Wednesday, November 30, 2011

'The Taliban is Here'

My friend Professor Shapir brought an opinion piece to my attention published in Maariv last week. The problem was that it was only in Hebrew. So the professor assigned some homework, and I guess I'm the only one to hand it in. So here's my translation. As always, feel free to call to my attention any mistakes. You get what you pay for around here. All kidding aside, this is a terribly important and frightening piece.

They Sold Us to the Taliban
By Ben-Dror Yemini

In every sphere possible - public education, conversion, the appointment of rabbis, women's singing - the government of Israel, and not only the current one, sold the State to the movement of Haredim-Nationalists.

The Bar Association selected this week two representatives to the Committee for the Appointment of Judges. There isn't a single woman there. As a result of the coalition agreement, the majority attorney Yuri Guy-Ron sold his soul to the Haredim faction that supported him. This means Haredization, further Haredization, of the rabbinical courts (for the office vote and the mistakes made Haaretz saw a different perspective at the end of the article). It is not only the Bar Association. Like this, the state is run. Rabbi Eliyakim Levanon called on his students to disobey an order so as not to hear women's singing. "It is unacceptable in any circumstance," he said. So it is.

Seemingly, there is no connection between these two events from recent days. But there is. Israel is marching slowly but surely to the darkest place in her history. The Taliban does not yet rule us. But it's on the way. Such is the process. We barely see the tiny steps. Another appointment. Another halachic ruling. Another step like this and another. Usually far from the public eye. And collectively like a great forest that comes and darkens us.

It's forbidden to compare. The Taliban, as part of political Islam, works by massacring its opponents, most of them Muslim. The Haredim-ultra-nationalists, among the Jews, are far from this murderousness. But the theological and political orientation is similar. Because every religion carries with it a wide spectrum of sources, and certainly interpretations. Muslim theologians composed a complete proof that the Koran calls, for example, for the full equality of women. But they were defeated. The Muslim Brotherhood, the Wahabi School, and the Taliban prevailed. This is also the story of Judaism. There are countless sources. In them, there is respect for the stranger, the foreigner, the orphan and the widow. There is in them humanism and enlightenment. But slowly, only the dark sources are taking over. Levanon has already declared that it is forbidden to elect a woman to the local council because of the "power." To whom is he closer, the Taliban or the National Religious Party of yore. Levanon is the new face of religious Judaism. He is the rabbi of Judea and Samaria. He is the rabbi that in the past declared that democracy is not required. He is the rabbi who called on soldiers to refuse orders. Rabbi Dov Lior expressed a similar position. Both of them belong to religious Zionism. Not Haredi. Levanon belongs to the Jewish home, the moderate party, and to the National Union, supposedly more extreme. The Taliban is already here and we refuse to see.

"The Voice of the Woman" is only a syndrome. After all, if we are governed by the Torah, we would find that women singing fill the Bible. Such as Deborah the Prophetess ("Then sang Deborah and Barak son of Avinoam.") Such as the women who flickered and danced before David and Saul ("the women came out from the all the cities of Israel to sing . . . Saul by the thousands and David his ten thousands"), and much more. But the Bible no longer interests them as a source. They then determine that a woman is not allowed as a member of council, even though they know about Deborah.The problem is not the abyss that separates the biblical model from the current model. The problem is the abyss between the state-religious model that ruled here only decades ago and the new national-Haredi model. Over decades rabbis participated in the squares at state events where women sang. They did not get up, they did not protest, they did not leave, and they did not need imams to issue fatwas that prohibited them from listening to a woman's voice. But here exists for us a new generation. And it does to Judaism exactly what the Muslim Brotherhood and the Wahabi stream did to Islam. Among the many and varied sources and a variety of possible interpretations - the choice is very dark. Thus the phenomenon of the Taliban. So too is it here. It did not happen in one day. We are in the process. The Haredi camp took control in connection to Jewish law, and the religious camp took over the Haredi camp in connection to nationalism. Every sphere of the State of Israel is becoming more Harerdi. Religious state education is becoming more Haredi. Less core studies and fewer hours of secular studies. More religious studies. A rabbi for every kindergarten. So too in conversion. The Haredi stream, the more clerical took over the branch. Also the religious have been excluded from the picture. Such as in the area of marriage. Revisionist Zionist rabbis, who are not suspected of deviation from the Orthodox stream, have been unacceptable. Already its forbidden for them to conduct marriages.

The Harerdization is not the result of enlightenment or new discoveries in Jewish law. It's the result of the reality where the State grants more and more precisely to the Haredim. This is the country that transfered to them control over the apparatus of conversion. This is the country that granted them control over the rabbinical courts that have become Haredi. This is the country that has granted them an exemption from core studies. This the country that granted more and more exemptions to those who shirk their civic responsibilities. The figures are frightening. Every year in first grade there is an increase of one percent Haredim. Approximately 25% now. Approximately 35% in another decade. The increase is not coming from births. The increase is a result of a transition from a state-religious education to a Haredi education, mainly from Shas voters.

The most significant change is in the State-religious education. It is becoming more Haredi. The end result is frightening. The graduates of this track come to the IDF sounding like imams not commanders. Or rather, this is not the State, this is the coalition. This coalition system that tramples the majority and democracy, and produces in Israel rule by the minority. It pays to become Haredi. Moderates are trampled. Imams are strengthened.

There is only one way to save Israel from this Taliban disaster. Establish a national-Zionist coalition - Likud, Kadima, Labor, with all the parties that will agree to basic principles that will include strengthening national education, removing conversion from the hands of the Haredi movement, ending funding for every school, Haredi or religious, that does not have at its base a wide range of core studies, the gradual limitation of exemption from military service, etc. In other words, the need to separate religion from the state. This will not be simple.This will cause a difficult conflict, perhaps unprecedented,among some in the nationalist camp - Zionist, religious and secular, among the nationalist ultra-Orthodox camp, whose power is growing stronger. But this is a war of survival. Israel exists and must of course remain a Jewish and democratic state. Because of the connection between politics and religion, because of the coalition system, and because of the permanent surrender to the Taliban camp, Israel is losing its Jewish identity in favor of an ultra-orthodox brutality, and its democratic identity in favor of fatwas issued from Levanon and his ilk. The Taliban is already here.

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