The national-religious sector in Israel is often represented in local media
reports as holding monolithic views on any number of issues that pertain to
state and religion.
Obviously, such an approach is misguided, to say the
least. Like every other sector in Israeli society that is comprised of tens of
thousands of people, the national-religious sector can hardly be described as
possessing a uniform opinion about any issue.
Nevertheless, this sector
is a distinct community in many senses, and a plurality of views exist about the
direction it ought to take as it finds itself pulled between what might best be
described as ultra-Orthodox- like influences, on the one hand, and more liberal
attitudes, on the other.
A recent example occurred this week when Bnei
Akiva, the national-religious youth movement, called on girls to attend a
demonstration against the prayer services held at the Western Wall by Women of
the Wall. While many parents, rabbis and community leaders supported the youth
movement’s stance, others found it unsettling on a substantive level.
many years, Bnei Akiva has been toeing an increasingly haredi (ultra-Orthodox)
line on issues of modesty and the separation of boys from girls, and the current
decision to hold the demonstration was perceived by many as (among its other
flaws) yet another incremental step toward that haredi line – this time on the
issue of opposition to Women of the Wall and its activity.
numerous other examples from recent years of the gradual gravitation toward a
more haredi stance within the national-religious community, such as mounting
intolerance for women singing at public events and increasingly strict rulings
about the codes of modesty for girls as young as the age of three.
trend toward radicalization in some parts of the national-religious sector is
not limited to issues of modesty and a restricted role for women. Many of the
same religious leaders who have been a powerful force promoting a more haredi
approach toward modesty and women’s issues have also spearheaded the trend of
religious radicalization on national issues as well.
Rabbi Zalman Melamed
and Rabbi Dov Lior, two prominent rabbis from the national-religious sector,
have both spoken out in the past in support of soldiers refusing to obey orders
to evict Jews from their homes. Rabbi Lior was quoted by the Walla news site as
saying, “One needs to know unequivocally that the Torah of Israel is above any
human power and, therefore, when there is coercion over religion, and it doesn’t
matter if by means of a referendum or an order, the Torah of Israel is divine
and above the human mind.
“And that is why one needs to know
unequivocally that the Torah of Israel is above any human law, and that is true
with respect to the destruction of a community in the Land of Israel.”
TURALLY , NOT all members of the diverse national-religious sector agree with
the direction being taken. One of the more outspoken critics of this trend
lately has been MK Elazar Stern from Hatnua.
Stern publicly condemned
Rabbi Lior from the Knesset podium for his stance on Ethiopian Jewry, and
separately told Israel Hayom that Rabbi Lior “doesn’t represent religious
Zionism,” because he is the “extreme of the extreme” on a variety of issues and,
no less significantly, because of a derogatory comment Lior allegedly made about
US President Barack Obama.
Stern went on to criticize the Bayit Yehudi
party for thinking that “they’re more Jewish than anyone else – than me, than
Ruth Calderon or than Rabbi Shai Piron. As if it were their monopoly.”
Stern, a retired IDF general who is a self-declared member of the
national-religious camp, is right, of course. Neither Bayit Yehudi nor Rabbi Dov
Lior have a monopoly on the national-religious community and where it stands on
a plethora of issues.
Many of those issues are likely to come to the fore
in the course of the next few months. For example, three bills have been
introduced to establish some form or another of civil marriage in Israel,
legislation that has been codenamed “partnership union” bills.
parties have been and remain vehemently opposed to allowing any form of marriage
in Israel for Jews that does not go through the rabbinate.
of the Jewish Home have toed that haredi line as well.
Housing Minister Uri Ariel was quoted by Haaretz as saying that Yesh Atid’s bill
on this issue “undermines the basic Jewish values of the State of
Ariel went on to say that he intended to “act with all my
strength so that the bill, as introduced, is toppled
Education Minister Rabbi Shai Piron of Yesh Atid, who by
all measures is no less a member of the national-religious camp than Minister
Uri Ariel, clearly disagrees with Ariel’s analysis. Otherwise he wouldn’t have
supported the bill. Piron, like MK Stern, is not alone in his dissenting
opinion, and represents a legitimate alternate view that is held by many
Another issue that will come back to the
foreground sooner or later, and perhaps even in the next few months, is a
possible Israeli withdrawal from territory in the West Bank.
months allotted for Israeli- Palestinian negotiations will end in early 2014.
According to some reports this week, the parties are at odds over whether the
basis of negotiations ought to be the 1967 lines, as the Palestinians have
demanded, or the route of the separation barrier, as the Israelis demanded,
according to a report in Yediot Aharonot and Israel Radio.
But even if
nothing comes of the negotiations, the members of the national-religious
community are still going to have to grapple with the presumed sanctity of
settlements, finding their place between Rabbi Dov Lior and Rabbi Zalman
Melamed, on the one hand, and Rabbi Shai Piron and MK Elazar Stern on the
The national-religious community is divided on all of these issues
between the pro-haredim and liberals. Sooner or later, it is going to have to
take a stand on each one.
The author is a veteran Israeli writer and