Jun 21, 2012

Today is a Bad Day for Judaism in Israel

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Today is a Bad Day for Judaism in Israel
(c) Rabbi Menachem Creditor

I hesitate before writing this piece, because I am afraid that someone will misread my anger at Israeli Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar as anything but love for the State of Israel. But I write nonetheless, because today is a very bad day for Judaism in Israel.
  • A letter issued on official Israeli government stationery by Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Israel Shlomo Amar today called for a rally at his office this coming Tuesday. As the official response by the Masorti/Conservative Rabbinical Assembly put it: "The language used in the statement is inflammatory and inciting, referring to our members as 'terrorists' whose 'sole intention is to do harm to the holiness of Torah.'" How dare he! And how dare the State of Israel extend to him his title! He does not represent the People Israel.
  • And just now in Jerusalem, Police detained a woman at the Western Wall for over three hours after she and 65 other women from Women of the Wall concluded their Rosh Hodesh prayer service. Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben Ruby said that Houben was detained for wearing a men's tallit, or prayer shawl, something forbidden for women by Israeli law at the Western Wall. Houben was fingerprinted and photographed in the police station, and released just over three hours later. She was also banned from going to the Western Wall for seven days, on pain of a NIS 3,000 fine. 
As JTS Rabbinical Student Mikie Goldstein wrote: "Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East and, indeed, the whole world, where a Jewish woman can be arrested for wearing a tallit (prayer shawl) in a synagogue." Israel's Judaism is under attack from a dominating stream of Jewish Fundamentalism, funded and politically enabled by the Israeli Government.

Does this erase my fear for and commitment - financial, political, and spiritual - Israel's safety, given that over 100 missiles have been fired from Gaza into Israel over the past 4 days? NO. It should, however, remind every Israel-loving Jew (and everyone else) in the world that the two-fold mission of Zionism requires a two-fold response: 1) protecting the walls of our home and 2) making sure our home is filled correctly.

Today is a bad day for Judaism in Israel. But more than that - it's a bad day for the Jewish People. With Amar's hateful letter attacking Jewish Pluralism, with the detainment yet again of women for the "crime" of wearing a tallit, there is no other time but now. But the real question is: What are you going to do about it?

Zionism remains unfulfilled as long as internal Jewish hatred is supported by the Jewish State and tolerated by the Jewish People. 

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Rabbi Menachem Creditor

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