This article was commissioned by Makom for the second Global Jewish Forum, and is edited from in-depth consultation with experts in the field.
The relationship between the State of Israel and its Haredi population is of concern to the entire Jewish world. From the economic and social instability of an exponentially growing community of non-productive citizens, to the unsavory headlines about extreme and violent behavior, it is clear that a policy of laissez-faire can no longer be tolerated.
Yet how might we characterise the problem facing us? Is this a fundamental issue threatening the Jewish and liberal identity of the State of Israel? Or is this an issue of failed public policy that needs to be re-thought? To Full Post
Israelis who define themselves as “chiloni” (non-religious) nevertheless choose to undergo traditional Jewish lifecycle events, circumcising their sons, celebrating bar/bar mitzvah ceremonies and weddings, and burying their dead according to traditional practice. Some of this participation is enforced by Israeli law (more on that in the lessons on marriage and death), but the rituals of childhood are entered into voluntarily (at least by the parents…). While the circumcision ceremony has remained largely identical to the traditional one, the bar/bat mitzvah ceremony has evolved and changed – perhaps because it is a relative newcomer on the scene. Other ceremonies contain different mixes of tradition and new invention.
In terms of the Israel connection in life cycle observances in the Diaspora, the liturgy of the brit, and of bar/bat mitzvah, does not contain explicit references to Israel or the hope of return. However, pidyon haben is wholly bound up with preserving the role of the kohanim and thus serves as a reminder of the Temple and its centrality.
Many of the “founding fathers (and mothers)” of modern Israel came to the country as twenty-somethings (or younger), in the Second Aliyah (1904-1914) and the Third Aliyah (1919-1923). While they were small in number, their cultural influence was far-reaching and long-lasting, and it is perhaps largely due to their experience that Israel’s self-image is that of a “young” society, a society whose youth are its heroes and its leaders. There is an ironic reversal here of the traditional respect accorded to age and wisdom. And needless to say, this self-image affects many aspects of cultural life, from child-rearing to education to politics – not always in constructive ways. Another factor contributing to this youth-centeredness is the central place of defense in the collective consciousness – the near-universal conscription of both genders means that the army is a major rite of passage and a huge cultural influence.
This unit will examine the perception of – and the experience of – youth in Israeli society in several important contexts. The materials and background are presented straightforwardly – not as a comparative examination with the North American Jewish experience; however, exploring the comparison is recommended as a useful and effective educational method for using this material.
The formation of the modern State of Israel occurred in parallel to the evolution of women’s movements. While its roots are traced to the French and American Revolution, feminism emerged as a social and political force at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th . This is the period in which Zionism developed and Jews began to settle the land of Israel hoping to create a Jewish State. Since both Zionism and feminism “grew up” together, the early Zionist experience and the State of Israel provide an interesting case study of the changing roles and rights of women. Unique aspects of Israeli society, such as the central role of the defense forces and the mosaic of different populations highlight the complexity of the issues surrounding women’s rights. As a Jewish State, Israel has had to address the disparity between the traditional role of women in Judaism and Jewish law and contemporary concepts of equality. Conversely, the issue and development of women’s rights in Israel can illustrate the social, economic, cultural and military issues that characterize the Jewish State. In this lesson we try to give a survey of women’s roles and status from the early Zionists until today.
First appeared in Jewish People, Jewish Texts, Jewish Homeland.
Jonathan Boyd is the Executive Director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research
Sometimes it is just too hard to hold back the tears. Like during the unetaneh tokef of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur when contemplating the simple words “who will live and who will die; who at their predestined time and who not at their predestined time” and trying to come to terms with our extraordinary vulnerability. Or while singing hayom harat olam after hearing the blasts of the shofar on Rosh Hashana – “today is the day of the world’s creation” – and trying to behold just how beautiful our world can sometimes be. Or when watching our young children’s sheer delight on entering the sukkah for the first time and seeing the world for an all too brief moment through their eyes.
And then there is Gilad Shalit’s release. It’s impossible to imagine what he has endured for the past five years and four months since his capture. It seems that he was treated well and has returned in good physical health, but the psychological scars inflicted by living in near solitary confinement and in the knowledge that his life hung in the balance every single moment are just too much to contemplate. What his parents must have been through too is simply unimaginable – to have your own child taken away from you in that way and to live with the constant possibility of tragic news is too horrendous for words. I could not hold back the tears this morning upon hearing the news that he had been safely released; I have never met him or any members of his family, but the relief and gratitude I feel upon his return overwhelms every other emotion. Gilad Shalit is free.
Delivered by Professor Michael Walzer at the Global Jewish Forum – a Makōm seminar for the Jewish Agency Board of Governors, Jerusalem, June 2011/Sivan 5771
Michael Walzer is Professor Emeritus at the School of Social Science of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, the editor of Dissent magazine, author and editor of more than twenty books, including Just and Unjust Wars, The Company of Critics and the Jewish Political Tradition.
A few weeks ago we marked the 63rd anniversary of the sinking of the Altalena . A complicated event, which culminated in the newly formed IDF receiving a direct order from Ben-Gurion to open fire on a ship of armaments arriving from Europe and into the hands of the supposedly disbanded Etzel (the revisionist Irgun fighters)
In Israel at her most incestuous, Moshe Dayan opened fire on the ship carrying Menahem Begin at Kfar Vitkin… Dayan would, thirty years later, be the loyal Foreign Minister to Begin in the role of Prime Minister.
In a recent speech, Mr Davis berated the Israeli prime minister, Bibi Netanyahu, “for lacking the courage to take the steps” to advance the peace process, arguing that “I don’t understand the lack of strategy in Israel.” He also predicted an “apartheid state” unless Israel was able to achieve a two-state solution.
His remarks called a furor in the UK Jewish community, with many prominent UK Jews in public positions defending his remarks, noting that it was high time “that honest and open discussions” about Israel took place in the public arena.
Others Jewish leaders were chagrined or irritated and issued mixed statements, while only a very few, most notably Jonathan Hoffman of Zionist Federation and Lord Stanley Kalms, professed outright indignation.
This week I was roundly derided for my choice of traffic routes. Apparently the beltway, a high speed road created to bypass traffic congestion, is in fact a low speed highly-congested traffic jam created to move you back onto local roads. If this is common knowledge, with hoards of people laughing smugly at my ignorance, who are all those drivers making up the traffic jams on the beltway, and why has no one told them? I am sure that there is a mind-numbingly obvious solution to my question, so please send your answers on the back of a 20 dollar bill…
“Let me get this straight: Israel just killed humanitarian workers in international waters, and the author has the nerve to call that provocation? Unbelievable.”
So writes one individual in response to one of the many journalistic attempts to defend Israel’s position in the recent Gaza flotilla affair.
Let’s be clear: we are losing the PR battle. Badly. Read the international press, read the talkbacks all over the Internet, witness the worldwide demonstrations, listen to international government statements, watch the TV coverage. It all points in one clear direction: Israel is either becoming, or has already become, morally bankrupt.