MK Rabbi Dov LipkinThe writer, an American oleh, has entered the Knesset on the Yesh Atid list. He lives in Beit Shemesh.
Below is an op-ed sent in February 2012 to Arutz Sheva by now newly sworn-in MK Dov Lipman. At the time, he described himself as educator, author, community activist, and the director of the English Speakers Division of the Am Shalem movement, the failed hareid pro-army party that put him in second place, but which he left to join Yair Lapid's secular Yesh Atid party. Most observant Israelis, who have read Lapid's columns in the Hebrew Yediot Aharonot, would consider Lipman's description of Lapid's attitude to belief in G-d and the religious somewhat naive.
One Nation Under G-d
Representing Israel at the 60th Annual Prayer Breakfast in Washington was a huge honor. I met representatives from 130 countries and met privately with United States congressmen. I did my best to explain how Israel is combating religious extremism and will maintain its status as the only beacon of freedom and democracy in the Middle East. The organizers of the event expressed their pride in seeing that an Israeli delegation took part in the three day event culminating in a massive breakfast with President Obama. Overall, we made Israel proud. It is my hope that we now succeed in bringing the one major theme of the special week back to both the Israeli streets and the highest levels of the Israeli government – God.
The message, repeated over and over again during the National Prayer Breakfast, was that despite our many disagreements in the political and even the religious realm, we can all rally together and pray to God for everyone's health and the welfare of our respective countries throughout the world. President Obama stood in prayer alongside some of his most fierce Republican opponents. As a United States citizen who spent most of my life there, this open and public embracing of God and prayer was not new to me.
A brief glance at some of the most significant moments in recent United States history demonstrates this point.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt concluded his speech after America was attacked by Japan at Pearl Harbor by saying: "With confidence in our armed forces - with the unbounding determination of our people - we will gain the inevitable triumph - so help us God."
President John F. Kennedy's famous speech in which he made the bold declaration that he intended to send man to the moon finished with the words: "And, therefore, as we set sail we ask God's blessing on the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked."
President Richard Nixon's moving resignation speech ended with these memorable words: "To have served in this office is to have felt a very personal sense of kinship with each and every American. In leaving it, I do so with this prayer: May God's grace be with you in all the days ahead."
When the space shuttle Challenger exploded in January 1986, President Reagan appeared before the nation and the world and concluded his speech by saying: "The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for the journey and waved goodbye and slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God."
President Obama concluded his historic announcement about the assassination of Osama bin Laden with the words: "Let us remember that we can do these things not just because of wealth or power, but because of who we are: one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
The list goes on and on, not to mention the fact that nearly every presidential address ends with the words "God bless America."
But, since making aliyah almost eight years ago, I have become accustomed to the absence of God from the public discourse in my new home. The National Prayer Breakfast shocked me back into reality largely in part because of two significant events. Firstly, the fact that everywhere we turned during those three days, leaders from both the United States and around the world talked openly and freely about their relationship with God. Secondly, while in a meeting between Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina and the Israeli delegation, which included secular members of Knesset, Senator DeMint talked about his view that the relationship between the United States and Israel is more than merely a friendship because we share a spiritual bond.
The secular MK's responded by downplaying the spiritual side, instead focusing on our shared values of democracy and freedom. It was so clear that these MK's lacked spirituality in their lives and I could see how this confused the Senator. After the meeting, I pulled Senator DeMint aside and quietly explained that most Israelis were spiritual and that the spiritual connection between our two countries is alive and well.
Experiencing so many U.S. and world leaders speaking very openly about God contrasted greatly with some of Israel's representatives ducking from any identification with spirituality. It made me realize how desperately we must bring God back to the public discourse in this country.
Even in the religious world, I feel that so much of the focus has shifted to the rabbis instead of God and on the nuances of ritual practices instead of authentic spirituality. As an observant Jew, I, of course, understand the significance of the rabbis and the paramount role which rituals play in our faith, but along the way we have permitted the Ultimate focus to be pushed to the side.
The one political personality who has brought some discussion of God into our national awareness recently is Yair Lapid, who I believe has been falsely labeled as "anti-religious.". He is the one who openly declared that he "believes in God," and he is the one who declared in recent months that "the God of Israel kept the Jewish people going for 2,000 years" and that "if we remove the Father from Israel, why live here?"
It is my hope that the Israeli leadership recognizes the importance of reinserting God into the equation. Schools should talk more openly about God, Knesset gatherings should begin with a prayer, all national ceremonies should include prayer, and we should be searching for ways to increase discussion regarding spirituality instead of shying away from it. Doing so will transform our country for the better and will reaffirm our very reason for choosing to live and fight for this land. Let Israel become the beacon of light to the entire world from where Jews openly and proudly declare to be one nation under God.