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An election signaling unity & time to come home

By David Lev
2/10/2013, 4:02 PM

Aliyah Magazine explores the Aliyah process within Israel itself, as well as the important need for Jews to come home. The election of the 19th Knesset, an event covered by both Aliyah Magazine & Israel National News, serves to underline this vital point.      

Did Israel just witness the beginnings of a new Jewish revival during the recent elections? From the relative safety of one's political or religious camp, it is easy to avoid embracing a larger picture of what took place, but a brief step outside from that comfort zone can lead to an exhilarating revelation. There appears to be not just a move towards a general center of Israeli society, but towards the actual inner establishment of the Jewish state itself.

I recently had the pleasure of co-producing and hosting a pre-election special, which was aired on Israel National News, amongst other key media networks. We were fortunate enough to have had the presence of party representatives from across the political spectrum. It was widely publicized that a virtual handshake took place at the end of the show between the male Shas representative and the female Meretz candidate. That incident happened after each participant made a unity statement, which encouraged Jews to make Aliyah and cast a vote, for whomever their conscience dictates. Events that followed made that gesture appear almost prophetic in nature. Israeli voters virtually changed the landscape of the nation's political platform, and the call for unity needed to be extended across the board.              

So what actually did happen? It would be easy to accuse Lapid's party of hostility towards the religious elements in Israeli society, based on their party stance to draft the Haredim (ultra orthodox). Yet, one of the key participants on our show was Dov Lipman of Lapid's party, Yeish Atid, now a newly elected MK. Actually, he's more correctly entitled as Rabbi Dov Lipman, and that's not a show title, he is a genuine and sincere representative of the Jewish clergy. Uri Banks, representing another surprising newly elected large political block, Bayit ha Yehudi, also wore a yamulke, and his party is also focused upon integrating Jews more into the Jewish state of Israel. So, can that be interpreted as an attack on the important need for Torah scholars? Hardly, considering the equal weight given to the need to maintain the Hesder system, whereby Jews learn in a yeshiva, and serve in the IDF. 

However, these are still early days and it's of upmost importance to preserve and guard Jewish religious values as well as issues concerning Jewish sovereignty over the Shomron & Judea. That means closely examining the core issues that led to the nation's swing to its present position, and reminding the newly elected MK's to focus on those key issues, rather than others. A prime example has been ultra orthodox attitudes against serving in the IDF on one hand, and still expecting large grants from the government on the other. Such attitudes can be taken as an insult against the majority of young Israelis who are not exempt from conscription. That is G-d forbid not to say that Torah study should be relegated in any way, but only to apportion more respect towards the need for serving Israel. My concern is that there should be no backlash against the ultra orthodox position in other matters of placing orthodox Judaism in its important place. However, that doesn't negate one's responsibility towards the overall interests of the Israeli nation, specially in regards to IDF service. In this regards, the ultra-orthodox will need to sit up and take notice of their fellow Jews, even if they suffer loss of face and some humility in the process. True Jewish values will eventually surface, meanwhile a better understanding of the nation's need for unity may also eventually surface, albeit with some loss of position on fundamental issues.                        

The IDF is not an anti-religious body, it is nothing less than the vehicle for serving the very defense of Israel, which allows us to maintain places of Torah study. In some ways, the hot debate between the need for Torah scholarship, without maintaing a viable defense force, is what eventually weakened many Jewish communities prior to WW2. From a truly religious perspective, Jews need both. The problem here really got worst when both sides looked down upon each other. But what added fuel to the fire was an adopted position of leaving the defense of Israel in anyone else's hand, but one's own. Now doesn't that sound familiar, specially for Jews living in the Diaspora?

What is essentially taking place in Israel today is a realization that the status quo cannot be maintained, whereby the burden of public service is unequally distributed. This means a shift towards a more centered position, which can only bring unity where it truly counts, the well being of the Jewish State of Israel. Perhaps, the changing winds might also reach beyond our shores, and help in gathering the rest of our splintered nation back into the fold? Jews need Hashem, but are taught to need and help each other. Hopefully, the coming days will be one of further unity, resulting in a far stronger Israel, both in a spiritual and physical sense.