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

Dec. 30 2021

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.

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Read more at Tzarich Iyun

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

The Palestinian Authority Is Part of the Problem, Not the Solution

Jan. 31 2023

On Thursday, Palestinian Authority (PA) officials announced that they had ceased all security cooperation with Israel; the next two days saw two deadly terrorist attacks in Jerusalem. But the PA has in the past made numerous threats that it will sever its ties with the Israeli government, and has so far never made good on them. Efraim Inbar poses a different set of questions: does cooperation with Palestinian leaders who actively encourage—and provide financial incentives for—the murder of Jews really help Israel protect its citizens? And might there be a better alternative?

The PA leader Mahmoud Abbas seems unable to rule effectively, i.e., to maintain a modicum of law and order in the territories under his control. He lost Gaza to Hamas in 2007, and we now see the “Lebanonization” of the PA taking place in the West Bank: the emergence of myriad armed groups, with some displaying only limited loyalty to the PA, and others, especially the Islamists, trying to undermine the current regime.

[The PA’s] education system and media continue propagating tremendous hostility toward Jews while blaming Israel for all Palestinian problems. Security cooperation with Israel primarily concerns apprehending armed activists of the Islamist opposition, as the PA often turns a blind eye to terrorist activities against Israel. In short, Abbas and his coterie are part of the problem, not of the solution. Jerusalem should thus think twice about promoting efforts to preserve PA rule and prevent a descent into chaos while rejecting the reoccupation of the West Bank.

Chaos is indeed not a pleasant prospect. Chaos in the territories poses a security problem to Israel, but one that will be mitigated if the various Palestinian militias vying for influence compete with each other. A succession struggle following the death of Abbas could divert attention from fighting hated Israel and prevent coordination in the low-intensity conflict against it. In addition, anarchy in the territories may give Israel a freer hand in dealing with the terrorists.

Furthermore, chaos might ultimately yield positive results. The collapse of the PA will weaken the Palestinian national movement, which heretofore has been a source of endemic violence and is a recipe for regional instability in the future.

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Read more at JNS

More about: Israeli Security, Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror