US Elections & Israeli Religious Tensions

It’s been a strange two weeks in Israel, clearly the most important news has been happening abroad and not here.  That is frankly very nice.  Of course the news abroad been either bad or very strange.  Bad of course, is the repeated terror attacks.  As I have written before my fear is there are no solutions at least any time soon.  It’s the fear of terror that might bring the far right to power in Europe,  and it’s the fear of terror that might further destroy the European Union, and it is the fear of terror that might bring Donald Trump to the White House.  The Donald Trump story is the strangest, the fact that he is the nominee of the Republican party is astounding, and frankly the fact that I know people who are actually thinking of voting for him is even more astounding to me.  To me the policies that Presidents come to office with is not of great consequence.  I wrote biographies of both FDR and JFK and what made them both in my opinion great Presidents, was two things, the first and most important their ability to analyze new situations, draw on both their own knowledge and  that of their advisors as well to come up with the best solution to the problem.  Does anyone truly believe that Trump is capable of that?  There is nothing in his history that would show him qualified to be President, and just the opposite it’s unbelievable that his actions and statements have not disqualified him to date to run and be taken seriously.  But I guess these are not normal times, and the hatred that has been directed at Hilary is not normal hatred.  I hear from people she is a liar, but than hear they are going to vote for Trump who by all accounts does not even know the difference between the two.  Furthermore, while people may or may not like the expected policies that Secretary Clinton might bring to the Presidency, at least we can anticipate what they are going to be.  When it come to Trump it’s completely unknown.  The world is fragile place at the moment, what it does not need is a “bull in a china shop” which in the best case will be what Trump will be.  The second trait that FDR, JFK and for the matter Reagan shared was a fundamental belief in the greatness of America- something they do not seem to share with Trump.

 

While these have been relatively quiet weeks in this country, the are certainly not weeks without local news.  Most of that news has been taking place on the plain where religion and state meet.  It’s been taken place on two levels.  On one between the mainstream of the country and the what are called “Chardal ” Rabbis.  These are not Charedim who wanted nothing to do with the state, but rather people who consider themselves Zionist, who believe that our return to the land is part of gods plan.  But they are much more rigid in their interpretation of orthodoxy, thus they are called Chardal. Two weeks ago one of the Chardal Rabbis who runs a pre army school, called homosexuals degenerates and objected to some of the policies of the army relating to homosexuals and related matters.  That same week the writing of the newly nominated Army Chief Rabbi came out, in which he condoned the rape of captive women in war, and wrote against having women in the army. He claimed that he was merely answering theoretical questions and does not share those beliefs today.  Both events  created a domestic firestorm that lasted for a day or two

This week with a little less controversy, the Knesset under the prodding of the government passed two laws that the Charedim (Ultra Orthodox) demanded.  The first  barred Conservative and Reform Jews from using public mikve ( ritual baths)for conversions.  The second removing the requirement from Ultra Orthodox schools that receive government funds from teaching Math and English.  One thing became perfectly clear this week, this government is so dependent on the Ultra Orthodox that even if its decision have a strong negative  impact on relations with diaspora Jewry they will give in to their demands.

A final note, this week while testifying in the Knesset Army Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot stated that the greatest threat the IDF faces is not from external threats, but by elements of the Israeli society that seem to be trying to delegitimize the IDF.

Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot
Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot

 

 

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