Monday, July 27, 2015

Poisoning the Well

My very first blog entry was about Tisha b'Av, Israel, and me. You can go back and read it if you want, but it's pretty straight forward. I was angry. 

Five years later, I have moved away from angry. Now, I am disgusted, disappointed, and incensed by the State of Israel. Yeah, I know we were all fed the fantasy line when we were growing up, but there was an element of truth in the tales. People who had nothing left came back to the land, rented, purchased, gardened, farmed, and ultimately built stuff on what had been little more than rocky nothings. The Ottomans were more than happy to have productive, tax paying tenants on the land. And in that beginning, the modern State of Israel took root. It was supposed to be the homeland to which all Jews could return. It was supposed to a place shared by modern socialists and ultra-Orthodox alike. It was supposed to be a modern state in the modern world, with hospitals, schools, towns, farms, industry, and civil rights for all the residents. It was supposed to be an example of living together and thriving together. Jews, Arabs, Christians, Baha'i, Druse, everyone working together for a living, breathing State of Israel. And for a little while, it was almost like it was happening. 

I'm not talking about the wars. I'm not talking about Gaza, Palestine, the Territories, the Golan, or stuff like that. I'm talking about what we do to ourselves. 

From inside Israel, the right wing rabbinate has become the Religious Wrong, busy destroying the diaspora with deliberate, pointed slices into our very existence.  To them, anyone outside their sphere is not a Jew. The various rabbis pretty much tell non-Orthodox Jews to donate their US dollars to obscure kollels and yeshivas in Israel, but don't try to live here because you're not Jewish enough for us. Sounds more like the Malfoys and the Death Eaters than a welcoming committee. We, the Jews of the diaspora, are nothing more than mudbloods to them. It's offensive in the Harry Potter books and it's offensive in the real world. 

Chief rabbis of Jerusalem, Rabbi Shlomo Amar and Rabbi Arye Stern .
 (photo credit:MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The rabbinate holds lock and key on all Jewish life cycle events in Israel...which is why some Israelis cannot be married there....they go elsewhere for a civil ceremony. It's been estimated approximately 30% of Israelis cannot provide the sufficient documentation to prove they are Jews. And if you have a Jew-by-Choice in your lineage, forget it. Odds are even if the conversion was stringently Orthodox, the Haredi will declare your rabbi a heretic and make you re-convert. And then, you have to follow their rules, not the rules of whatever form of Judaism you practice. Not sure about how bad this is? Read Jessica Fishman's story: She Doesn't Live Here Anymore (May 4, 2010.)  This story is not abstract to me; this is the daughter of friends, someone my kids grew up with. And she is not alone in this horror. 

Last May, the mayor of Rehovot banned the b'nai mitvza of kids with disabilities, an annual event for these kids, because it was taking place in a Masorti (Conservative movement) synagogue, effectively stating that a non-Orthodox synagogue is not a valid house of Jewish prayer. Is he telling us we're not Jews....or just not Jewish enough for him? 

And let's not even talk about what happens in Jerusalem. The Women of the Wall are victimized, abused, spat upon, and degraded not just by the ultra-Orthodox, but  by the Wall Police...the ones who are supposed to be making sure everyone has access to the Western Wall. Women reading Torah????? G-d forbid!!!!! The world will end this minute!

And you thought the Taliban was limited to Islam?

But it's what happened on Tisha b'Av, in the town of Modi'im, this year that makes my blood run cold. It made me rethink any fantasy hopes I harbored that Israel may come around to plural Judaism. It's not merely not happening; it's getting worse. 

Masorti shul Yedid Nefesh in Modi'im
While the Conservative and Reform Jews of Modi'im, a city that has, in the past, welcomed a diverse population of Jewish practices, were at prayer on Saturday night, remembering the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem, someone came to their synagogue and tied the doors shut. Potted plants and other obstacles were then put in front of the doors so if the ropes broke, the people would fall as they exited the building. 

To some, this might seem to be a small thing, but to me, it is huge. It's what they did to Jews before torching the shuls with everyone inside. This is hate. This is the face of hate. Whoever did this knew the message being sent. And it was intentional. This was the most egregious act of terrorism because of when it was done.

If, as the sages tell, us the Second Temple was destroyed because of baseless hatred why would any of the Haredi believe that there will ever be a Third Temple? They can't even agree amongst themselves what is halacha (law) and what is minhag (custom.) The chief rabbis hurl epithets at each others' doctrines and dogma, and then have the unmitigated gall to sit on the ground to bemoan the fate of the Jewish people on Tisha b'Av when they themselves set the textbook example for evil acts and evil tongue.

And Bibi Netanyahu allows the Religious Wrong to run his government. With their iron grip on Jewish life and law,  they are showing themselves to be no better, if not worse than the mullahs of Iran or Saudi Arabia. Sure, they may not behead people, or lop off limbs, but they do something far worse: they deny Jews the right to live as Jews. 

I am pro-Israel. I will always be pro-Israel. I will always keep the dream that someday I might live there. But for the moment, it is nothing but a dream. I could not live in a place where women are second class citizens even when they serve in the army and hold down every possible job. I could not live in the place that would consider me a second class citizen because I am a Masorti Jew. 

And most importantly, I could not live in a place where my children and my granddaughter might not be even be considered Jews because members of my family are proudly Jews-by-Choice. The Religious Wrong would also turn away Tzipporah, Naomi, and Ruth. They would deny them their place in our history if those remarkable ladies were here today. 

That's not my Judaism. That's not how I was taught to be a Jew. And that is not how I taught my children to be Jews. And that sure is hell not going to be how I teach my granddaughter to be a Jew. 

Israel will stand or fall on its own merit, but the Religious Wrong are poisoning our own well. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Donate your time, your effort, and your money to causes t
that do what you believe they should do. 


  1. WP.

    I am increasingly concerned that the Age of Reason, the Enlightenment, the Reformation, and the Age of Science hasn’t done enough to consign religious fundamentalism to the dustbin of history. And yet we here are in the 21st Century hurtling towards another Dark Ages. I would say that you couldn’t make this stuff up, but most of it is made up, that is the sad part.

    Christopher Hitchens, please come back, we sorely miss you……

  2. We lived this n Israel, the "Who is a Jew" thing. We converted in an Orthodox shul with an Orthodox witness, did the mikvah, studies with a rabbi before we went to Israel.,made aliyah during Yom Kippur yet when my son was to be married, he had to prove his heritage and have an Orthodox rabbi officiate at his wedding and not the Conservative one who was actually from New Orleans and new him from his youth. I have always wondered why Israel puts up with these people who often don't work, spend their days praying and don't actually accept Israel for the Zionist state it is. Well it is all about votes. Netanyahu uses these people for votes, the religious, the ultra religious, the Haredi, you name it.It is a political thing and since they have so many children, they are raising "votes". There will be a clash that is already happening between the Haredi and the Zionist.It won't be different than it was before the Temple was destroyed.When you read Lamentations carefully, the scenery is the same, Jews fighting Jews.It's happening now. Worst than Jews fighting Arabs, Jew fighting Jew will destroy Israel.It is not the state it was supposed to be.

  3. Well written, Wifely Person....From Peter , a gun totin' Quaker !

  4. Interesting article about Ms. Fishman. Years before I knew Jews inhabited the upper midwest, I was fascinated by a Sunday NYTimes Magazine article "How Do You Prove You're A Jew":