Three ladies- three lattes

A word to our readers.

Letters (photo credit: REUTERS)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Thank you to our readers for all your emails since we started writing our column nearly three years ago. We would like to respond to some of the comments and to revisit the reason that we are collaborating on this project.
Tzippi Sha-ked: To hold a dialogue, you need an interlocutor and the will to converse. To probe divisive issues, you must first acknowledge the problem. We three ladies represent a cross-spectrum of views; opposing and often incendiary. Our columns aren’t always pretty; we’ve received plenty of mail taking issue with us. Still, we don’t/won’t regard each other as opponents.
We’ve had an interesting and introspective three years, traveling the country, speaking in front of audiences across the cultural and religious continuum: academics, theologians, ambassadors’ wives, women’s groups and others in many, many parlor meetings.
Interfaith relationships may be unsolvable and our optimism sorely tested, but we’re not giving up. I refrain from using Pam’s colorful rhetoric to describe the haredi world, but I do concur that there is a gaping Jewish divide in Israel.
While haredim are not all accountable for the gross shenanigans of "hoodlums within," it’s time for Haredi leadership to roll up their tzniusdik (modest) sleeves and take charge. I’d like to see pashkevils (notices) posted throughout ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods outing ringleaders who subscribe to violence, and imposing an unequivocal herem (excommunication) on them.
I’d like to see troublemakers ousted from neighborhoods through the brute force of communal pressure. The haredi establishment needs to be forceful or suffer consequences, either financial or legislative.
It’s time to prune our collective gardens and get rid of unholy weeds by being brave enough to first identify them as a carcinogen among our people and then to root them out. There’s no more time for mere theological platitudes.
Pam Peled: Most of the reader responses castigate me for being anti-religious, not caring about our country’s Jewish soul, or not belonging here at all. Now I don’t think that my personal relationship with God is compelling to anyone but me, but I’m responding to the criticism, because I feel my attitude is fairly representative of many residents of the Holy Land.
I am not anti-religion. Educated in an Orthodox school, I know the prayers by heart, I keep a (symbolically) kosher home and we incorporate ritual into our daily lives. My family even gathers to recite the Tfilat Haderech safety prayer before trips.
But – and this is a sad and solemn reservation – living in Israel is chipping away at my love of my heritage.
When FIVE articles in one Jerusalem Post edition address this issue, it can’t just be me. There’s the rampant corruption in the Chief Rabbinate’s kashrut department, Shas Interior Minister Arye Deri’s refusal to recognize Reform and Conservative Judaism (the upright Deri, moral guardian of the fate of half of Diaspora Jewry), the hideous way the chief rabbis monopolize conversions (even of soldiers here under the Law of Return), and the disheartening news that yet another chief rabbi might be on his way to prison.
Yes, it’s the mad minority of religious extremists who commit acts of terrorism (arson and price tagging) in the name of God, who fight Israeli soldiers from the roofs of illegal-outposts, who call on their followers to kill women soldiers and IDF commanders instead of joining the army, and who black out women’s faces from billboards. But are they all crazy loners? Even their extremist rabbis? Something bad is happening to religion here and it’s time for us to put an end to it. At least that’s what I believe.
Danit Shemesh
: I opted into this project for the express reason of dialogue. My aim was not to change anyone, which would be disrespectful; not to blame anyone, which would be disingenuous; and not to “one-up” anyone, which would be bullying. My end is dialogue for its own sake.
Dialogue presumes separate parts are equally heard and esteemed when they sit at the “roundtable.”
We are one family. While it’s true that we cannot always agree, we must view each other as family, and engage in dialogue. In a marriage we learn to regard the other highly, no matter what we think of specific behavior, for the simple reason that we’re married and want to stay married. The same is true for our society. We do not choose family; it’s a given. We need to make it work.
In an era of cynicism, I wish to speak of belief and acknowledge good and truth. I give voice to the idea of strong borders between right and wrong; the mindful living of Judaism as we hold onto God’s sacrosanct word as our guiding light.
There’s an old joke of a man looking for a parking place. Becoming quite fermished (frustrated), he finally prayed for help. As he finished praying, he found a spot, at which time he turned back to God saying, “It’s okay, God, I found one. Thanks, anyway.”
Cherishing the Torah – not as “tradition” and not as a socio-political tool, but as our guiding light – is most authentically done within the haredi fold.
Comments and questions: