The Divisive Legacy of Rabbi Shlomo Goren

Shlomo Goren, who was the first chief rabbi of the IDF and later served as Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel, did much to shape the contemporary balance between religion and state in Israel; he also left an enduring mark on religious Zionism. Examining Goren’s legacy, Elli Fischer argues that his approach created many of the problems that haunt the Israeli rabbinate today:

In the unending tug-of-war between religion and state in Israel, [Goren] did the most to re-imagine Jewish law (halakhah) to be compatible with the governing of a modern democratic state, and to implement halakhah as state law. . . .

Goren’s vision was programmatic, consisting of distinct elements necessary to making it a reality. For one thing, religious Jews would have to see themselves not as a separate group but as an integral part of the whole Jewish people. . . . Next, halakhah would have to be substantially revised in order to integrate seamlessly with the governing of the Jewish state. To that end, Goren would offer unprecedented halakhic rulings, arguing that the Jewish state is a sui generis situation in which prior accepted rulings do not apply. . . .

Finally, in order to implement his vision, Rabbi Goren would need power—not merely the rabbinic authority accumulated by great rabbis in every generation, but the enforcing power of the state.

The problem, writes Fischer, is that Goren’s efforts discredited the chief rabbinate in the eyes of the ultra-Orthodox while simultaneously investing it with an undue amount of power. The secular public, for its part, resents the rabbinate and its control over matters of marriage and divorce. Goren’s very idealism created a broken system that breeds only cynicism.

Read more at Mida

More about: Halakhah, Israeli Chief Rabbinate, Rabbis, Religion & Holidays, Religion and politics, Ultra-Orthodox


Hizballah Is Learning Israel’s Weak Spots

On Tuesday, a Hizballah drone attack injured three people in northern Israel. The next day, another attack, targeting an IDF base, injured eighteen people, six of them seriously, in Arab al-Amshe, also in the north. This second attack involved the simultaneous use of drones carrying explosives and guided antitank missiles. In both cases, the defensive systems that performed so successfully last weekend failed to stop the drones and missiles. Ron Ben-Yishai has a straightforward explanation as to why: the Lebanon-backed terrorist group is getting better at evading Israel defenses. He explains the three basis systems used to pilot these unmanned aircraft, and their practical effects:

These systems allow drones to act similarly to fighter jets, using “dead zones”—areas not visible to radar or other optical detection—to approach targets. They fly low initially, then ascend just before crashing and detonating on the target. The terrain of southern Lebanon is particularly conducive to such attacks.

But this requires skills that the terror group has honed over months of fighting against Israel. The latest attacks involved a large drone capable of carrying over 50 kg (110 lbs.) of explosives. The terrorists have likely analyzed Israel’s alert and interception systems, recognizing that shooting down their drones requires early detection to allow sufficient time for launching interceptors.

The IDF tries to detect any incoming drones on its radar, as it had done prior to the war. Despite Hizballah’s learning curve, the IDF’s technological edge offers an advantage. However, the military must recognize that any measure it takes is quickly observed and analyzed, and even the most effective defenses can be incomplete. The terrain near the Lebanon-Israel border continues to pose a challenge, necessitating technological solutions and significant financial investment.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Hizballah, Iron Dome, Israeli Security