מוטי שקלאר
Moti Shklar
Photo: Alex Kolomoisky
Protesters outside the home of Yamina No. 2 Ayelet Shaked hold a banner accusing her and party leader Naftali Bennett of uniting with supporters of terrorism

Why are the rabbis silent against hate?

Opinion: Religious Zionism places importance on ancient religious principle that tells Jews to obey the civil law of the land, but its spiritual leaders are refusing to defend a legitimately elected government against incitement due to political interests

Moti Shklar |
Published: 06.04.21 , 23:33
The hatred with which Israelis have been inundated recently amid the political battles to form the next government has prompted many to seek solace in the most mundane places.
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  • Many took comfort in the musical collaboration of Haredi singer Avraham Fried and devout secularist Aviv Geffen, others in the warm words of presidential hopeful Miriam Peretz when she said love and unity were the need of the hour.
    (Avraham Fried and Aviv Geffen performing together in Jerusalem)
    But the hatred and belligerence directed at the prospective ministers in the burgeoning government cannot be ignored.
    Public attention was drawn to threats made against the baby of Tamar Zandberg of the left-wing Meretz party and accusations of treason leveled at Naftali Bennett and others in his right-wing Yamina party.
    The severity of these incidents cannot be diminished. It is very clear that their targets are the members of the nascent coalition that would remove Benjamin Netanyahu from office, and part of efforts to delegitimize it and brand its the enemy.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    ההפגנה מול ביתה של שקד
    ההפגנה מול ביתה של שקד
    Protesters outside the home of Yamina No. 2 Ayelet Shaked hold a banner accusing her and party leader Naftali Bennett of uniting with supporters of terrorism
    (Photo: Dana Kopel)
    Initially the criticism was within the parameters of legitimate free speech. Bennett was accused of being motivated by ego and personal interests, of being ruled by his insatiable appetite for power, weakness of character and desperate need for approval from the secular hegemony.
    The next step, however, was to brand him as complicit in anti-Semitism no less, and to accuse him of cooperating with supporters of terrorism.
    When that did not yield the desired results, his detractors enlisted religious authorities who decreed that the Yamina leader and his associates were guilty of heresy.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    ההפגנה מול ביתה של שקד
    ההפגנה מול ביתה של שקד
    A religious Zionist Rabbi speaking at a demonstration outside the home of Ayelet Shaked earlier this week
    (Photo: Dana Kopel)
    Bennett's former political partners are disappointed and hurt by his decision. This is understandable and their pain is authentic.
    By joining forces with centrist Yair Lapid and the left-wing parties, Bennett adopted a position far removed from the religious Zionist DNA.
    Still the deafening silence of the spiritual leaders of that camp - when the lines were crossed from legitimate criticism to incitement – is baffling, especially when he is designated to serve as the next prime minister.
    The religious Zionist movement has always held the authority of the state in the highest regard. It was supportive of the Chief Rabbinate - even under the control of ultra-Orthodox rabbis who hold a far different approach to Judaism - simply because of its significance as a symbol of the state.
    But now, when Israel is on the cusp of a new legitimate government, the rabbis who profess to lead the movement are looking the other way.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    הפגנה מול ביתה של איילת שקד
    הפגנה מול ביתה של איילת שקד
    Demonstrators outside the home of Ayelet Shaked questioning the legitimacy of the pending coalition
    (Photo: Shaul Golan)
    Despite ideological differences, a legally elected government has come under vicious and hateful attack. The ancient Jewish principle of Dina d'malkhuta dina - a religious ruling that binds Jews to the civil law of the country in which they live - has been forgotten, even though it is a cornerstone of civilized society.
    The same spiritual leaders have in the past supported and even promoted coalitions with parties that do not share many of their religious values. But now they have abandoned the new government simply because it does not share their right-wing views.
    It is time for the rabbis who have led the religious Zionist movement to step outside their comfort zone, where the world is only black or white. There must be some among them who can rise above politics and speak out against the incitement and hate.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    הפגנות מחוץ לכפר המכביה בזמן פגישת ראשי המפלגות לקראת ממשלת שינוי
    הפגנות מחוץ לכפר המכביה בזמן פגישת ראשי המפלגות לקראת ממשלת שינוי
    Demonstrators hold a sign accusing Naftali Bennett and the Yamina party of treason as coalition negotiations were being conducted in Ramat Gan this week
    (Photo: Dana Kopel)
    Debate is a staple of Judaism. Observant Jews are taught to pose questions and express doubt and the religious Zionist movement had always grappled with conflicting values.
    Bennett and his cohorts joined forces with liberal forces and that is not a crime. In fact, it is the true face of religious Zionism.
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