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Tuesday, June 18, 2013 

Israel in sore need of a Zionist rabbi

Isi Leibler says that Israel could sure use a rabbi of David Stav's caliber to repair the country's image of religion, and gives some history of how the chief rabbinate ended up in such a dire strait:
The early chief rabbis, both Sephardi and Ashkenazi, were passionately Zionist and sought to deal with contemporary issues facing the new state. They integrated Jewish national holidays such as Independence Day into the religious calendar and composed special prayers for the welfare of the state and the Israel Defense Forces. The nation as a whole also regarded them as moral leaders.

But alas, over recent decades, with the political decline of the National Religious Party and the rise of the ultra-Orthodox political groups, haredim have effectively hijacked the Chief Rabbinate, an institution which they had always regarded with utter contempt. They appointed rabbis, who even if not actually anti-Zionist were willing to unconditionally accept their directives on religious issues. More recently they selected truly mediocre puppets. That Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, in opposing conscription of haredim, could state: "When yeshiva attendance is low, as on holiday evenings or prior to the Sabbath, more IDF soldiers are injured and killed," exemplifies the primitive depths to which the Chief Rabbinate has sunk, which shames us all.
Proof of how little respect they even have for biblical Moses' arguments on self-defense.

As for Stav, the really angering part is if Netanyahu decides to go against him:
...there have been rumors that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may encourage Likud representatives to vote against Stav in order to placate the haredim, out of the consideration that they may one day renew their political alliance with him.

If this proves to be the case, Netanyahu will have betrayed the national religious camp and would be held accountable for torpedoing this unique opportunity to bring the Chief Rabbinate back into the mainstream and restore the national religious approach for which it was created. Extending haredi control of the Chief Rabbinate will also have profoundly negative ramifications on the various religion and state issues to be determined over the next few years, including critical marriage and conversion questions and the fulfillment of haredi obligations in the military draft or national service and productive employment.

To a large extent, haredi domination of Israeli political life was a byproduct of opportunism displayed by the secular political parties. If, by his actions, Netanyahu tips the balance against the national religious rabbinate he will be responsible for enabling haredim to continue to retain power by exploiting the indifference of secular Israelis to crucial religious social issues which threaten to undermine Jewish values.
And he'll be potentially jeopardizing his party's electoral chances even more. He'd do well to support a Zionist rabbi who also understands the importance of making Judaism more welcome for everybody, in contrast to the very unappealing manner in which the Haredis dominating the rabbinate are doing.

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