Building Bridges

GUEST EDITORIAL

Few contemporary issues manage to elicit such strongly held positions and evoke the degree of passion as the current crisis facing Torah Judaism in Eretz Yisrael. Yet beyond the shrill rhetoric and the heated arguments, exists a heavy fog of confusion, a smog that disguises the real issues at stake.

Unfortunately, even within the Torah community in the Diaspora, there are many who not only fail to realize the magnitude of the situation but also its relevance to us, those living in chutz la’Aretz. The arguments focus on the validity of the most publicized aspects of the crisis: the issue of shivyon benetel, the allegation that the Torah community in Israel disregards its fair share of communal responsibilities. The purpose of these lines is not to set the record straight on those issues; for this, we refer the reader to other articles in Hamodia. Those matters are only the symptoms of a much more profound, core  predicament.

After a half-century of secular indoctrination, the Israeli education system has managed to uproot any last vestiges of our  mesorah from the hearts of countless citizens.  Unlike their parents and grandparents, large segments of the third-generation of Israelis tragically no longer feel any connection with Hakodesh Baruch Hu, and perceive their identity — at best — as a nationalistic, “Israeli” identity, rather than a Jewish one, never mind being a part of the am hanivchar that carries a spiritual uniqueness.

As a result, savvy politicians such as Yair Lapid and his ilk managed to tap into a natural sentiment of a populace who view Torah-true Jews as outsiders instead of as their brethren, and as irrational and backward extremists instead of as the transmitters of a jointly inherited legacy.

Through no fault of their own, this segment of the population is so cut off from the spiritual riches of their ancestors that they view those who have stayed true to the path of traditional Judaism to be an existential threat to their secular lifestyle.

Slogans like “shared burden,” or nasty insults like “parasites,” are simply a facade, a mask to disguise the real agenda of social engineering.

What we are witnessing in Eretz Yisrael is a well-organized, broad campaign to destroy the present status quo on religious matters that allowed a minimum framework for a Jewish state rather than its becoming a tool for complete assimilation. It is the unholy alliance of secular elements in Israel and the Diaspora who wish to redefine Judaism.

This agenda is pursued tenaciously through legislation, political propaganda, aided and abetted by the media. Laws are rammed through the Knesset that challenge the authority of the Rabbinate and in particular in the arena chukei ishus, the laws defining Jewish identity and purity. The proposed changes to the process of conversions and marriages constitute an irreparable breach to the unity of the nation in Israel as well as in the Diaspora. Again, the details of this agenda are beyond the scope and purpose of this article. This movement intends to delegitimize the Torah way of life as the authentic and unchanging foundation of Judaism.

A result of the myth that the Torah-true person in Israel is unwilling to assume responsibility to support his family is that there are barely any opportunities for him to do so in a dignified way that allows him to use his natural and accumulated skills.

Similarly, the notion that the Torah-true Jew is callous about the soldier putting his life at risk in service of the country is a Trojan horse for the agenda described earlier.

It is a tragedy that religious people within the coalition give active and passive support to this effort to reshape and redefine the character of the country.  It is a notion that we  should be deeply concerned about.

Therefore the Jew in the Diaspora from across the spectrum of religious affiliation should be losing sleep over this crisis. It is a matter of deep concern that the Israeli government may succeed in changing the Jewish character of the country, and thereby cut off the last connection much of the populace has with Judaism.

The changes to the status quo will also have a crippling domino effect on Jewish communities throughout the world, who look to Israel for guidance.

Every Jew is the equivalent of an entire world, and we, Torah-observant Jews, have a sacred obligation to concern ourselves with the physical and spiritual wellbeing of every one of our brethren.

In an age when frightening percentages of Jews are lost to assimilation and intermarriage, the far-reaching and long-lasting ripple effects of what the Israeli government’s agenda may impact must fill every Jewish heart with trepidation.

This is a time of deep fear, but also a wake-up call to action. It is our obligation to persevere, to cultivate and strengthen Torah-true life and at the same time to  build bridges of understanding between Torah Jews and the rest of our cherished brethren.

The facts are incontrovertible, the solutions are accessible. It is only matter of getting our message out there — telling the real story.

It was this fog of confusion and misconceptions that prompted the decision of the members of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of Agudas Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael to plan an unprecedented trip the United States. A mass rally that had been scheduled for this coming Tuesday would have done much to educate, inspire, and enlighten world Jewry about what is truly transpiring in Eretz Yisrael.

The political influence and power of American Jews cannot be underestimated; it is a power utilized by the political leadership of Israel in this country — very effectively — by lobbying and major rallies. With that, comes a sacred responsibility. It is up to Torah-true Jewry to muster to the order of the day.

Ish es re’ehu ya’azoru ul’achiv yomru chazak.