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Wednesday, May 11, 2005

A Haredi Zionist's Emotional History


"Suddenly it happened to me. Late one night, I was watching an old movie on television about the early pioneers in Eretz Israel. When I turned off the television, I realized that I'd felt some sort of emotional enlightenment, a sense of connection and identification with that story: the forbidden, Israeli story that began with a collective Jewish dream about the Promised Land and continued with a small group of European Jews intent on renewal who, unlike the secular and religious Jewish majority in Europe and the eastern countries, articulated the idea of the state and its realization and eventually established it as well.

The national religious or Mizrahi movement, which brought about a real revolution in traditional ultra-Orthodox thinking regarding the secular. With poetic and romantic inspiration, the chief articulator of this viewpoint, Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, was able to produce a complex mixture of criticism of and solidarity with the secular, for the sake of the "common" goal - and what was defined as the beginning of the messianic redemption, the ultimate aspiration of the traditional Jewish dream. This group was just as authentic as its rival, because it assumed active responsibility and decided upon its attitude toward the Zionist and the secular from a religious standpoint.

Haredim (ultra-Orthodox) while they portray themselves as having a clear ideological doctrine in regard to the secular Zionist, in reality they suffer from a lack of clarity and ideological coherence. On the one hand, their rhetoric and the "Haredi text" in regard to the secular Zionist has remained hostile and distant. This is portrayed as the authentic experience of "the Haredi community." And yet, for practical reasons, they have decided to participate in the democratic game of Knesset elections.

This complex dissonance did not arise as the result of a conscious and well-elucidated compromise, but out of a kind of passivity. From between the seams of commitment to the traditional Haredi text and rhetoric, a repressed sense of identification with the new Hebrew culture and with the desire to take part in such a strong and successful Jewish phenomenon - Zionism - burst through nonetheless. And so a huge discrepancy was created between the desire and reality, between theory and practice. The hostility, anxiety and distancing were directed at the abstract concept of the "secular Zionist" and the identification and the desire to take part were channeled into a practice of "give and take" (mostly the latter).

And so, while Rabbi Schach maintained a halakhic outlook that grew ever more disconnected from the public, we, his ideological subjects, were already becoming part of the Israeli collective - paradoxically involved in the state's day-to-day life, admiring it and trusting in its strength. The Palestinian enemy no longer only posed a threat to life in the physical sense, but also to "the state" and what derived from it: Israeli identity, the Israeli flag and Israeli pride. The Haredi minority group continued to oppose the (modern) Sephardi pronunciation of Hebrew and spoke only Yiddish, but we, the majority, fully dedicated ourselves to the Zionist language revolution. We spoke only Hebrew.

From the 1970s on, we were already right-wing patriots, upon whom passivity was imposed by a Torah prohibition. The feeling of Israeliness actually grew stronger among us, the young Haredim, unintentionally and unwittingly and in sharp contradiction to the so-called Haredi text. We were a generation in whose consciousness the Israeli reality became inseparable from Jewish history. We became Israelis out of concern for the preservation and survival of the things that are so strongly identified with the term "Jew" and out of fear of losing them.

Like the rest of the cultural influences of secular Israeliness on the Haredim, this influence is slow- acting, with a time lag of about 30 years. As a collective, most of the Haredim now see Israel as a small state surrounded by enemies, while those belonging to the mainstream of Israeliness try to fit in as equals among the nations of the region and everywhere else."

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous13/5/05

    From where did this quotation come? Who is this speaking here?

    ReplyDelete

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