עימותים בהפגנה
עימותים בהפגנהצילום: דוברות המשטרה
The month of Adar ushers in a time of happiness and joy . . . but it sure does not feel like it this year. There have been too many tragedies and difficulties in the Jewish world in the past few weeks. Three sets of brothers – Paley in Yerushalayim, Yaniv in the Shomron, and Boyer in Phoenix – perished in terrible ways, followed by other terrorist attacks. Moreover, in Israel, storm clouds continue to gather as we face a dangerous split in society that is threatening to tear apart the country as never before, with their ideological counterparts in the Diaspora joining the fracas ...

I don't know what Heavenly message was communicated when three sets of brothers perished one after the other, but it seems plain to me that we are being told something about not valuing our brotherhood enough. At the time of Esther's Purim message — "Gather all the Jews together" – the underlying theme of all the mitzvot of Purim – the opposite seems to be happening. We need to reflect deeply on this before it is too late.

According to many reports, nothing less than a civil war is about to happen in Israel as protests and demonstrations grow by the day. The purported cause of the unrest is the allegedly "radical" judicial reforms that the current "extremist" "dictatorial" government is committing to pass at all costs. According to the protesters, the reforms will destroy the fundamental democratic processes and allow the government to pass unjust, theocratic, discriminatory laws without a check on its power. Furthermore, they claim (ridiculously) that the urgency to pass the law is only a cynical attempt to relieve PM Netanyahu of the legal troubles that have dogged him for the past few years.

The inciteful rhetoric is at frightful levels; three former prime ministers (Olmert , Lapid, Barak) are calling for civil war and for the army and police to stop obeying the "Putsch" dictatorship government. They claim the ruckuses they are raising are principled objections to the proposed judicial reforms in the best spirit of patriotism. Increasingly, they refer to the judicial reform effort as a power coup designed to destroy democracy, which much be stopped at all costs.

If you believe that, then the lies and slander that the Left is using to hoodwink the Israeli public and the whole Western world have successfully fooled you as well.

The truth is that the judicial reforms are not at all radical. Even if, for argument’s sake, one would grant that some of its particular points are stronger than they need to be, the truth is that the government has repeatedly said they are willing to discuss compromise while continuing the legislative process. The need for judicial reform is very apparent to anyone familiar with the excesses of former Chief Justice Aharon Barak's power grab. However, it is crucial to know that it is all a smokescreen; the real issue is something else entirely.

The issue exercising the Left is simple and stark — the growing realization that they have lost their grip on power. They are angry and frustrated that “their State is being taken from them”.

Since before the State’s founding, the non-religious, secular Labor Zionists ruled the country with total control over all branches of government, media, academia, and culture, and treated the right-wing and religious population as second-class, unenlightened primitives.

In 1977 Menachem Begin successfully tapped into the frustration of the former underclasses and created nothing less than a revolution. Conservative, capitalist secular forces joined with Sephardim and the religious right to form a new government that put the Left socialists and hardline secularists out of power for the first time in Israel's history. For most of the next forty-five years – despite the condescending and sneering objections of the elite that would rule the country – Likud was in power with few exceptions. The reality is that the majority of Jews in Israel have moved steadily to the right, particularly as they have seen the folly of the Oslo accords and the excesses of the Left.

Supreme Court end-run

In order to retain its hold on power, the Israeli Left followed the example of its counterparts in the United States. Since the 1960s, as liberals realized they were unable to accomplish their objectives through elections, they turned to the Supreme Court to "legislate from the bench" on many issues which they would never be able to win at the ballot box.

Upon assuming his position, Chief Justice Aharon Barak instigated new policies through which the Israeli Supreme Court became the most powerful Supreme Court in the entire world. Sitting as the High Court of Justice, it can control anything and everything in Israeli society, not bound by whether or not it has standing or whether the issue is one that involves military, religious or medical expertise, as according to the Barak doctrine, “everything is justiciable.” Not only does the Supreme Court not have to rule based on precedent, if it finds any law or decision by the government or the army "unreasonable" in its superior opinion, it has arrogated itself the power to invalidate it.

Furthermore, by controlling five out of the nine votes needed to elect new Justices, they rigged the system so that the current Supreme Court justices control who gets elected to the Court, and thus ensure that those with their (liberal) bias will control it in the future. This terribly biased, politicized overbearing Court has been a blot on fairness in Israel. Over the years, many commentators, including some of the hypocrites now in the opposition, understood that the Supreme Court had gone too far and needed to be reined in. (For an excellent review of the history of the Israel Supreme Court and the need for Judicial Reform, see this article by Jonathan Rosenblum, who has written about this for years).

That is what the judicial reforms are about; they seek to bring the Supreme Court back to the way it operated before Aharon Barak started his dictatorial power grab. This is something that a majority of Israelis would agree with — if it were presented to them fairly.

Judicial reform is not the primary issue – it is a smokescreen. The Left sees the results of the last election; they are out of power and likely to stay that way.

Why, then, are there a hundred thousand demonstrating weekly? Why are so many prominent professionals – pilots, doctors, army officials, and others – so moved to threaten strikes and anarchy? Is it because they have suddenly grown so concerned about the workings of the Supreme Court and legal processes?

Judicial reform, in fact, is not the primary issue – it is a smokescreen. What is really going on is that the Left and sees the results of the last election; they are out of power and likely to stay that way. They see that, for the first time, the ones they consider "the extreme right" are in control and intent on enacting various policies that are antithetical to the Left.

Most of all, they are incensed, frustrated, angry, and frightful regarding the growth of the religious parties. Between them, UTJ, Shas, and the Religious Zionist parties control thirty-two out of 120 seats. As a result, it is now impossible for the Left to form a government without either joining with the Arab parties or forming a national unity government with the Likud, unless they incorporate the religious parties in their coalition.

(In this they are joined by the ultra-secular Right, in particular, the despicable Avigdor Liberman and his Yisrael Beyteinu party. It was he who put Israel through the trauma of the five elections in the previous three years, as he absolutely refused to sit with the hareidi parties and thus prevented a stable government from forming. Now that his seats are no longer needed by the rest of the Right wing, he is left whining with the Left.)

They therefore gnash their teeth as they decry "the end of democracy," "the rise of fanaticism," and so on. They spread lies that the government is trying to institute Halakha as the law of the land. They fabricate slander that the current government is anti-women, will persecute LGBTQs, and so forth. They claim to be upset about the corruption of Netanyahu. What really upsets them, however, is that they recognize that the rule by the secular Left who controlled Israel is effectively over.

An Understandable Frustration

This feeling of desperation is very understandable and justified from their perspective. It is the secularists who mainly built the country's infrastructure, fought its wars, established the government, sacrificed enormously, and did many heroic things that created the modern State of Israel, a paradise compared to anything else in the Middle East. They deserve major credit for all the good that they have done. It is obvious that they are angry and frustrated in being pushed to the side in terms of holding the reins of power.

Moreover, from the perspective that the secular media have constantly fed them, the religious are primitive Neanderthals who do not participate in the country's defense nor pay taxes, expecting to be protected and supported by the secular naïve freiers (an Israeli term meaning suckers). This is unfortunately magnified when "religious" fools misbehave and cause Chilul Hashem. Particularly reprehensible are the idiots who riot and demonstrate on foolish issues, and call soldiers and police Nazis while mocking and spitting on them. The secularists are seething that – in their eyes – these people are taking the country away from them.

However, they fail to understand that this didn't happen in a vacuum. While they did many great things and promoted the building and protection of the State, they also neglected many crucial issues that have now come home to roost. Despite all of their noise, the secularists are becoming a minority due to the growing acceptance of traditional values, the high birth rate among the religious, and, unfortunately, the high rate of emigration by secular Israelis who no longer live in Israel.

This is no accident. Young Jews brought up on the values of the secularists made one of three choices. Some sensed that there ought to be much more to a Jewish State than to be a vapid cheap imitation of western values. They thus decided to increase their connection with Judaism, become more connected with the traditional communities, and now vote for religious parties.

Others who made the same observation but were not moved to become more traditional decided that if western values are most important, why pursue them in Israel? One can make more money, live in a nicer home, enjoy more of the same pleasures, and not be bothered with annoying things like army service, high taxes, and the irritating Orthodox elsewhere. Over a million secular Israelis have voted with their feet and moved to America, Canada, and many other places.

This leaves the third group of secular Israelis; those committed to staying in Israel for whatever reason but who are not interested in becoming more traditional. It is that group – that used to be the great majority in Israel – that has seen its numbers dwindle. To the point that the once all-powerful Labour Party barely exists, the Meretz party did not make the electoral threshold. (Even much of the opposition today is more to the right, and only in opposition due to personal animus toward Netanyahu and/or the hareidim.) As a result, the only way they could put together a government last time was by lying to their voters, voiding campaign promises, electing a Prime minister who controlled only six seats, incorporating Arabs into the government, and insisting that it was legitimate under the rules of "democracy".

These are the people leading all the protests and spreading the lie that judicial reform is the issue. Their slogans claim that they are standing up for democracy, which is the biggest lie in itself. Democracy is government by the will of the majority; the Jewish majority has voted (not only in this but in the previous elections) for the Right/Religious. Belief in democracy should be to accept that election's result and understand that their political opponents are legitimately in power. But they refuse to accept that. Instead, they have convinced themselves that by calling for civil disobedience, for the army to refuse to be subject to the government, and for anarchy in the streets, they are standing up for democracy. It would be laughable if it weren't so sad.

Our Responsibility as Orthodox Jews

Where will Israel go from here? That is anyone's guess. The forces of the Left will not stand down and will be satisfied with nothing less than destroying the country they claim to care so much about unless they get their way. But that, of course, is something that the majority cannot let happen.

In my perfect world, the message that the Right must be sending out is one of understanding the frustration and the anger of the Left and seeking ways to compromise on those issues on which they can afford to compromise. The religious parties, in particular, must be zealous in promoting their issues with great care and understanding for the hurt feelings and disappointment of those who used to be in power. They must be greatly concerned that what is done is with love, compassion, and flexibility while not compromising on fundamental values.

All of us must be extra vigilant in being stellar examples of the beauty, light, and kindness that the Torah teaches us

While there is little that individuals can do about that, every Orthodox Jew, both in Israel and the Diaspora, needs to be very aware that – more than ever – non-Orthodox Jews feel under attack and alienated and disparaged, for this is what their leaders are telling them. The truth does not matter much here, but perceptions matter a great deal. They are looking to confirm their prejudice that Orthodox Jews are corrupt, mean-spirited, bullying, and power-hungry and seek to delegitimize the non-Orthodox as second-class Jews. Therefore, all of us must be extra vigilant in being stellar examples of the beauty, light, and kindness that the Torah teaches us and not, G-d forbid, the opposite.

History seems to be progressing ever more powerfully toward some great vortex in which the Jewish people, the land of Israel, and religious Jews are under attack. Many sources say that these conditions are a harbinger of the coming of the Mashiach, as we all fervently hope. In the meantime, we must heighten our resolve – and up our game – to be worthy of the arrival of the Mashiach and not, G-d forbid, misuse this tremendous opportunity.