A Haredi Reflection on the Zionist Miracle

Today, Ḥaredim still tend to shun the label “Zionist,” even if most would be just as uncomfortable to be labeled as anti-Zionists. Moreover, writes Yehoshua Pfeffer, it is hard for any religious Jew to deny that, as Israel enters its 75th year, its creation and survival is nothing short of miraculous.

Israel’s large and growing ultra-Orthodox population, whose relationship with the state is ambivalent, quickly overcame its initial suspicions and recognized the miracle unfolding before its eyes. Rabbi Shalom Noach Berezovsky, the Slonimer rebbe, could not contain his amazement, [writing that], “our very eyes behold revelations that no dreamer or visionary could have entertained just a generation ago. . . . Tents of Torah study bloom; ḥasidic sanctuaries flourish in the fullness of their glory, alongside a t’shuvah movement unheard of in any past generation.”

Of course, the miracle of Jewish revival goes far beyond the world of Orthodoxy. The very fact that nonobservant Jews remain Jewish, coupled with birthrates that exceed any other OECD country, testifies to the wonder of Israel no less than its yeshiva institutions and ḥasidic courts.

But miracles can dissipate as quickly as they occur. The miracles of the Egyptian redemption did not prevent the death of the entire generation in the wilderness on account of its sinfulness. The miracle wrought by Elijah at Mount Carmel [1Kings 18–19] did not prevent the religious and political disintegration of the people. It is up to us to ensure that the miracle of modern-day Israel does not suffer the same fate.

[The rebirth of Israel also] is a call to action and a trial. We did not return to our ancestral homeland for the purpose of mere survival. This dramatic return challenges us to take history into our hands, partnering with God as we mold it in our image. That is what the early Zionist leaders who established the state of Israel and wrought the miracle did—despite all their ideological differences. Today, it is the turn [of the Ḥaredim]—the turn of a population much changed over the course of 75 years—to move Israel into its next phase.

Read more at Sapir

More about: Haredim, Judaism in Israel


Why President Biden Needs Prime Minister Netanyahu as Much as Netanyahu Needs Biden

Sept. 28 2023

Last Wednesday, Joe Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu met for the first time since the former’s inauguration. Since then, Haim Katz, Israel’s tourism minister, became the first Israeli cabinet member to visit Saudi Arabia publicly, and Washington announced that it will include the Jewish state in its visa-waiver program. Richard Kemp, writing shortly after last week’s meeting, comments:

Finally, a full nine months into Benjamin Netanyahu’s latest government, President Joe Biden deigned to allow him into his presence. Historically, American presidents have invited newly installed Israeli prime ministers to the White House shortly after taking office. Even this meeting on Wednesday, however, was not in Washington but in New York, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

Such pointed lack of respect is not the way to treat one of America’s most valuable allies, and perhaps the staunchest of them all. It is all about petty political point-scoring and interfering in Israel’s internal democratic processes. But despite his short-sighted rebuke to the state of Israel and its prime minister, Biden actually needs at least as much from Netanyahu as Netanyahu needs from him. With the 2024 election looming, Biden is desperate for a foreign-policy success among a sea of abject failures.

In his meeting with Netanyahu, Biden no doubt played the Palestinian issue up as some kind of Saudi red line and the White House has probably been pushing [Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman] in that direction. But while the Saudis would no doubt want some kind of pro-forma undertaking by Israel for the sake of appearances, [a nuclear program and military support] are what they really want. The Saudis’ under-the-table backing for the original Abraham Accords in the face of stiff Palestinian rejection shows us where its priorities lie.

Israel remains alone in countering Iran’s nuclear threat, albeit with Saudi and other Arab countries cheering behind the scenes. This meeting won’t have changed that. We must hope, however, that Netanyahu has been able to persuade Biden of the electoral benefit to him of settling for a historic peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia rather than holding out for the unobtainable jackpot of a two-state solution.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Joseph Biden, Saudi Arabia, U.S.-Israel relationship