The Haredi Spring is coming to an end — and not a moment too soon. In the recent election in Israel, the majority rose up and called a halt to the process of haredi, or ultra-Orthodox, Jews playing a dominant role in the government coalition while resisting national service. Requirements for army service and incentives to work instead of living on welfare are now being discussed in the Knesset. The haredim have reacted by insisting that their way of life and privileges were sacrosanct and could not be reined in by the democratic process. In truth, they have never seemed comfortable with real democracy.
At this time of year our thoughts turn towards Jerusalem as we mark the “Three Weeks,” leading up to the Fast Day of Tisha B’Av when we mourn the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem.
Many American Jews have insisted that a healthy, mutual friendship with Israel entails criticizing Israel. Many Israelis, especially those who work with Jews from the center and the left, have accepted those marching orders, creating paradigms about “hugging and wrestling.” And they share reassuring philosophical insights like Harvard’s Michael Sandel’s teaching that embarrassment reflects belonging — Syrian brutality does not embarrass us: Israel’s milder mistakes do.
My sister in Israel is fond of saying that her least favorite Shabbat of the year (tongue firmly in cheek) is when we recite the blessing in anticipation of the new Hebrew month of Nisan (meaning, of course, imminent Passover and all that entails). Conversely, her favorite Shabbat is when we recite the blessing in anticipation of the new Hebrew month of Iyar (meaning, of course, the end of the Passover season, and imminent celebration of Yom Ha’atzma’ut, Israel’s Independence Day).
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan at a U.N. meeting called Zionism a crime against humanity.
Speaking Wednesday in Vienna at a United Nations summit for tolerance, Erdogan said, “Just like Zionism, anti-Semitism and fascism, it becomes unavoidable that Islamophobia must be regarded as a crime against humanity,” Anatolia News Agency and other Turkish media reported.
This week I was honored to deliver the Cape Town, South Africa, community-wide keynote address for Yom Yerushalayim. Hundreds gathered together in a powerful celebration of the liberation of Jerusalem 45 years ago (28th of Iyar 1967). I was reminded of the power of Jerusalem to unite the Jewish people.
One of the greatest accomplishments of the Zionist movement was its ability to tolerate and even encourage differing and often mutually challenging perspectives and ideologies. It is ironic, bordering on tragic, that the fulfillment of the Zionist dream has resulted in an increasingly narrow sphere of discourse and acceptable ideation.
We are becoming more insular, accepting only a small range of views and calling others by exclusionary and outright insulting names.
Like many American rabbis who relocate to Israel on aliyah, Rabbi Naftali "Tuly" Weisz began to look for a way to make a difference in the Holy Land. The 30-something Modern Orthodox rabbi had already made some significant relationships with the Israel-loving Evangelical Christian community in his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.