Dror Zeevi

Iran is here?

Op-ed: Israel should terminate Orthodox monopoly, define Judaism more pluralistically

My friend Hagai Ram recently published an annoying book called Reading Iran in Israel, where among other things he identified similarities between the two states in respect to the unusual, twisted relationship between religion and state. To be honest, I thought he exaggerated. After all, Ayatollahs do not rule here, we see scantily clad girls outdoors, nobody is being stoned for adultery, and proud homosexuals march on the streets, in Tel Aviv at least.


However, the recent debates about civil marriage and military conversions convinced me that Hagai sees reality as it is. On second thought, he may not be so right, because in Iran most of the public has not been thinking like the government for a while now, yet here religious thought penetrates deeply into all segments of the public.


In more than a week of television and press reports, radio interviews and Knesset debates, the entire (seemingly enlightened) leftist camp was outraged by the fact that the religious establishment does not ease the conversion process of soldiers. These troops defend us with their body, claimed the protesting leftists, so how can we tell them that their conversion isn’t kosher and that they must undergo another conversion?


Yet none of these enlightened liberals, university professors, Labor and Meretz members, as well as Lieberman and Yisrael Beiteinu thought that this whole dispute should be of no interest to us. We, seculars, are not the gatekeepers of Orthodox Judaism. If someone truly wishes to be this kind of Jew, he should go ahead. Let Orthodox rabbis themselves decide what is permissible and what is not allowed.


Play a different game

Why should we care (beyond intellectual curiosity) about the arguments between Rabbi Amar and Rabbi Peretz or between Rabbi Elyashiv and Rabbi Yosef? Why grant one stream of religious Judaism monopoly on everything around here – conversion, marriage, and burial?


Had the Israeli public not been trapped in this Iran-style thinking, we would all understand that instead of playing this game we must fight for something else entirely – terminating the monopoly of the religious establishment on all areas of our lives.


After all, it’s clear to us that all the conversions of soldiers who came from Russia will not produce even one religious soldier. Everyone will curry favor with the military of civilian rabbis, undergo a brit, go to the mikveh, recite whatever they’re taught and declare that they will keep the Shabbat. Yet immediately after receiving the official stamp of approval they’ll forget about the synagogue, go back to buying pork, and continue to go out on Friday nights.


So when are we finally going to understand that the problem here is not whether to ease Orthodox conversions or make them more strict, but rather, define Judaism in a more pluralistic manner, take away the monopoly from the Rabbinate, Shas and their ilk, and join the 21st Century world. If a soldier wishes to convert, the army should offer him several options – Orthodox, Conservative or Reform conversion, or even a secular ceremony, and at the end of this process register him as a Jew in his Israeli ID card.



פרסום ראשון: 12.23.10, 18:06
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