By Brian GORDON, Barnet councillor.
I felt highly complimented by the barrage of letters in response to my previous article lambasting the anti-religious stance of Israel’s Yesh Atid party.
The majority were highly critical, which I would interpret in a favourable way.
Any politician or journalist will aver that if you express a view in a newspaper that provokes no comment you begin to doubt whether your words have had any effect.
When there is a huge negative reaction you can be sure that just as many readers – if not more – are supportive but see little purpose in writing in just to express agreement.
I accorded my critics the respect of carefully reading their letters. I have to say I was far from phased; the arguments merely confirmed my views.
Whether it was Ian Kay accusing me of disregarding democracy, Jack Colman suggesting that a few orthodox MK’s make Yesh Atid religiously acceptable, Norman Bright who chose to recount my life story and made the absurd assertion (among many) that yeshiva students haven’t heard of Rambam, or Simon Levy who claimed that Yair Lapid understands more than I the need for Torah study – there seemed to be a palpable misunderstanding of the strictly orthodox outlook.
I stress that I do not write this column as an official spokesman for the Charedi community.. For official viewpoints there are some excellent Charedi newspapers in circulation. However, to the extent that the opportunity exists in the Jewish News to portray a Charedi perspective and rebut the vilification to which the strictly orthodox are frequently subjected, I am happy to be among of those who rise to the challenge. Especially now, when for the first time in many years, all of Israel’s Charedi political parties are consigned to the opposition.
When applying an orthodox perspective to Israel one should internalise certain key principles. One is that Hashem ultimately guides national and international developments, often confounding all political logic.
There is no other explanation for the collapse of the mighty Soviet Union, or the way dictators like Saddam Hussein and Muamar Gadaffi stubbornly remained in their battle – ridden countries, as if waiting to be captured and executed. Another principle is that armies, with all their skills and training, do not win wars on their own.
Israel’s miraculous victories of 1948 and 1967 against all militarily predictable odds are eternal testimony to this. A third principle is that the only proper recipe for Jewish continuity is Torah.
Many people are desperately keen to identify as Jews, yet invest all their energies in secular ideologies. By doing so at the expense of authentic Torah Judaism there is a likelihood they will have nothing concrete to pass to their children and their descendants will tend towards assimilation. This is as applicable to Israelis as to Jews elsewhere.
With these thoughts it is hard to regard the result of Israel’s post-election horse trading as anything other than a ramshackle misdirected coalition with potential to cause unprecedented damage.
It threatens to undermine the sanctity and stability of Yeshivas with quite disproportionate funding cuts and enforced military conscription.
It threatens to emasculate Jewish identity through secular marriage and non-authentic conversions, to reconfigure welfare provision to impoverish orthodox families and severely divide Israeli society.
As for the “peace process” the underlying threat remains to destabilise long-established settlements in Judea and Samaria and acquiesce to international pressure for a “two-state solution”, so jeopardising Israel’s future existence. Of course, none of these things may happen, but they are policies now firmly on the political agenda.
Yes, I would identify Yair Lapid as a leading player in this scenario.
However, this coalition would not have been possible without Prime Minister Netanyahu. Nor indeed without the collaboration of Bayit Hayehudi. That party’s leader, Naftali Bennett presented himself pre-election as a politician with strong moral and religious values. Unfortunately, his subsequent pronouncements and embrace of Lapid would suggest otherwise.
It is a sad irony that with all the existing anti-semitism in the world, the one country where Jewish freedoms are currently most severely endangered is Israel. That should not be what Zionism and a Jewish State are all about.
If it is, then it’s a scenario the prophet Isaiah could well have envisaged with his immortal words “Your destroyers and those who lay you waste will come from within you”. They must not be allowed to succeed.