimate voice within the Jewish People. Apparently, the petition was dropped when the council said it had completed its inquiry into the matter and was ready to act.

Technically, Channel 20 is in violation of the terms of its license, and candidly admits it. But there is a much more important issue at stake, one for which the broadcaster is willing to risk termination of its license: namely, standing up to the Reform movement’s incessant demand for recognition in every forum and venue in Israel.

The channel was established for the purpose of infusing some Jewish content in an Israeli broadcasting spectrum largely devoid of it. But now they are being told that their mandate to deliver Jewish content includes all kinds, even if it’s inauthentic, even if it’s a counterfeit of real Judaism.

The Council has willingly gone along with propagating the fallacy that Reform is a “stream of Judaism” — one expression of Jewishness among many, all equally valid.

Indeed, Reform does deserve recognition — for what it is: not Judaism at all. For Judaism has always meant — as a fundamental proposition — that the Revelation at Sinai was G-d-given, Torah min haShamayim. It is one of the Maimonidean Thirteen Principles of Faith, which appears in almost every siddur, though presumably not in Reform prayer books.

Yet, this is something which the Reform and Conservative groups have never accepted. In fact, their refusal to accept it has, from their inception, been a defining heresy.

To insist that the Heritage Channel include in its programming interviews with and reports on those very people who would destroy that Jewish heritage is a travesty. It’s like granting a hechsher on condition that treif food is served along with the kosher fare.

Rather than harass the Heritage Channel for refusing to include in its programming those who have excluded themselves from Jewish heritage, the Council should reconsider the terms of its license.

Of course, that’s not to be expected. The language of the license is written in stone; in the stony determination of the Reform movement to gain official recognition by virtually any means and any subterfuge: by turning the Kosel into a staging area for heterodox ceremonies, by threatening to withdraw financial support to Israel, by barraging the High Court with petitions, by vilifying the chareidi community and all those who seek to uphold the genuine heritage of the Jewish people.

Channel 20 is paying a price in this fight. So are we all. But in the end, true Jewish heritage will survive and, b’ezras Hashem, flourish. Of that we have no doubt.