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

Would an American-Backed UN Resolution Calling for a Temporary Ceasefire Undermine Israel?

Yesterday morning, the U.S. vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution, sponsored by Algeria, that demanded an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. As an alternative, the American delegation has been circulating a draft resolution calling for a “temporary ceasefire in Gaza as soon as practicable, based on the formula of all hostages being released.” Benny Avni comments:

While the Israel Defense Force may be able to maintain its Gaza operations under that provision, the U.S.-proposed resolution also warns the military against proceeding with its plan to enter the southern Gaza town of Rafah. Israel says that a critical number of Hamas fighters are hiding inside tunnels and in civilian buildings at Rafah, surrounded by a number of the remaining 134 hostages.

In one paragraph, the text of the new American resolution says that the council “determines that under current circumstances a major ground offensive into Rafah would result in further harm to civilians and their further displacement including potentially into neighboring countries, which would have serious implications for regional peace and security, and therefore underscores that such a major ground offensive should not proceed under current circumstances.”

In addition to the paragraph about Rafah, the American-proposed resolution is admonishing Israel not to create a buffer zone inside Gaza. Such a narrow zone, as wide as two miles, is seen by many Israelis as a future protection against infiltration from Gaza.

Perhaps, as Robert Satloff argues, the resolution isn’t intended to forestall an IDF operation in Rafah, but only—consistent with prior statements from the Biden administration—to demand that Israel come up with a plan to move civilians out of harms way before advancing on the city.

If that is so, the resolution wouldn’t change much if passed. But why is the U.S. proposing an alternative ceasefire resolution at all? Strategically, Washington has nothing to gain from stopping Israel, its ally, from achieving a complete victory over Hamas. Why not instead pass a resolution condemning Hamas (something the Security Council has not done), calling for the release of hostages, and demanding that Qatar and Iran stop providing the group with arms and funds? Better yet, demand that these two countries—along with Turkey, Syria, and Lebanon—arrest Hamas leaders on their territory.

Surely Russia would veto such a resolution, but still, why not go on the offensive, rather than trying to come up with another UN resolution aimed at restraining Israel?

Read more at New York Sun

More about: Gaza War 2023, U.S.-Israel relationship, United Nations