Rising religious fundamentalism & increasing extortionist political pressures
The growing challenge to religious freedom and equality
The ultra-Orthodox parties, joined by a number of key members of other Coalition parties, to put an end to the prospects of greater opportunities for Women's and egalitarian worship practices at the Western Wall plaza.
Uri Regev 19/12/2016 11:45
Minister Rabbi Aryeh Deri (Shas Party), source: Wikipedia
In recent months we have reported to you on a number of achievements and areas of progress that Hiddush has led, but inasmuch as we can enjoy Hiddush's achievements, we should be mindful of the growing challenge to religious freedom and equality emanating from rising fundamentalism on the side of the rabbinic establishment and increasing extortionist pressures on the ultra-Orthodox political side.
Now I would like to share with you one major example of the developments on the political front. Namely, the push of the ultra-Orthodox parties, joined by a number of key members of other Coalition parties, to put an end to the prospects of greater opportunities for Women's and egalitarian worship practices at the Western Wall plaza by pushing for strict legislative measures that are intended to preempt intervention by the Supreme Court and threaten with criminal sanctions those who do not abide by them. This legislative initiative presents PM Netanyahu with a serious challenge. It presents a direct contradiction to his assurance to Diaspora Jewish leadership that he is committed to "making all Jews feel at home in Israel" - and his reaffirmation to his commitment to see the Western Wall agreement through.
To add to the questions this raises regarding Netanyahu's political strength and integrity, one can also look at Shas's Minister of Religious Services outburst at the Knesset, when he publicly declared: "Reform Jews are like ravenous wolves who want to devour the bird of our soul. Their forgery can be smelled a mile away. Should they raise their heads, we will stop them." Our readers will remember that it was the very same Minister Azoulay who came out and said: "Reform Jews aren’t Jewish," and PM Netanyahu summoned and rebuked him, declaring that such statements are unacceptable. It seems that the rebuke insofar as it is aimed at Netanyahu's ultra-Orthodox political partners carries no weight or authority.
"Reform Jews are like ravenous wolves who want to devour the bird of our soul. Their forgery can be smelled a mile away. Should they raise their heads, we will stop them." - Minister of Religious Services Azoulay (Shas)
In light of this, one wonders how long Diaspora Jewish leadership should be attaching any meaning to his empty expressions of dissociation. Parallel growing extremism on the rabbinic establishment side could be seen this week with Chief Rabbi Lau declaring his strong opposition to the trend of integrating women into IDF combat units, coupled with Chief Rabbi Yosef's more detailed pronouncement that the only role for women to play is to cook and do laundry for the male warriors. One additional example of this trend is another statement made by Rabbi Lau who launched an initiative for establishing international Jewish lists of kosher lineage, which would be administered by the Chief Rabbinate and serve the whole world in the decades to come, as to who is marriageable and who is not. It's high time to realize that such opinions, which are totally divorced from the core principles of Israel as a Jewish & democratic state should be regarded as personal, and certainly not be launched at the State's expense and with its imprimatur. No other Jewish community's religious life is governed by a rabbinic clan, and neither should the State of Israel be.
The political reality is that neither the Coalition nor the Opposition are demonstrating a strong commitment to preserve the core values of religious freedom & equality. In the face of political opportunism associated with winning the support of the ultra-Orthodox parties, the consistent demonstration of the public's dissatisfaction with this state of affairs needs to be translated into actionable initiatives. This is what Hiddush and its partnering organizations are doing and commit to further expand in the coming year. We need your support to make it happen, and we hope that you will remember Hiddush as you complete your end-of-year charitable giving.