Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Talibanization of Israel?

According to Tuesday’s (Nov 8, 2009) Israeli Haaretz newspaper the European Union foreign ministers said today that a way should be found to make Jerusalem the capital of two nations, Israel and a future Palestinian state.

Haaretz reported that “Last week, Israel sternly warned the EU against adopting new language that endorses East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state.”

Analysts say that Jerusalem is the hot potato of the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. They point to a document drawn up by the Swedish delegation to the EU as incendiary. In that document, delivered by the present head of the EU, a call went out for E. Jerusalem as the Palestinian capitol of Jerusalem. The document also called for a Palestinian state entailing E. Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza.

Israeli sources criticized Sweden for the document. Pundit believe the document only lowers Israel’s regard for the EU as a fair and honest broker in the peace process. The EU ministers insist upon a comprehensive regional settlement as part of the negotiations. The ministers did, however, compliment Israel’s PM Netanyahu on his call for a ten-month freeze on settlement.

The activists in the settlement community did not view this freeze so positively. Protests have been held and demonstrators have resisted the Minister of Defense inspectors sent into the large settlements to record any building activity.

Yesterday the West Bank’s ‘Har Bracha Hesder Yeshiva’ one of the religious seminaries that combine service in the Israel Defense Forces with study at the religious institutions, made the news when the head of the Yeshiva, Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, was singled out for censure after publishing a book called Revivim, based on a weekly column of the same name in the right-wing weekly B'Sheva, in which Melamed advocates refusing military orders to evacuate settlements in Judea and Samaria.

According to the Jerusalem Post, the controversy became heated when OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Avi Mizrahi said that the Har Bracha Yeshiva should be expelled from the hesder yeshiva framework. Other more moderate voices opined for a dialogue to resolve the issues, reminding listeners that the alienation of the settler movement in the past caused such deep divisions in Israel and such animosity that Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin was assassinated as a result.

Hesder includes about 40 religious-Zionist yeshivot under which religious high school graduates can choose a shortened army service of 18 months combined with with three-and-a-half years of yeshiva studies. About 1,300 students a year enroll in this program.

According to Rabbi Shlomo Rosenfeld, head of the Shadmot Mehola Yeshiva in the Jordan Valley, none of the other heads of the Hesder yeshivot agree with Rabbi Melamed. Rabbi Rosenfeld, who was one of the six Hesder heads to meet with Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Tuesday, said the issue had been blown out of all proportion and was ‘behind us.’
But other voices saw modern-Orthodox Justice Minister Yaacov Neeman’s statement that he hoped Israel would one day be government by Torah law as the increasing “Talibanization” of Israel.

Neeman told rabbis and rabbinical judges attending a conference in Jerusalem on Jewish monetary laws that "restoring the former glory, so that the law of the Torah is Israel's law, is really the appropriate way to endow upon us the law of Torah in stages… step after step."

Leader of the opposition, Kadima chair Tzipi Livni, also a former Justice Minister, told Army Radio on Tuesday morning that such sentiments should "be troubling to every citizen in Israel," Other Knesset members called for Neeman’s resignation.

A recording of Sephardi sage Rabbi Ovadia Yosef calling for his followers to ignore Israeli civil and criminal courts and only adhere to Halachic (Torah-based) judgments passed down by religious courts was played on Israel Radio’s Reshet Bet today. The former Sephardi Chief Rabbi also said that there was no halachic difference between gentile judges and Jewish judges deliberating according to gentile laws.

Rabbi Yosef quoted a halacha stating that "anyone who legislates in secular courts is raising one's hand to the Torah of Moses our teacher, he is deemed a wicked person and cannot not be counted in a minyan."

Later Justice Neeman’s office issued a conciliatory statement that said "Minister Neeman spoke in broad and general terms about restoring the stature of Jewish law and about the importance of Jewish law to the life of the country."

Many observers blame the founders of the modern state of Israel for the current crises. David Ben Gurion was in favor of creating a religious and non-religious education system, in which parents could chose which stream to enroll their children.

Over the years this created two separate peoples each with their own values sometimes in opposition to the others. Little cross-culture was observed, in fact, much animosity was created with secular Israelis resenting any type of ‘religious coercion’ encroaching into their daily lives.

The rise in the strength of the ultra-Orthodox parties created a situation where any Israeli government must agree to measures that incense the secular population. Both sides, according to analysts, are always playing for an advantage. The ultra-Orthodox parties are always seeking to garner more of the budget for their organizations, and the secular parties complain that the money belongs to the secular population who serve in the army and pay taxes.

Political experts believe that should Jerusalem be divided along Palestinian and Israeli lines, the ultra-Orthodox population would no longer be able to be as violent and obdurate as they are today since the city would undoubtedly in the end be declared an international free zone. In that case, one observer points out, no demonstrations would be allowed against a parking lot near the Old Citiy’s Jaffa gate.