Build, Don’t Destroy – Part I

The prospect of the next government of Israel being formed without the participation of religious parties, a very real danger in light of last week’s election results, raises serious concerns. The risks go far beyond funding for Torah institutions and a new yeshivah draft law, important issues in their own right. There is serious concern that such a government, committed to ridding the country of every trace of its Jewish character, could lead to a Kulturkampf that threatens the State’s very existence.

The heart of the issue is the declared agenda of Blue-White and associated secular parties to separate the State from any shred of religion. Hence, the demand for instituting civil marriage, busing on Shabbos. And, last but not least, there is the goal of social engineering — trying to change the social fabric of the chareidi public under the mantle of instituting a secular core curriculum in religious schools and enforcing the draft law on yeshivah students.

The question at this point is not even the validity of a claim for a Jewish State without the acknowledgment of Torah values. We are dealing with a generation that was born in Israel and for whom that fact alone is a valid argument. However, what the secular politicians must reckon with is the question of whether their program has practical value at all. Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, who ran a vile anti-chareidi campaign that wouldn’t shame the Jewish people’s worst enemies, claims that he believes in live and let live. But there is no “let live” for the chareidim when he imposes social engineering.

The founders of the State of Israel understood the need to create a framework that allowed the different segments of the population to coexist, from the secular far-left to the religious far-right. Though the religious public at the time comprised a smaller percentage of the overall population than today, the government understood that if it didn’t want a Kulturkampf it needed to enable the religious to lead their lives according to their beliefs. More than that, the founders understood that every state has a character, and that the character of the Jewish people is the Jewish religion.

Therefore they instituted what became known as the “status quo,” which included public observance of Shabbos, kashrus in the military, the authority of the Rabbanut on marital law and a certain amount of autonomy in the religious school system. The draft deferrals for full-time yeshivah students and exemption of religious girls from the army service became a de facto part and parcel of this arrangement.

Over time, the status quo has been eroded. We have seen repeated attempts to draft yeshivah bachurim and, worse, to draft girls. One city after another is allowing public buses to run on Shabbos in complete disregard for the sanctity of the day. Attempts are being made to wrest authority for marriage and personal status from the Rabbinate.

We have reached the point where the next generation of secular Jews, or at least part of it, does not see any value to the status quo. To the contrary, they view it as a thorn in their sides, constraining their daily lives.

These Jews, whose connection to Judaism is tenuous, are interested in seeing Israel become a democratic state with a clear separation between state and religion.

Such a separation was the farthest thing from the founding fathers’ intention; they instinctively understood that you could never separate a Jewish State from Judaism, and to try to do so would be the beginning of the end. The repercussions of a government that promises to advance a “liberal, secular” agenda will be secular coercion that seeks to deny Jews the right to lead their lives as they believe, in accordance with the values of Torah.

The Draft Law is obviously a very emotional issue. On the surface, it seems a justified demand for social justice and equal sharing of the burden. But the fact is that the draft is not a matter of national security, rather an attempt at social engineering.

Today, it is acknowledged by all leading experts that, strictly from a security perspective, what Israel needs is not a people’s army, a melting pot, but an army of professionals.

In the end, attempts at secular coercion, at social engineering, will backfire. That is because the majority of the population of Eretz Yisrael is traditional or mesorati; whether or not they keep Shabbos and other mitzvos to the finest detail, they want Shabbos. They want a Jewish state.

Even if the religious-traditional public were not a majority — and clearly, it is — it doesn’t matter. Our claim to Eretz Yisrael is based on our religious character. Moreover, when everything is said and done, we are an integral part of the Jewish nation.

Those seeking to advance their liberal agenda are mistaken if they think the obstacle to advancing such an agenda is the chareidi Knesset representation. The obstacle is the majority of the public who will take to the barricades to hold on to the State’s identity, to their identity as Jews. No amount of police force, no amount of teargas will stop them.

The danger of a government that imposes its secular agenda on Jews who will never give up their Jewish character is that this could lead, chalilah, to a Kulturkampf that might very well spell the beginning of the disintegration of a Jewish State. Nothing less.

Finally, on a positive note. We are all bnei Av echad, descendants of great people who will carry the neshamah — the soul and inner compass of the Jewish nation — for generations to come with tremendous self-sacrifice. Instead of destroying for illusory gain, let us join to build Klal Yisrael for a lasting future.

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