For Israelis, Secular and Religious Alike, Jewishness Is as Natural as Breathing

Dec. 28 2018

In Israel, a new kind of Judaism has emerged, argues Shmuel Rosner, based on an extensive study he conducted in collaboration with the demographer Camil Fuchs. In that Judaism, the overwhelming majority of the country’s Jewish population—whether ḥaredi or “secular”—take part. He cites the rhythms of the Israeli year as an example:

Many of Israel’s institutions (such as schools) base their schedules on the Gregorian calendar. Many Israelis remember the Gregorian date, but struggle to keep track of the Hebrew date. Nevertheless, their culture follows the Jewish calendar. They take vacations on Sukkot and wear costumes on Purim (51 percent of adults reported doing so), insist on having family dinners on Friday night (as 82 percent say they do regularly), and cannot ignore Shavuot because television commercials remind them to buy cheese for the traditional dairy meal. . . .

Jews who live outside of Israel—most of them in the United States—are familiar with the challenge posed by what some of them call “Jewish continuity.” In short: the highly observant pass on their Judaism to the next generation; the less observant do, too, but [for them] it’s a struggle. When I lived in the United States and studied and wrote about American Judaism, I was fascinated by the great effort that Jews must invest to keep their tradition. I admired their effort. And still do.

But my current study taught me a lot about the benefits of living in a society in which Jewish continuity is a given. Of course, we have a lot to worry about in Israel—from security issues to our political culture to the never-ending conflict with our neighbors. Still, we are spared the worry about the future of Jewishness. When we asked Israeli Jews about their level of confidence that their children and grandchildren will be Jewish, the outcome was remarkable. The overwhelming majority—86 percent—are confident that their children will be Jewish. Nearly as many (79 percent) are confident that their grandchildren will be Jewish. What other option is there? . . . [Israelis] breathe Judaism . . . effortlessly.

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More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli society, Judaism in Israel, Religion & Holidays


Why Israel Pretends That Hamas Fired Rockets by Accident

March 21 2019

Israeli military and political officials have repeated Hamas’s dubious claim that the launching of two rockets at Tel Aviv last week was inadvertent. To Smadar Perry, accepting Hamas’s story rather than engaging in further retaliation is but a convenient, and perhaps necessary, way of aiding Egyptian efforts to broker a deal with the terrorist group. But even if these efforts succeed, the results will be mixed:

The [Israeli] security cabinet has met in Tel Aviv and decided that they would continue indirect negotiations with Gaza. A message was sent to Egypt, whose delegation is going back to Gaza to pass on the Israeli demands for calm. The Egyptians also have to deal with the demands from Hamas, which include, among other things, an increase in aid from $15 million to $30 million per month and an increase in the supply of electricity.

The requests are reasonable, but they do leave a sour taste in the mouth. Israel must ensure that this financial aid does not end up in the pockets of Hamas and its associates. [Israel] also knows that if it says “no” to everything, the Iranians will step in, with the help of their Gazan friends in Islamic Jihad. They are just waiting for the opportunity.

Hamas also must deal with the fallout from a series of massive handouts from Qatar. For when the citizens of the Gaza Strip saw that the money was going to the Hamas leadership, who were also enjoying a fine supply of electricity to their own houses, they took to the streets in protest—and this time it was not Israel that was the focus of their anger. . .

[But] here is the irony. With Egyptian help, Israel can reach understandings for calm with Gaza, despite the lack of a direct channel. . . . In the West Bank, where the purportedly friendlier Fatah is in charge, it is more complicated, at least until the eighty-three-year-old Mahmoud Abbas is replaced.

As evidence for that last statement, consider the murder of two Israelis in the West Bank on Sunday, and the Palestinians who threw explosives at Israeli soldiers at Joseph’s Tomb in Shechem yesterday.

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More about: Egypt, Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, West Bank