Assaf Wohl
Photo: Shai Vaknin

What about my feelings?

Assaf Wohl slams overzealous demands for accommodation of religious sensitivities

Last week, the director of the Bnei Akiva religious youth movement, Rabbi Nachteiler, reprimanded the defense establishment over the planned singing of females in an IDF ceremony. The rabbi announced that the rally will be shunned and stressed that he expects the feelings of members of his youth group to be taken into consideration.


As I was writing these lines I was informed of a solution being formulated for this seductive-singing scandal, whereby only slow and quiet songs will be performed. I will not be surprised if the final draft of the compromise will be worded as follows: The women will be singing quietly (and in Alaska.)


For the time being I’ll skip the question of why the Bnei Akiva director has to be a rabbi, and why the last female director of the youth movement dates back to 1952. The abovementioned case is in my view merely an example of a much wider phenomenon taking place within the national-religious camp; a process that is mistakenly being referred to as “going haredi.” Yet first we must ask: Why is haredi ideology so enticing for the leaders of Bnei Akiva to the point of adopting it with such great vigor?


The answer may have to do with the national-religious sense of self depreciation. Apparently, haredim who only eat foods approved by the ultra-Orthodox establishment are considered “more serious” than members of the national-religious camp who make do with the Rabbinate’s kosher certificate. Hence, some national-religious Israelis also wish to feel like they are members of elite units in God’s armies. The wild card they present to that end is Jewish law. “What do you want?” they say. “It’s what Jewish law says!” It’s God’s will. And nothing can be done if this same God forbids us from listening to IDF female singers.


However, female singing does not face a blatant halachic ban. There are certainly graver prohibitions that are not being enforced with the same zeal, as will shortly be attested to by the humiliating and slanderous talkbacks.


Process of Islamization

Had Rabbi Nachteiler sought to come up with a creative halachic solution to the issue of female singers in the abovementioned ceremony, he could have certainly done so. Yet here comes into the picture my favorite element among highly sensitive religious souls: The duty to take religious feelings into considerations. Hence, I would like to make it clear that chauvinistic utilization of Jewish law for the purpose of silencing others and training girls to be submissive and modest hurts my own feelings. So please, show consideration to that as well.


So why do I think that this process within the National-Religious camp constitute Islamization rather than “going haredi”? This is because the haredim do not make pretenses of running a sovereign state. They make do with sitting on the fence, and criticizing the Zionists. The Muslims on the other hand (and I say this to their credit) have always been committed to the global “Khalifa” solution, which includes both religious and national ideology. “Nation Religious”. Sounds familiar?


To my regret, various rabbis and preachers exploit the zeal of youth in order to draw youngsters towards national and religious radicalization. Everyone knows the expected end result of this; especially people who learned a little history. Hence, I wonder when religious functionaries will realize that they must take the feelings of the whole nation of Israel into consideration, including the secular part.


For the time being, the opening line of the Bnei Akiva Anthem sounds more ridiculous than ever. “A brotherly hand is stretched out to you” – that is, to the males only.


פרסום ראשון: 01.25.10, 17:53
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