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The Wars Of The Jews

At the end of last year, a small news item coming to these shores from Israel created only a small ripple, and died soon after in the vast ocean of news and reports coming from the Middle East. Even in Israel it looked, to the keen eyes of this observer, as if it had raised not much of a storm—only a standard response from the Ministry of Defense and the man at its head: Ehud Barak. It seemed odd, since to the best of my knowledge and recollection, nothing of the sort has happened before in Israel since its establishment.

To cut the suspense and go directly to the source, what happened as reported in Haaretz on December 24, 2009, was this: “About 200 Israeli teenagers soon to be drafted have sent a letter to Defense Minister Ehud Barak saying they would refuse to enforce any government orders to dismantle settlements in the West Bank. The 12th graders told Barak in their letter that their paramount loyalty is to Jewish law. Jewish law forbids the destruction of Jewish construction, they wrote, even if unauthorized by the government.”

What a bomb! Only it never fully exploded. One day soon it would, I’m afraid. Israel, you see, has a long History—as long, or as short, as its existence—of soldiers refusing to obey orders on this or on that ground. From Prof. Yeshayahu Leibowitz calling (in 1993) upon Israeli soldiers to refuse orders in the occupied territories, to today’s influential rabbis who have urged religious soldiers, in response to Netanyahu’s decision to slow construction in the West Bank, to violate orders to knock down unauthorized building; and from zealots soldiers refusing orders to take part in the evacuation and dismantle of settlements in the Gaza Strip, to conscientious soldiers such as the “Yesh Gvul” movement, combat veterans who refused to serve in the 1982 Lebanon War, saying: “We don’t shoot, we don’t cry, and we don’t serve in the occupied territories!”

But never like this letter: before even joining the army! And in such a way, in particular, swearing allegiance not to the state of Israel, but to “Jewish Law.” According to what they believe this law is really is. Considering, as I do, that this letter is just the tip of the iceberg as far as where the “objection movement” to the evacuation of settlements in the West Bank is currently at, and considering that the latest data shows that more observant, Haredim children are now being born in Israel than any other segment of society, it signifies not a ripple, the way it was reported and dealt with until now—but a major title wave. A tsunami of sorts.

An act such as this carries with it the possibility, and the probable threat, of the end of Israel—the Jewish State—as we know it. No longer a democracy, but—like Iran and other Arab states—a theocracy. Ruled by “Jewish Law.” In other words: by God! And if we are to consider that even in the most favorable scenario (favorable to the people from the right, and to the settlers movement), some settlements in the West Bank and the Jordan Valley below it would have to be dismantled and evacuated, this has the potential of escalating the rift that already exists between the Secular Israel (Tel-Aviv, by and large) and the Religious Israel (Jerusalem, by and large) into a real war between the Jews.

For many years now, people from the left, and maybe from the right as well, have warned that it would be the “Wars of the Jews” that would bring destruction upon the state of Israel. It would be Jews against Jews, more than Arabs against Jews that would hasten our demise. This letter, therefore, is really a large billboard sign warning us against that possibility. Unless, of course, the people of Israel—and Jews around the world—take acts such as the one this letter represents more seriously. In truth, the real fight is what kind of society Israel would be in years to come. Would it keep its democracy, its secular and religious pluralistic character, separating state and religion, and its lively culture, modern agricultural and advanced technological forces and will continue to excel—or will it fall down the abyss of internal, religious wars. Because, as is the case for quite some time now, it’s no longer a question of if Israel would survive, but rather what kind of survival it would be!


4 Responses

  1. Well, for over sixty years Israel is being ruled exclusively by seculars and not by Jewish law and no wars between Jews took place. So what you are actually suggesting is that as long as the secular rule and have the power things are acceptable but the minute the county will be ruled by Jewish law wars between Jews will start. That means only one thing and that is the secular resent the idea of ever allowing the country to be run by Jewish Law and will fight it. One way for the seculars to defend themselves from ever having to give up control of how the country should be run is by making it illegal to have more than one kid per family since otherwise the demographics advantage tilts towards the observant Jews and sooner or later they will be the majority. But limiting birth by law sounds so un- Jewish, isn’t it? Forget war, we are just witnessing a silent revolution. Don’t forget the Jews lived under Jewish law in Israel way longer (almost continuously for 1800 years) and we did just fine. The 60 years of modern Israel is a drop in the bucket to make such conclusions about imminent war lurking around the corner. Instead of using scare tactics we should find ways how to unite around the common ideas of the population.

    • Dear Confused Pophet (or is it prophet?):

      Thanks for your response. You touched on a number of things. I’m a firm believer that overpopulation (globally) and the demographic issue (in Israel) are the single most important issues there are (though mostly overlooked). Arafat said his greatest weapon was the Arab woman’s womb. Sharon decided to withdraw from the Gaza Strip because he suddenly realized the scope of the demographic problem.
      You’re right, though, limiting a family, a woman to one child is indeed cruel and so un-Jewish, and I don’t advocate it. I just observe. However, as you yourself pointed out, if Jewish Law becomes the law of the land, the secular Jews will fight it (I hope). Hence the “Wars of the Jews,” which was the point I was trying to make.

  2. I stand corrected, Joel, thanks. Good thing I leave one day for further editing before I send it out to my serve list, twitter, dig, etc.

  3. “…considering that the latest data shows that more observant, Hasidic children are now being born in Israel than any other segment of society…”

    I believe you meant to write “Haredim” instead of “Hasidim” (as the ultra-Orthodox community includes Hasidim, Mitnagdim, and other groups).

    From a recent Ynet article:

    “According to Geocartography, there are currently 715,000 Haredim living in Israel and the community doubles in numbers every 22 years, meaning that by 2020 it is likely to exceed one million.”

    Joel Katz
    Religion and State in Israel

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