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Radicalized sectarian separatism? (Illustration) Photo: Shutterstock
Radicalized sectarian separatism? (Illustration) Photo: Shutterstock
 
 

Losing my religion

Op-ed: National-religious community seems to care more about land than about people

Masua Sagiv
Published: 11.17.11, 10:22 / Israel Opinion

The synagogue at the central Israel town where I grew up, and where my father grew up, is growing older and the number of worshippers has been declining for years now. Every year on the holidays, the hopes for a full synagogue with celebratory prayers and great joy are dashed with the understanding that this year too there will be no new attendants, and the few who still have the strength are trying , in vain, to revive the atmosphere.

 

I know that many synagogues are facing the same situation as ours, yet this year the story got even sadder.

 

A few years ago, a hesder yeshiva was established in the city. Some months ago, my father sent a letter to the yeshiva head, detailed the sad circumstances of the synagogue and asked whether several yeshiva students could join Rosh HaShana prayers at the synagogue in order to boost it. After not receiving any reply, my father called the hesder yeshiva head, but the request was refused.

 

For a while now I have been feeling that the national-religious sector is not the same sector I grew up in, and the change is not for the better. Radicalized sectarian separatism, strictness in respect to minor issues and a methodical renunciation of values that are not “purely halchaic,” focusing all energies on settlement in the land of Israel and nothing beyond, and growing separation from secular society are to my regret the mainstream in our sector, and anyone who thinks otherwise is dubbed a leftist, Reform Jew and a bleeding heart (all grave insults in the sector, shamefully enough.)

 

Yet in the case of our synagogue, the consternation and outrage I felt were particularly deep when I discovered that my surprise and disappointment over the yeshiva head’s refusal were not shared by “normative” members of the sector. This happened, for example, when I told several friends about the case, expecting a group discussion. The truth is, my friends said, that one can understand the refusal. These yeshiva guys have their own lives, and what has the synagogue done for them over the years?

 

I intend to fight 

As the sad case of women singing in the IDF proved, for the religious sector at the outset of the 21st Century the relationship with God is much more important than the relationship with other people (that is, people who do not subject themselves to the sector’s views and beliefs.) The self-conviction that this is the most idealistic sector within our society appears hypocritical and ridiculous in light of the understanding that the only ideals that must not be renounced are the Land of Israel and Jewish law, with good manners and mutual responsibility being no more than lip service for a long time now.

 

Since when does the national-religious camp contribute only when it gets something in return? After all, we were always taught that real, significant giving is the one that is undertaken under less convenient circumstances and based on compromise. Or perhaps in recent years they decided to forego this lesson in favor of enrichment classes on Jewish law.

 

In my childhood I was educated on the values of mutual responsibility, integration rather than isolation, and belonging to the people and not only to the sector, without conditions and a cost-benefit analysis. Yet too many cases in recent years are showing me that the train has left the station, with most of my sector remaining behind, isolated and withdrawn, blaming everyone else but itself.

 

I hope that it isn’t too late and that this madness can still be stopped. There are many causes for it and this issue is complex and complicated, yet the struggle had not yet been decided - and for the sake of my children, my state and my culture I intend to fight.

 

 

 

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