Rabbi Sacks
Rabbi Sacks Corey Vidan

Speaking Wednesday, former British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks said that the IDF served a very important role in Israeli society, as it was one of the few places where those from religious and secular backgrounds could get to know each other. He said that it would be beneficial for members of the hareidi religious community to serve as well.

Rabbi Sacks was speaking at the graduation ceremony of the Gesharim course, which is run by the Gesher organization, a group that strives to increase understanding and cooperation between religious and secular Israelis. The Gesharim course was designed for community leaders in the religious Zionist, hareidi religious, and secular communities to learn about each others' needs and concerns, and to develop effective ways to communicate.

Rabbi Sacks said that the “war” between secular and religious Israelis was due to their fear of each other. “Both sides fear being forced to accept the values and lifestyle of the other. But our task at this time is not to fear, and once we realize there is nothing to fear we can meet and overcome many of the gaps that separate us,” he said.

Rabbi Sacks said that the army was a good place for that understanding to take place. “I would like to see more members of the hareidi religious community in the army,” he said, “if only to enable them to meet others, and for others to meet them, in many cases for the first time.”

Speaking at the event, Gesher chairman Ilan Galdor said that “all Israelis should be listening to Rabbi Sacks, especially about the importance of dialogue and lowering the emotional level of the encounter with 'the other.' Fear leads to an increase in the roadblocks between us. Anyone who believes in their own path in life will have no problem meeting and learning about those in other communities,” he added.