“There Is No Hatred Like the Hatred of Faith”

letter-447577_1280

The piece that follows is shocking in its smugness, in its arrogance, in its elitism, in its hatred – even for Haaretz. I present it in the entirety, as an aid to understanding what is right and what is wrong with Israel today.
This cannot be an easy time for the fanatically secular in Israel. A new survey shows that 80% of Israelis believe in G-d. In the midst of all the disagreement – even between contributors to Cross-Currents – about the role and responses of the charedi community, this factoid should be a source of great hope, promise and challenge for the future.

The effete snobs of Haaretz are not happy with this finding, and even less happy to learn that 70% of Israelis believe that Jews are the Chosen People. Gideon Levy has an epiphany. He discovers the reason for all that is wrong with Israel. This belief (and the attendant belief in the Bible itself, from which it derives) is the spring from which all kinds of ugliness and toxicity flow: the occupation, the racism, the ability to go it alone against the global community. He announces to whomever will listen: “The enemy is not religious coercion. Worse than coercion is genuine belief in all this silliness! We are all Haredim! We are all Sikrikim!”

I wish I were exaggerating. Read and weep. Cry that there are Jews who are far more offended by Jewish particularism than are non-Jews. Cry that the rest of us have done so poor of a job in personifying the true meaning of chosenness – an assumption upon ourselves to live lives of sanctity and responsibility that makes belief in Hashem appealing and inviting. Cry that people have no inkling that being the Am Nivchar can and must mean that we have greater concern for the Other, not lesser; that we become more sensitive to pain and suffering of any tzelem Elokim, not more insulated and unfeeling. Cry that they are oblivious to the fact that there has been no shortage of Jews who demonstrated this again and again. Cry that Jews can become so contemptuous of their own heritage that they become the leaders of the movement to destroy the Jewish State, and authors of the worst anti-Semitic literature up for sale.

Take heed that those who are most certain that belief in Hashem and His Torah is a certain sign of barbaric primitivism are those most willing to commit their brothers and sisters into the hands of Hamas.

R. Akiva’s admission of his attitude to the Torah sage when he was an ignorant shepherd – “I will bite him like a donkey” – seems tame opposite the self-immolation of Gideon Levy in his fiery hatred of Judaism.

G-d rules all in 2012 Israel, even the state

By Gideon Levy

G-d exists. Eighty percent of Israeli Jews can’t be wrong. And it is precisely for that reason we must say: G-d protect us from the results of the poll (conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute’s Guttman Center for Surveys and the Avi Chai Foundation ). While it is conceivably possible to deal with that burning, wholesale belief in the divine, what do we do with the “You chose us” part? Seventy percent of respondents said they also believed Jews are the Chosen People – and that frightening parameter is only on the rise.

You have to give it to the pollsters. They let the cat out of the bag. To paraphrase the Haaretz advertising slogan from the 1990s – Israel: Not what you thought. Not what the world thought, not what Israelis imagine themselves to think. Israeli society isn’t secular, it isn’t liberal and it isn’t enlightened. Were they permitted to respond freely, it’s doubtful that 80 percent of Iranians would say they believed in G-d; it’s doubtful there is any other free nation on the planet, with the possible exception of the Americans, that would produce the same results. But there surely is no other nation on the planet that is so secure in its arrogant certainty that it was selected from all the other nations and raised above them.

The findings of this powerful poll are the most important key to understanding Israeli society and the conduct of its governments. It is the only prism through which it is possible to comprehend the occupation, the racism, the Haredization and the capitulation to the settlers. In our hearts, we think: This is our destiny. If in any enlightened society settlers and the ultra-Orthodox would be treated as marginal, eccentric, messianic groups, the attitude toward them in Israel comes from a very deep place within the “secular” society. If in any enlightened society the occupation stirs protest and revulsion, the attitude to it here is based in a religious belief that justifies all its iniquities.

The survey proves that we are all “hilltop youth,” and that most of us are Sicarii. Expressions of racism toward Arabs and foreigners, Israel’s arrogant attitude toward international opinion – these too can be explained by the benighted, primeval belief of the majority of Israelis (70 percent ) that we enjoy complete license because You chose us. Even the religious character of the state, which is much less secular than we tend to think – no buses or El Al flights during Shabbat, no civil marriage, no unkosher hotels, a mezuzah on the doorjamb of nearly every home and a rising number of people who kiss it each time they enter or exit – all this can be explained by the survey data.

There is much less religious coercion than it would appear, much more willing dedication to the caprices of Jewish fundamentalism. From now on, it can no longer be claimed that the secular majority has acquiesced to the religious minority; there is no secular majority, only a negligible minority.

In contrast to most European states today, in Israel “atheist” is a derogatory term that few people even dare to say, much less use to identify themselves. In such a country, it is impossible to speak seriously about secularism. We should admit the truth, which is that we are an almost religious society and a state that is almost based on religious law. There’s no need to keep counting the number of people wearing kippot, headscarves or shtreimels. Bareheaded people are in the same camp: They accept the character of their state, where the religion is the state and the state is the religion, all mixed together. There’s no need to keep being shocked by religious extremism – being religious, whether moderate or extreme, is all the same, and it’s the majority here.

From Jenin to Hebron, we are in the West Bank above all because the majority of Israelis believe that it is not only the land of the patriarchs, but that this fact gives us a patrimonial right to sovereignty, to cruelty, to abuse and to occupation – and to hell with the position of the international community and the principles of international law, because, after all, we were chosen from among all other peoples. From Bnei Brak to Mea She’arim, these Haredim are, to a large extent, us, just with different dress and languages – more extreme versions of the same belief.
Perhaps it was inevitable. A state that arose on a certain territory and conquered another territory and has remained there nearly forever, all on the basis of Bible stories; a population that never decided whether it was a nation or a religion; and a state that purports to be a “Jewish state,” even if no one has any idea what that means. All these cannot exist with no foundation – a chosen people that believes in its G-d. That is Israel, circa 2012. G-d have mercy on us.

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26 Responses

  1. dovid2 says:

    Yisrael Asper: “Further the Haaretz types have vastly contributed to the polarization that causes what you condemn.”

    How much I wish this were true. The charedi hooligans are the exclusive product of the charedi world, not any less than the g’dolei Eretz Israel. To the extent the charedi world finds these hooligans useful in any way to advance its political goals, even if it finds their methods unsavory, it’s only fair for the charedi world to take the blame for them. To the extent the charedi world does not come out vehemently, in one voice, against anyone calling a little girl prostitute, against terrorizing children going to school, against throwing rocks at people or buses, against those in their midst unwilling to extend kavod to a fellow human being, to the extent the charedi world does not take effective steps to isolate these hooligans and put them out of business for good, the charedi world deserves the reputation it currently has, notwithstanding the exceptional achievements of the B’nei Torah it has producted.

  2. Tal Benschar says:

    it’s doubtful there is any other free nation on the planet, with the possible exception of the Americans, that would produce the same results

    This is in the geder of nibah ve eino yodeah ma nibah.

    I have always wondered why Israel is held in such contempt in Europe but in such high esteem in America. (I am not talking about the intellectual elites, I am talking about the majority of ordinary people.) Perhaps he has inadvertently put his finger on it. America is a fundamentally religious country although it has a secular government. The experience of Israel (and indeed of the Jewish people) tends to confirm God’s presence in the world. This makes atheists highly uncomfortable, but tends to confirm believers in their belief.

  3. Yisrael Asper says:

    The world of Gideon is collapsing. The Palestinians are not going to be making peace with Israel but war with themselves. “Reb Yid
    Not to spoil the party, but these folks don’t exactly have a monopoly on smugness or vituperative hatred.

    Religious folks need only look at themselves in the mirror…Beit Shemesh is only Exhibit A of religious and ideological fervor gone amok against those who are perceived as not meeting religious specs.”

    Well not to spoil your party but the religious are not the Beit Shemesh fanatics. We all need to look at ourselves in the mirror, including you, but we don’t need those who offer a distorted mirror like you give. Further the Haaretz types have vastly contributed to the polarization that causes what you condemn.

  4. Yisrael Asper says:

    THe world of Gideon is collapsing. THe Palestiniainas are not going to be making peace with Israel but war with themselves. “Reb Yid
    Not to spoil the party, but these folks don’t exactly have a monopoly on smugness or vituperative hatred.

    Religious folks need only look at themselves in the mirror…Beit Shemesh is only Exhibit A of religious and ideological fervor gone amok against those who are perceived as not meeting religious specs.”

    Well not to spoil your party but the religious are not the Beit Shemesh fanatics. We all need to look at ourselves in the mirror, including you, but we don’t need those who offer a distorted mirror like you give. Further the Haaretz types have vastly contributed to the polarization that causes what you condemn.

  5. Yehoshua Friedman says:

    A few scattered comments:

    Part of that trend is in today’s Likud primary in which Moshe Feiglin is expected to once again increase his percentage of the vote and once again be shut out of the leadership by dirty tricks. Those of you who are Likud members, get out and vote today. Those of you who are still in America, get over here and make EY even holier and be able to afford to send your kids to school.

    Am segula … why not “purple people” a royal color?

    Kiruv should work on the 20-80 principle like all teaching and selling. The 20% who are most likely to be affected should get 80% of the attention. The rest get the other 20% and some Tehillim. Daven for Levy and don’t let it eat you up. The future truly belongs to Hashem and His people. Both will prevail.

  6. dovid2 says:

    lo fidalti: Worst case scenario, when he comes to Shomayim (after 120) Hashem will greet him: “Gideon, you I really love. You were busy with Me all your life. Too bad, you came to the wrong conclusion, but you thought of Me all the time.
    Not like some of these guys who just go through the motions, & never spare one single thought for Me.”

    This is a great insight. We should tziter (tremble in Yiddish) that it might be true so that we shouldn’t be called charedim for no reason.

  7. David F. says:

    Harry,

    “If we’re serious in “kiruv rechokim”, these are the rechokim we have to work with.”

    Does this mean that those who do kiruv rechokim are not “serious” in what they do? Or is this your way of saying that this is how you’d do it if you were actually serious about it?

  8. Reb Yid says:

    Not to spoil the party, but these folks don’t exactly have a monopoly on smugness or vituperative hatred.

    Religious folks need only look at themselves in the mirror…Beit Shemesh is only Exhibit A of religious and ideological fervor gone amok against those who are perceived as not meeting religious specs.

  9. Baruch Gitlin says:

    lo fidalti – I like that worst case scenario a lot. Reminds me of Woody Allen, I forget which movie this is from, but he refuted someone who called him an atheist by saying he was the “loyal opposition.”

    As for “Am Segulah” – what about “special people” – or, to be more wordy but maybe more accurate – “people with a special mission.” I think the biggest misunderstanding there is about this chosen people stuff is that it gives us some kind of special privilege. To the contrary, I always thought it gave us a special responsibility.

  10. lo fidalti says:

    “a mezuzah on the doorjamb of nearly every home and a rising number of people who kiss it each time they enter or exit”
    I don’t see hatred here.
    Levy feels overwhelmed, saddened & irritated by the news that he belongs now to an atheist minority.
    This must be a very big “klap” for him. I actually feel for him. No irony here.
    He still might come to his senses.
    Worst case scenario, when he comes to Shomayim (after 120) Hashem will greet him: “Gideon, you I really love. You were busy with Me all your life. Too bad, you came to the wrong conclusion, but you thought of Me all the time.
    Not like some of these guys who just go through the motions, & never spare one single thought for Me.”

  11. Mr. Cohen says:

    Gideon Levy seems to not understand that the “international community”
    whose collective opinion he highly values to is around 25% Muslim by population
    and around 33% Muslim by the number of U.N. members,
    and most of the others are afraid to do anything that might anger Muslims.

  12. Mr. Cohen says:

    Does AM SEGULAH really mean “chosen people”?

    To better understand the simple translation [peshat] of the phrase AM SEGULAH,
    look into Kohelet chapter 2 verse 8 and Divrei HaYamim Aleph chapter 29 verse 3
    with the commentaries of Rashi and Metsudath David.

  13. Toronto Yid says:

    His last sentence is particularly ironic!

  14. Bob Miller says:

    Wherever on earth these snobs ultimately want to emigrate to, there are some people there already who are just like them. It’s a worldwide affliction, but it stands out most starkly in our Holy Land.

  15. concerned says:

    Thank you for pointing out this article. If he is correct in describing modern day Israel the future looks much brighter than it would seem from the newspapers. Too bad for Gideon and his ilk but who knows….they may come around soon as well.

  16. yy says:

    I find it refreshing to get the issues clear.

    G-d is not what divides us. It’s the notion of His favoritism.

    This is not a new battle. It’s been raging since the French revolution. Is it possible that there are some people inherently more privileged than others?

    I agree with R’ Yitzchak that the real challenge is to begin living our chosenness as a palpable kiddush H’

  17. joel rich says:

    R’YA said:This cannot be an easy time for the fanatically secular in Israel.
    ————————
    Interesting – many orthodox find the use of the term fanatic offensive when applied to orthodoxy.
    KT

  18. Ellen says:

    He lumps so many things together – definitely more of an emotional piece for that 20% who agree, than some logically formulated argument in favor of secularism.

    The link in the title is to the “print” view – would it be possible to add a link to the original article?

    [YA – OK. It’s http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/opinion/god-rules-all-in-2012-israel-even-the-state-1.409739 ]

  19. L. Oberstein says:

    “The effete snobs of Haaretz”
    A vert apt description. Every issue of Haaretz contains articles about how the present government is backward and ruining chances for peace. Haaretz and the Supreme Court represent the old guard, the effete snobs. You hit the hail on the head.

  20. Pg says:

    At least one quarter of Haaretz is owned by a German company

  21. Gavriel says:

    “all on the basis of Bible stories”

    What, he doesn’t believe that there was an ancient Jewish presence in Israel?!

  22. Harry Zeitlin says:

    I didn’t intend the previous comment as a “feelgood” platitude. If we’re serious in “kiruv rechokim”, these are the rechokim we have to work with. It’s not so hard to turn someone on who is already curious and vaguely attracted. It’s rarely going to be successful to counterattack–we’ll just drive him and his cronies even farther from Torah. If we act like doormats, we also won’t get anywhere. While I don’t have a solution, I think that in the meantime we need to make sure that nothing we do as individuals close the door even further.

  23. Baruch Gitlin says:

    It’s important to remember that people like Gideon Levy make up a very, very small percentage of secular Israel. Even in HaAretz, there are many other writers that are capable of writing positive things about Jews and Judaism. As Rabbi Adlerstein himself says in this post, that same issue of HaAretz headlined a poll stating that 80% of Jews in Israel believe in God, and 70% believe we are the chosen people. Judging secular Israelis based on Gideon Levy is like judging religious Israelis based on the most anti-dati leumi anti-secular columns in the Israeli Yated Neeman.

  24. manny saltiel says:

    Gideon Levy, it seems to me, would be much happier in Luxemberg. Can someone help him pack his bags please?

  25. Harry Zeitlin says:

    The challenge, as I can see it, is how to keep our hearts open to fellow Jews like this in spite of the hate they spew. But it’s a fine line between an open and a broken heart in things like this.

  26. Ben Waxman says:

    If it matters, Adon Gideon (along with a few other writers for this particular paper) may whine and cry about various aspects of Israel, while being widely read and admired in chutz l’aretz. In Israel he and his opinions are barely known. Haaretz has their English edition which is quite popular but their Hebrew newspaper has the smallest circulation of the four major papers. And of those who do read it, many only read “The Marker”.