Israel Prize winning author Amos Oz called upon the entire Israeli public to take part in the struggle between what he calls "the forces promoting a settler-haredi ghetto full of heartlessness" and those who espouse an open and pluralistic Israel "in the spirit of the prophets' vision."
In a ceremony marking the opening of the Israel Religious Action Center in Jerusalem, Oz said last Wednesday that the most difficult struggle between these forces is over Jerusalem, "and no one among us is exempt from taking part in it."
According to Oz, he has even discerned the buds of ideological-pluralistic change among the haredi community. "The ground in Bnei Brak is quaking," he said.
Oz revealed that he often receives anonymous letters from members of the haredi sector, especially women "who read my books secretly," in no small number, according to him. He said they write about feeling suffocated in their world. "I can't answer them because they don't leave a return address, but they should know: There is an Israel waiting for them, not empty and hollow, but humanistic and Jewish in the spirit of the ethics of the prophets."
Oz explained that Israeli culture at its best is an ongoing, open seminar of disagreements and disputes on how to exalt the Torah. He noted that the heroes of Jewish culture, like Abraham, Job, and even Yehuda Amichai who argued with God is not something likely to happen in Christianity or Islam.
"The stasis started 300 years ago, and we are fighting it essentially until today," said Oz, noting that the IRAC (the legal and public arm of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism) is closer to his heart than any other fighting organization. "We are brothers in the struggle between two forces," he said.
'Cultural golden age' of Jewish identityDuring a more optimistic segment of his speech, Amos Oz claimed that the predictions of a haredi takeover of the country are unrealistic. He noted that there were five haredi Knesset members in the first Knesset, and 18 Orthodox. Today, 62 years later, there are still five haredi Knesset members and 21 Orthodox, a growth rate of one Orthodox Knesset member every 20 years.
Oz also took note of what he calls "the cultural golden age" of Jewish identity in Israel, saying that he doesn't recall such growth in hundreds of years, since Spanish Jewry. He added that two necessary conditions for pluralism to win out are the end of the occupation along with peace with Israel's neighbors and a renewal of social justice and solidarity.
IRAC Associate Director Rabbi Gilad Kariv said at the event, "Our identity and our Jewish tradition has always been a difficult battlefield, sometimes soaked in blood between the voice of Pinhas and the voice of daughters of Tzelofchad."
Rabbi Kariv called upon his fellow members of the IRAC to go forth with him towards "the dark corners of the State of Israel" and lead the enlightenment of Israeli society.
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