Photo: Haim Zach
Rabbinical court (archives)
Photo: Haim Zach

Break monopoly on Judaism

Op-ed: Haredi-free government offers great opportunity to separate religion and state, reduce corruption

Amid the economic uproar that has surrounded us since the elections, the potential for change in a haredi-free government has been forgotten. For 65 years Judaism in Israel has been an ultra-Orthodox monopoly - with complete control over the budgets, the religious systems and the institutions that determine how we get married, eat and die in this country. History teaches us that connecting God to government leads - in the worst case scenario – to bloodshed, and in the best case scenario to corruption and loss of faith.


The State of Israel is a unique type of nation state - a rare combination of religion and state, of nationalism and democracy. In the modern world, where most countries have learned to separate, we have a mixture: A Jewish state, because the Jews have no other; a democratic state, because otherwise the Jews would not be able to get along with each other. Both characteristics are crucial, despite what the doubters say, and require maintenance.


Judaism, in contrast to the haredi claim, never froze. What was is not what will be. The same goes for Jewish character. Those who relinquish it during the inception of the state do not know what form it will take 65 years later.


The term of the chief rabbis of Israel officially ended on Passover eve. Both were elected due to the dominance of the ultra-Orthodox parties in Israel's governments. They are nice people and good representatives at official ceremonies, but did nothing after being placed in charge of the Rabbinate in order to return sane Judaism to the Jewish people. The stories that have piled up on my desk over the past few years regarding kashrut inspectors, Rabbinate judges and Chevra Kadisha employees can compete with the stories about the corruption of priests in the Middle Ages. Despite this, both of their terms were automatically extended until the summer.


Institutionalized Judaism in the State of Israel is a technical kind of Judaism which sanctifies the status quo instead of sanctifying spirit and tradition. The chief rabbis are to blame for this. When you do not touch anything controversial, when you do not introduce any changes and do not ask questions, - corruption spreads.


All this can be rectified by dealing with the question of Jewish character, which should be determined by a clear government policy, decision-making and the courage to change.


Deputy Minister Eliyahu Ben-Dahan of the Habayit Hayehudi party currently heads the Ministry of Religious Services. The haredim are out. His party has already embarked on a new path. The toning down of the rhetoric on diplomatic issues and the disappearance of the nationalist haredim from the scene are indicative of a different spirit.


Three decisions can make the difference between campaign poppycock and national courage:


The first is the appointment of a professional director general to the Ministry of Religious Services. The director general must come from the public which receives religious services – the Zionist public. A director general who wants to effect change will have to fearlessly face bloated systems, nepotism and dubious appointments of senior officials. The director general cannot be someone who fears the rabbis; he must be someone from the outside.


The second decision is the appointment of the chief rabbi. The struggle for the position is already on, but all the political parties are ignoring the absurd of electing two chief rabbis – one Sephardic and the other Ashkenaz. Why do wee need two offices that do not introduce anything new? God and the wheelers and dealers have the answer. One chief rabbi for Israel is enough.


The third decision is giving the green light to amend laws related to the ultra-Orthodox monopoly on kashrut, judges and the Rabbinate's community work. Proposals for improvement have been submitted to the Knesset for years, but the haredim, due to their political power, have been able to prevent change. There is no "Jewish" reason to cling to what is corrupt and familiar.


If the damaging status quo will persist despite the creation of a haredi-free government, then Habayit Hayehudi should not exist. There are enough wheelers and dealers in Israeli politics who lobby for the interests of their sectors. It is crucial that we break the monopolies in Israel's economy, but those who truly care about the "home of the Jewish nation" must break the monopoly on Judaism in Israel.



פרסום ראשון: 04.09.13, 20:21
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