Rabbi Avi Weinstein

Why Doesn’t the Israeli Center and Left Care About Anat Hoffman?

In Uncategorized on October 26, 2012 at 9:22 am

For more than twenty years, Anat and her mighty band of “Women at the Wall” have been respectfully exercising their right to worship on Rosh Chodesh. This latest outrage has predictably provoked vocal protests from primarily non-Orthodox diaspora Jews from North America. Let’s face it, the group Anat was leading were tourists.

The Kotel and Jerusalem itself have long been conceded to the Ultra-Orthodox. Secular and even Modern Orthodox Jews have been fleeing Jerusalem for the last decade. Over half of first grade children in Jerusalem are haredi, and the numbers are climbing. The tax base of Jerusalem is less than the development town of Ma’alot because of the hundreds of thousands of Kollel students feeding off the public trough.

What does all this mean? Most secular Israelis who are not openly hostile to religion, consider themselves non, or lightly practicing Orthodox Jews and just as they are not breaking down the doors to enter Conservative or Reform synagogues, they are not going to get their knickers in a twist about the praying rights of women at the Kotel. Add to this, the little known statistic that the vast majority of Israelis have never even visited Jerusalem, and you will understand why this issue has gained so little traction in the past two decades. The only thing thing that concerns the Israeli government about the Kotel is whether the paratroopers can have their swearing in ceremony there. Other than that, it’s considered a place of archaeological curiosity. As long as the tourists are allowed to peruse the antiquities, let the dossim have a free hand.

Back in the eighties when “Who Is a Jew” was the hot button issue, Rabbi Alexander Shindler had come from the States to lobby the Knesset, and held a press conference. At the time, I was studying in a yeshiva by day, and working as a stringer for a wire service by night. I also was an unofficial translator for much of the foreign press corps. (Talk about a schizo existence.) Often, members of the foreign press would ask for background concerning religious issues, since I was usually the only observant person they knew. At one time, I wanted to change my name to be “Religious Sources” since that was how my information was often referenced. A correspondent of a Chicago paper was curious about the issue, and couldn’t understand why it hadn’t been resolved after millennia of discussion. He also wondered what the argument was all about, and if Israel was a primarily secular country, where was the public outrage?

Of course, the answer then was that religious parties were essential for a coalition government, and these were relatively easy concessions for the majority party to make. If, however, there were say sixty or seventy thousand non-Orthodox religious Jews who cared enough to give the Labor party three more seats, then the coalition would no longer need the religious parties but until that happens, don’t expect to see much change.

The same is true in this case. Either a bunch of serious Reform and Conservative Jews are going to have to pack their bags and move to Israel, or one hundred thousand Israelis are going to have to find God in pews without a mechitza. I think we have a better chance of seeing the Messiah come before that dream is realized, but given the current US unemployment stats, I could be mistaken.

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