Israel's Ultra-Orthodox Community Is Playing Its Historic Role

B. Michael
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Members of the Ultra-Orthodox community rioting in Bnei Brak as police attempt to enforce COVID restrictions, 2021.
Members of the Ultra-Orthodox community rioting in Bnei Brak as police attempt to enforce COVID restrictions, 2021. Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
B. Michael

There’s no need to get all worked up about the Haredim. Consciously or not, they’re basically just performing their historic role: destroying every Jewish attempt to establish a national entity.

This mission fell to them after the bitter end of a good number of attempts to create Jewish entities of this type: the kingdoms of Israel and Judah that collapsed, the failed Hasmonean kingdom, the revolt against the Romans and the destruction of Jerusalem, and of course the devastation that Bar Kochba and Rabbi Akiva ushered in upon the Jews of the land. All of these catastrophes arose from attempts to establish a Jewish state, and all collapsed in the same way: through religious madness, a growing lust for power, deep moral corruption, spreading rot and then dissolution or ruin.

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Apparently this was the moment when our Sages decided to say – That’s it! Enough! We get it: Jews and statehood don’t go together. We must ensure it never happens again. And they also knew just what to do to prevent a repeat of the troubles: Prohibit it in rabbinical Jewish law, in the halakha. And so they did.

They put statehood and nationality under the sole authority of the Messiah. They said that only he may build us a national home, erect a Temple, establish a kingdom. And until the Messiah comes, the Chosen People ought to live only under the patronage of foreign empires, only in exile and in Eretz Israel – only under the rule of an enlightened nation.

So it was for 2,000 years and more. There were good years and there were bad years. There was growth and there was decline, there was joy and there was death, pain and loss. But there was nothing that came anywhere near the devastation from Bar Kochba. And the Jews, freed from the burden of maintaining a state, army and authority, harnessed their energy to develop and foster study, philosophy, culture, creative work and worthy attributes. It seemed that the perfect formula had been found: a nation freed of nationalism, that needed nothing more for its survival then a full bookshelf and a sense of humor.

Then the Holocaust came and shattered Bar Kochba’s bloody record. The survivors could only look to the national option once more. And fundamentalist Judaism immediately bestirred itself to again fulfill its historic role: to put an end to this forbidden abomination. To bring about its demise by the tried and tested method: religious madness, lust for power, deep moral corruption, spreading rot and ruin.

And so we have come to this point. Religious madness has bestowed respectability upon racism, condescension, hatred and evil. These liberated impulses brought the Haredi-national religious symbiosis to the world. Together their fingers squeeze the udders of the public trough and milk it dry. A thickening line already connects the violent shebab of Bnei Brak to the criminal hilltop youth. They elect evil scoundrels and greedy liars, and all is ready now for the finale.

Perhaps they have already won. Perhaps there is nothing left to do but abandon the anguished homeland and return to the exile of our forefathers. To wait there for the Messiah and to recharge the drained batteries with infusions of philosophy, culture, art and ethics. After another two thousand years, perhaps we’ll be wise enough to try again. Or perhaps the entire world will wise up and be done with all this nationality nonsense. Or perhaps by then the Messiah will come, the Temple will be rebuilt, a kingdom will be established, and as he sprinkles blood on the altar, he’ll invite us to join him.

“Thank you,” we’ll reply politely, “but first we want to see how you get along with the Haredim.”

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