Israel’s Two Forms of Orthodox Judaism Have Much to Learn from One Another

Since Israel’s founding, there has been a fairly sharp distinction between religious Zionists—who tend to wear modern clothes, serve in the IDF, pursue secular educations and careers, and support the Jewish state with fervor—and Ḥaredim—who dress in their community’s distinctive style, shun military service, believe men should devote themselves primarily to study of Jewish texts, and observe Jewish law very strictly. Moreover, the latter tend to suspect the former of a lack of religious commitment, and to view them as at least vaguely heretical. Aryeh Meir, writing in a ḥaredi publication, makes the case that the two communities have much to learn from one another, and that there is more that unites them than divides them:

[I]t is hard to point to a fundamental religious disagreement between the religious Zionist and ḥaredi communities. Both believe in the same Torah, observe the same halakhah, and espouse similar (though not identical) patterns of authority and instruction.

[Moreover], the situation that divided our communities has changed significantly. The Jewish state and its religious conflicts are very different now from some decades ago. The state and its population have become more religious. There is an affinity—not only rhetorical but also financial and institutional—between the state and its more traditional constituencies. If words such as “Zionism” and “nationalism” were once identified with the secular left, today they possess a strong religious connotation.

The struggle between religion and secularism endures, of course; in some respects it has even intensified. Yet, the state is no longer clearly secular and neither is Israel’s dominant culture.

The fierce philosophical and practical debate over the state, which tore the religious community apart from within, has long subsided. Both Ḥaredim and religious Zionists understand that the state of Israel is not (or at least not yet) the anticipated final redemption; at the same time, it does not preside over some kind of internal exile. Most members of both communities do not deny the great significance of the state as part of a Divine plan of returning to Zion.

Read more at Tzarich Iyun

More about: Haredim, Judaism in Israel, Orthodoxy, Religious Zionism

While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy