Knesset, Immanuel and absolute power

The recent events in Immanuel have highlighted the deep fissures in Israeli Jewish society pertaining to authority and law. While the zealot-like ultra-orthodox continue to parade under the guise of their gedolei Torah, the Supreme court and the Knesset flounder in their capacity to impose basic laws upon those who scoff at the clash between modernity and Fundamentalist Orthodoxy.


While I understand, to some extent, the complexities of the educational landscape in Immanuel, I think the bigger issue at stake is the assault on Israel''s legal system from the ultra-Conservative Orthodox. This is manifest in areas in which I am all too familiar.


Consider the following query which came to my attention this week. A young couple who are immigrants read about the recent changes in protocols for those seeking a marriage license in Israel. Rather than approaching the rabbinate, they made their first stop the rabbinical courts, where they succeeded in proving their Jewishness, and were issued a certificate stating that they were eligible to be married.


However, upon entering the hallowed halls of a rabbinate in Central Israel, they were told that the certification that they were born Jewish (remember - we are not talking about conversion here) issued by the rabbinical courts was insufficient for the local rabbi, and the couple had to undergo a further investigation (read: humiliation) in order to "prove" their lineage. Of course, the couple was without recourse, given the fact that they wanted to be married, and they turned to me for help.


I raise this issue not only to highlight the absurd situation in which the Jewish lives of Israelis are held captive by a number of radicals, but rather to illustrate the extent to which Lord Acton''s premise is being carried out - here in our democratic society - on a regular basis. If, as Acton said, "power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely," then how do we address a situation in which some of those empowered with making decisions have little to no sense of what the significance of their power is?


Three months ago, I brought said rabbi to the Israeli Supreme Court for his unwillingness to recognize conversions performed in the IDF. The proportions of his audacity have now defied even those who disagreed with me then. However, given the events of the past fortnight, it is safe to assume that the rabbi in question will ignore the Supreme Court as well, leaving couples in his dust. The court is no longer a safe place for people like me to assist others.


I write these words out of a sense of frustration and angst. If the court can no longer help, and the rabbinate is unwilling to help, and the body politic is unwilling to rebel, who is left?