Wednesday, February 12, 2014

How religion becomes important in today’s Israel

Some Jews in Israel don’t like religion. But they love to talk about religion. They love to tell you how much they hate religion.
They hate religion because they are intellectuals. They are educated. They don’t need religion.
They went to University. They studied democracy. They analyzed democracy. They say religion is bad for democracy. 
For them, Religion is not a freedom. It’s the enemy of freedom.
It’s fascism. It keeps Israel from being democratic. It threatens to destroy Israel’s democracy.
That’s why they want to get rid of it--to save us.  Otherwise, we might not survive.
How strange. When the world’s most successful democracies—America and the UK—were founded, religion was not an enemy. It wasn’t fascism. Instead, it was one of the prerequisite freedoms that told you whether or not your nation would be democratic or oppressive, free or authoritarian.
We learn from the US and the UK experience that if you support religion you can build a democracy. If you attack religion, you abort democracy.
Perhaps these Israeli intellectuals missed those lectures. Perhaps they were out of class protesting. They certainly don’t understand freedom of religion. They don’t want to protect religion. They want to fight religion--to defend democracy.
Of course, they’re wrong. Their fight against religion will not help democracy. Their fight against religion will destroy democracy.
 You can see that in the way they fight for democracy. They go to Israel’s Parliament, the Knesset. They want to pass laws against the Rabbis and the Haredi—the ultra-religious.
They want to make it illegal for Rabbis to speak out against  government policy. They are afraid Rabbis will oppose a US peace plan that will require Israel to surrender Jewish land.
Apparently, Israeli intellectuals believe that muzzling the Rabbis will help Israel surrender land. They believe that surrendering land will keep Israel a democracy (you’ll have to ask them how democracy is related to surrendering land). That’s why muzzling Rabbis is so important.
They believe that if they curtail freedom of speech and attack religious leaders they will protect democracy. Their anti-religious prejudice convinces them that freedom of speech is as bad as religion.
That’s how their fight against religion hurts democracy. Anti-religion becomes anti-freedom of speech.
They also want a new army-draft law to include a prison sentence for any Haredi who refuses to go into the Army. They believe prison for the religious Jew will protect Israel’s democracy.
That’s how they defend democracy. They oppose freedom of speech. They oppose religion.
Today, Iran TV shows a simulated military attack against Israel. Iranian leaders declare that Israel is a cancer in the Middle East. ‘Palestinians’ call Israel ‘Palestine’—and want to free that ‘Palestine’ from Jewish control.
Israel’s existence is threatened. Israelis are worried. But Israeli intellectuals are not worried. They turn to religion.
Actually, that’s not so strange. After all, this is Israel. Religion is central to our history. Religion is crucial for our survival. Religion is what made us Jews.
Whenever our physical survival has been threatened, we have always turned to our religion. Religion protects us. What’s strange is, intellectuals who so fervently reject religion bring our religion onto stage-centre just when we need it.
Of course, these anti-religious intellectuals don’t intend to bring us to religion. They reject religion. But by rejecting religion so publicly—at just this time--they create a stir. In other words, since we haven’t brought ourselves to religion, the anti-religious have brought religion to us.
Without their attacks on religion, where would Religion be in Israel? It would be private. It would be silent. It would be individual. It wouldn’t be public.
But Israel is G-d’s country. In G-d’s country, religion should be public, not private. The Jewish land and the Jewish people exist to make religion public. But right now, we ignore religion. We privatize it. We try to hide it.
Israel needs someone to push religion back into the spotlight. Israel needs people to make religion our central concern. Israel needs people who want to talk about religion.
Thank G-d for these defenders of democracy.

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