The left in Israel has learned everything they know from the way in which the left functions here in the United States.
A Jewish leftist, whether in the States or in Israel, must weigh a consideration that is not an issue for any other country or society. And that is the matter of “chillul Hashem,” the desecration of G-d’s name.
If you don’t agree and don’t necessarily like that, you need to ask yourself what it is that makes a Jew a Jewish person.
Granted, that is a unique characteristic that a small minority of the world population possesses. But if you are a Jewish person you are either part of the Chosen People singled out by the Creator of the Universe from all the various peoples that populate the earth, or you can view yourself as stuck in a lifelong situation that was not of your choosing—just another thing your parents gave you that you really didn’t want.
But the point is that if you are a Jew—no matter how you arrived into that situation—then you not only have a unique role and responsibility in the world but, on top of that, all those other 7 billion people are aware of your every move and are watching you.
So many countries, entities, and agencies are critical of Jews and consistently condemn Israel for one thing or another, and still there is nothing as satisfying for those groups as sitting back and watching Jews turning on one another.
That is one of the reasons why the media was celebrating on Sunday when both former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni lowered the boom on the state of Israel and its relatively new democratically elected government.
Yes, they all understand that they are Jews and that they may have (they’re not really sure) have a unique and special role in the world. They may not buy into the “light unto the nations” business or that the Jews are G-d’s Chosen People as described in the Bible, but the problem is that the people around the world watching Jews and the Jewish State believe it and have lived by that dictum all their lives. And today they work day and night to try to dispel this unique relationship that past generations have deeply believed in.
Now to a great extent their job is being done by a high percentage of Israelis who have set aside everything else in their lives to demonstrate that there is nothing unique about the Jewish people. Unusual, sure, but that’s it.
One of the odd things in this equation is that this is one of the bigger points of contention that has been the greatest obstacle between Israel and her Palestinian neighbors over all these years. And that is that the Palestinian Authority—created by Israel to give the Palestinians an organized entity that functions like a state but is not one—refuses to recognize that Israel is a Jewish State.
And for most Israeli leaders and especially Mr. Netanyahu, not being able to say that Israel is a Jewish State is a non-starter. The sense that Israel exists primarily as the homeland of the Jewish people is something that an Arab leader like Mr. Abbas (a corrupt one at that) absolutely refuses to say—or cannot say and remain alive.
Jews in Israel, on the other hand, really have no issue signing on to the idea that Israel is a Jewish State so long as that characterization remains vague. Once the onus falls on whoever is in charge at the time, that’s where Israel gets into trouble and where the rest of the world is treated to a good laugh.
Jews don’t mind being Jews; too many just do not want to be Jewish. And that brings us back to the definition of what it means to be Jewish.
Another central point of contention is what the circumstances were that led to the creation of the State of Israel. In many people’s minds, and that includes officials here in the U.S., the State of Israel was created out of the ashes of the Holocaust. The European shtetlach and cities were violently decimated by the Nazis, leaving Jews nowhere to turn other than their ancestral homeland in the land of Israel. That is what the British believed and a matter that the U.S. facilitated at the time.
This is where a lot of Israelis run into some confusion and trouble. Israel is the ancestral homeland of the Jewish people—not because there was no place else to go after Europe. Israel is the home of the Jews because of a Divine promise made to Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov, to Sarah, Rivka, Leah, and Rachel, as stated clearly in the Bible.
The divide is a faceoff between the spiritual and material nature of what the land of Israel offers all of us. Living in this physical world makes it difficult to incorporate any level of spirituality into one’s life without a proper education or the ability to reconcile how the mundane and the holy can coexist.
And that has mostly been the debate from the start of this enterprise 75 years ago. Up to this point it seems that the conflicting schools of thought have been able to live side by side.
Now though, with the dominance of religious-oriented parties in the Knesset in the aftermath of the November election, the sense is that finally, after three-quarters of a century, it is time to put the pedal to the metal and do our utmost to support a Jewish state and, if nothing else, increase its connection to Judaism. And that, for the most part, is the main feature of the resistance from the left today.
A few weeks ago, Bibi Netanyahu said that he can assure those who are concerned that Israel will not become a theocracy despite that there are so many Torah-oriented Jewish members in his governing coalition. Of course, when it comes to Torah there is a radical misunderstanding of how anything in those Five Books of Moses or the 2,711 pages of Talmud can have any application to a modern state.
But at the same time, a few weeks ago, when the Knesset was considering legislation that would call for the death penalty for terrorists who murder Jews, Yitzchok Goldknopf, the leader of the United Torah Judaism Party (UTJ), said that based on the decision of the rabbanim he consults, his party would have to vote against that bill.
His reason, or the reason of the rabbis, was that someday there might be a leftist government and there might be a Jew who is forced to defend himself by killing an Arab. There will be pressure to bring the Jewish person up on terror charges, which might mandate by law that he be executed.
So you see, the current governing coalition, in part, is already being run by Torah law anyway. But that is not what the left fears. They are mostly afraid of legislation that might force businesses in Israel to close on Shabbos or raise the bar when it comes to kashrus observance. And more importantly, many want civil marriage without the involvement of rabbis, and they do not want the chief rabbinate to be the entity that decides who is a halachic Jew. To the left, if you feel a little Jewish that should be good enough.
This is the crux of the left–right divide. Until now, both sides were resigned to coexistence. Now each side wants to score a victory. If they are determined to keep fighting, then perhaps the best thing for now will be to fight to a draw.
Read more of Larry Gordon’s articles at 5TJT.com. Follow 5 Towns Jewish Times on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for updates and live videos. Comments, questions, and suggestions are welcome at 5TJT.com and on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.