At least there is some good news today. There is obviously no Zionist conspiracy to run the world. Given the division in the Jewish community, itâ€™s unlikely the community can agree on who a Jew even is, and the meaning of Judaism.
With assimilation Â at an all time high, one would think the Orthodox world would be rejoicing to hear people wanting to participate more. Considering Anat Hoffman was arrested for carrying or reading from a Torah (reports differ), perhaps assimilation seems better to the Orthodox. Anat and the Women of the Wall are routinely subjected to spitting and abuse for daring to have a minyan by the Kotel, the place that is supposed to be holy to all Jewish people. Video has shown chairs being thrown at the women and the women being screamed at. In the holiest place in the world to many Jews, is this supposed to be a clear indication of how the pious ones behave?
Although Anat has been released quickly after being arrested, the effect on women in Judaism is quite clear: toe the Orthodox line or suffer. Even though the Kotel belongs to all people, only Orthodox law is allowed, with a separation between men and women. Separate but equal doesnâ€™t even describe this situation, as Anat was on the womenâ€™s side of the wall when she was arrested.
This is not the first time Anat and her minyan have been arrested, but this time, the price has been very dear. Anat has been banned from the Kotel for 30 days. No wonder assimilation rates are so high. This situation sounds more like Iran and Saudi Arabia, where religion is used as a tool to criminalize those who do not hold to the fundamentalist line. Why does the Israeli High Court bow to the religious right’s prohibiting women from reading the Torah out loud? I suppose the rabbis would have said the same to Deborah, one of the greatest judges in the Bible. Given her warlike reputation, I would have paid to see that confrontation.
Anatâ€™s case may be insignificant to the average American Jew, but the next piece of news shows how strong the Orthodox grip on Israel truly is. The Knesset is voting to give the chief rabbinate (which is all Orthodox) sole authority over conversion in Israel. Rabbi Uri Regev worries that this would give the ultra-Orthodox veto power to decide who was Jewish, which could potentially rip families apart.
The Kadima party has condemned the bill in the harshest terms, and President of the Jewish Federations of North America Jerry Silverman has expressed the hope that â€œthe prime minister and the Likud will not allow such a bill to pass, as it would create a significant rift between Israel and world Jewry.â€ So why is this being done? Because the ultra-Orthodox party Shas wants it. And in a country plagued by war and inflation, itâ€™s always a good idea to have a religious conflict.
One can understand the defense for Ultra Orthodox only conversions, to prevent intermarriage between â€œtrue Jewsâ€ and those who have converted improperly. The problem is, itâ€™s too little, too late. Itâ€™s a lot like building a storm cellar during a hurricane, the storm is here already. Intermarriage is at an all time high. Shouldnâ€™t we be encouraging people to stay in the Jewish community and not destroying the community internally by holding an unfairly high standard for people? Rotem, the sponsor of the bill, said it should â€œnot influence the relationship of Israeli Jews and the Jewish communities in the Diaspora.â€ So basically, we are good enough to support Israel but Reform and Conservative Jews arenâ€™t good enough to be Jews? Iâ€™m a die-hard Zionist to the marrow of my blood, but even I feel stung.
It is unlikely Netanyahu will allow the bill to pass. But between this and Anat, I feel like the country I love doesnâ€™t consider me Jewish enough anymore. The ultra-Orthodox should not rule Israel; they are a minority in a country where the majority is secular. Those who want to join the Jewish people were once welcomed. Sadly, Moshe (married to a convert), David (great grandson of a convert) and Onkelos (a convert) wouldnâ€™t have been welcome in the Judaism of today. Our loss. Â Jewish people were once happy to even have the ability to read a Torah scroll without being arrested by outside authority, are now being arrested by their fellow Jews.
As this is the month of Av, I feel I must refer to my Yeshiva education and remind readers that it was not a lack of devotion to the Torah that got the Temple destroyed, but a lack of unity and brotherly–and sisterly–love.