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

Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict