Monday, June 27

the bitter and permanent struggle within Judaism, article by Eugenio García Gascón


The tone of the incendiary harangues against the Reform Judaism in Israel it intensifies every year. The ultra-Orthodox rabbis tirelessly stir up the waters against reformers, using whatever platform is put at their disposal, from the print media to the podium of the Knesset. In recent times his main demon is the progressive rabbi Gilad Kariv, of American origin and that in the last elections he was elected deputy for the list of the squalid labor party.

The fight without quarter we are witnessing is as old as Judaism itself. It is enough to remember the hostility with which they fought each other Pharisees and Sadducees 2,000 years ago. The former followed religious law to the letter, and were often branded false and hypocritical, just as they are described in the Gospel. The Pharisees of then are the ultra-Orthodox of today, who strive with the same unthinking will to comply with the precepts of an old law that has never expired and will never expire, although it sometimes changes. Opposite them were the Sadducees, prone to progress and enlightened Greek and Roman customs, who are today’s reformers, open to modernity and uncomfortable with the old law. The same struggle has existed at almost every moment in the history of Judaism and nothing indicates that it will be eclipsed in the future.

The ultra-Orthodox argue that if it weren’t for them, Judaism would have disappeared long ago, which is most likely true. Instead, the reformers argue that there is little point in sticking to dry laws that were enacted more than two millennia ago and should not be followed to the letter, as if the world had not been turning ever since.

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While the reform movement flourishes in the United States, it barely survives in Israel. The ultra-Orthodox consider them an abomination that puts at risk the very essence and existence of Judaism. Some call for unity around the law understood rigorously and others defend a ‘pluralism’ away from ‘radical positions’.

The powerful official rabbinate is an exclusively ultra-Orthodox institution whose tentacles reach almost every corner of society, unscrupulously oppressing those it considers heretical.

In Israel there is a ‘de facto’ ultra-orthodox monopoly that is expressed in all sorts of laws (and the absence of laws). Very few deputies dare to raise their voices against this control that determines who is Jewish or who can marry. The powerful official rabbinate it is an exclusively ultra-orthodox institution whose tentacles reach almost every corner of society, unscrupulously oppressing those it considers heretics. There are influential ultra-Orthodox rabbis who insult the Reformists with all the bad intentions possible by calling them “Christians”, and consequently invite them to leave Israel, to go abroad to live among Christians.

The virulence of the attacks grows as the ultra-Orthodox they feel threatened. They believe that any day Parliament will begin to pass laws that will undermine their monopoly and that this will mean the end of Judaism in the medium term. This idea probably prevents many from sleeping peacefully and makes them more susceptible and aggressive.

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It wasn’t always like this. When the state was created in 1948, after the Holocaust, the ultra-Orthodox constituted an almost insignificant minority. They certainly got some privileges but no one saw them as a threat. Things started to change after his alliance with the nationalist right in 1977. The nationalist right everywhere usually agrees with religion, even with the most retrograde. The right and religion like to wrap themselves in the typical costumes of their region or their nation, a harmony shared by the two currents, so that we are facing a happy marriage.

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The victorious right-wing populism in 1977 allowed the ultra-Orthodox to obtain a lot of money from the state and free their young men from military service. In addition, the number of ultra-Orthodox youth participating in the labor market plummeted, a situation that is more burdensome today. At the same time, the rabbis increased their power in the country as a whole, a circumstance that has lasted until today.


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