Third Jewish Commonwealth 370.
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The modern State of Israel came into being in 1948 and for several decades
managed to survive against all odds before succumbing to a variety of malignant
internal sociological phenomena that sapped it of the resources and will
necessary to endure. Historians and sociologists are still debating precisely
what was responsible for the demise of this once vibrant and promising Middle
Eastern miracle. They are in agreement only about one thing: it was not the
hostility of Israel’s Arab neighbors that brought about its
While Iran’s atomic arsenal and the terrorist regime of
Hamas that took hold in Gaza and the West Bank worried Israel for years,
academics are unanimous in their judgment that ultimately it was the unraveling
of the Jewish state’s social fabric that led to its demise.
after the destruction of the Second Temple, they argue, the leaders of the Third
Jewish Commonwealth proved themselves incapable of internalizing the lessons of
history, though clearly articulated on the pages of their own
According to Jewish sources, it was baseless hatred and the
contravention of Judaism’s ethical and moral standards that led to the long and
bitter exile of the Jewish people from its homeland. Armed with this knowledge,
researchers contend, those who returned to the Land of Israel might have been
able to extend their newly regained sovereignty indefinitely. That this did not
happen, they maintain, might be traced to events of the summer of 2012, and,
more specifically, to the three weeks leading up to Tisha Be’av – ironically the
season dedicated throughout the generations to reflection on the reasons for the
destruction of the First and Second Temples. Experts in the field refer in
particular to a number of warning signs on the one hand, and to opportunities on
the other, to which the nation’s political stewardship did not adequately
RELIGION AND STATE
As the summer of 2012 approached, Israel’s
High Court attempted to restrain the theocratic tendencies that had been
encroaching on Israel’s political system for years, alienating large segments of
the Israeli public from Jewish tradition in the process.
Its judges ruled
that the Tal Law, which for a decade had granted yeshiva students indefinite
deferrals of military or national service, was itself illegal and could not be
renewed after expiring in August.
The ruling was welcomed by many as an
opportunity to ensure the national burden would finally be shared equally by all
sectors of Israeli society. The committee established to draft alternative
legislation, however, failed to tackle the issue head-on, resulting in
internecine quarrels within Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s broad-based
government coalition and its eventual downfall.
During the same period,
the attorney-general, guided by another High Court opinion, ruled that the state
must recognize and pay the salaries of non-Orthodox rabbis, albeit in limited
The fierce objections to this decision voiced by Israel’s
chief rabbis, and their ensuing campaign to reverse it, resulted in the further
diminution of their authority and stature in the eyes of the Israeli public,
leading to a collapse of the already precarious consensus regarding the
necessity of anchoring Israeli society in Jewish tradition.
A number of
analysts also note that this process of social disintegration was exacerbated by
the failure of the Chief Rabbinate to resolve the personal status issues of the
more than 300,000 immigrants from the former Soviet Union who were not deemed to
be Jewish according to Jewish law. It was inevitable, they argue, that a Jewish
state resting on foundations that were so shaky would eventually fall of its own
During this same period, the movement for social
justice that a year earlier had so electrified the Israeli public and ignited
its imagination regarding the possibilities for genuine reform reached a dead
end. Police intimidation of its leaders and the violent dispersal of early
summer demonstrations left the rank-and-file of the crusade for the fair
distribution of resources more disillusioned and cynical than ever
A year had gone by without significant progress being made
regarding the issues that had initially driven the campaign, and more and more
of those who had the wherewithal to get up and leave the country began to do so.
While the increase in the number of émigrés was not immediately apparent, in
retrospect it is clear that the failure of the government to seriously address
the very real economic woes of Israel’s younger generation and the most needy
segments of society at the time would unleash a wave of departures and a brain
drain that would be crippling to the future development of the
STATUS OF WOMEN
Israel was further weakened at the time by its
inability to decisively institutionalize gender equality. While more women than
ever had reached prominent positions in government, the judiciary, the business
world, academia and the military, the gap between salaries of male and female
workers continued unchecked. Furthermore, the exclusion of women from the public
domain championed by the ultra-Orthodox did not subside, despite an initial
public outcry against the phenomenon.
continue to debate the appropriate degree of blame to attribute to each of the
parties for their failure to resolve the Arab-Israeli-Palestinian conflict,
there is one point about which they are in full agreement: the Israeli
government did not succeed at the time in putting forward the bold and
imaginative initiative that might have led to a breakthrough in the peace
process. Consequently, Israel’s ongoing presence in the disputed territories
continued as a source of fragmentation within Israeli society that would
ultimately lead to its disintegration.
a. For additional
information about the fall of Israel, see: Rampant corruption among Israel’s
politicians; Issue of illegal immigration mishandled; Exploitation of foreign
workers continues unabated; Traders in flesh find haven in Tel Aviv; Women of
the Wall arrested.
b. It is not too late to avert the decree. Should the
clarity of hindsight be applied by those charged with the responsibility for
foresight, then it is this entry that will be eradicated rather than the State
of Israel and this page will have never been written.
The writer is
deputy chairman of the World Zionist Organization and a member of the executive
of The Jewish Agency for Israel. The opinions expressed herein are his own.