An open letter to the Shabbat Square protesters

I was deeply saddened by your protest. It is no exaggeration to say it broke my heart.

Haredi protesters in J'lem's Shabbat Square 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Haredi protesters in J'lem's Shabbat Square 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
I was deeply saddened by your protest. It is no exaggeration to say it broke my heart.
Although I do not practice Judaism the same way you do (I believe that science and Torah complement one another, and as a young woman I try to straddle both the secular and religious worlds), I used to respect you, and in a way, I always will. I respect your way of life, and your observance of Judaism in the way you interpret as most pure.
The latest news from Israel, however, has forced me to call your entire interpretation of Judaism into question. Moreover, I have been forced to question your connection to the Jewish people.
Your overflowing hatred, your misguided protests and your active embarrassment of Israel in the international media brings me to tears. Do you truly feel that your brothers and sisters in Israel can be compared to the Nazis? Do you truly feel the government is hoarding you into cattle cars and sending you to death camps? I can only believe this to be hyperbole, but you have gone too far and made light of a wound on the Jewish psyche.Besides being hurt, I am personally offended by these outbursts. Does that make me egotistical? Perhaps. But then again, absolutely not. I speak for many American Jews when I say that I have defended you for years. I have defended you against anti-haredi friends who criticized your practices, your beliefs and your society. I stood up for your right to live the way you do. When friends blindly accused you of stealing from the state, I said it’s not so simple. They said you would run the country to the ground, that you would spread and multiply so haredim would literally take over the country and destroy the government from the inside, and I would ask why all Jews couldn’t live in the Jewish state together in peace.
IT PAINS me to say this, but you are the opposite of the Arab Spring. Citizens all over the region are calling for democracy, freedom and liberalism, whereas you are calling for... what, exactly? A theocracy? The removal of all those freedoms that Israel provides for its citizens?
You may disagree with Western values and culture, but the Torah to which you claim to adhere isn’t a rigid code of existence. The Talmud itself says the Torah has “70 faces” – the oral tradition is full of disagreements for the sake of heaven. Our great sages have always disagreed on fine points of Jewish law and viewed the issues facing the Jewish people with a variety of lenses, but they have also been defined by mutual respect for differing opinions.
Did Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and Rav Kanievsky agree on everything? No. Did Rabbi Aharon Kotler and the Chazon Ish always see eye to eye? I doubt it. Did they all support the existence of the State of Israel? Did they support the Knesset, the government, and the other trappings of Israeli sovereignty?
Yes, they did.
You might say, “But they don’t see what it has become,” or, “They wouldn’t support it now.” Maybe that’s true. But in that case, perhaps you’d like to tell me just what this country has become? If you say that these great scholars wouldn’t support Israel today, why not? Could it have something to do with groups of citizens who take to the streets and demean the memory of the six million? Or perhaps they wouldn’t support it because because it is a place seething with such hatred by Jews for Jews? If that is the case, then yes, I’m inclined to agree. Maybe the gedolei Israel wouldn’t support that sort of Medinat Israel.
You claim to adhere to Torah and mitzvot, but to whose Torah do you adhere? Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and others have denounced your actions. Do you also denounce the rabbis, together with the supposed “Nazi” state you so detest?
Lastly, you appear not to have taken into account the effect of Saturday night’s protest on American Jewry. You send rabbis to America to raise money to support yeshivot and other Torah institutions because, let’s face it, that sort of money isn’t available in Israel. Out of a sense of love for Jews and for Israel, American Zionists sign the checks that support Torah learning there. This is how you’ve chosen to show your gratitude? By calling Zionism racism?
From a purely political standpoint, how do you think America will react if your protest movement turns into a full-blown internal revolution like the Arab Spring? Americans are given to supporting democratic initiatives, not theocratic ones, so the question must be asked: Will America turn against the religious community spearheading this hypothetical religious revolution? Could your revolution force America to abandon a theocratic Israel on the international stage in favor of the Palestinians if it becomes clear that the latter support democracy and religious freedom?
My brothers, the overarching ramifications of these events would be catastrophic for the nation of Israel, the State of Israel and the Jewish people. I implore you, as a fellow Jew, do not do this. Embrace the state, work within the law to improve your conditions.
Make compromises and ask the Zionists you seem to hate to do the same. Show some good faith, and you will see the state reciprocate.
Medinat Israel would not be the first Jewish country in the Land of Israel to be destroyed by baseless hatred. Please, my brothers, I implore you. We must work together to strengthen our homeland.
The writer is a student at Yeshiva University and news editor of the YU Observer.