Anything but Plesner

The religious bubble that is swallowing Israel has three foundations of power that were created by the state. Plesner buttresses all three.

Sefi Rachlevsky
Sefi Rachlevsky
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Sefi Rachlevsky
Sefi Rachlevsky

Yohanan Plesner's seminar paper actually started out well, with quotes from several yeshiva heads who were astonished that the Hazon Ish (Rabbi Avraham Karelitz, a Haredi leader in pre-State Israel ) had agreed to full-time, lifelong religious study for Haredim. This unprecedented arrangement contradicts Jewish law. According to the Rambam (Moses Maimonides ), the first people to go to hell are those who don't work and expect others to support them so they could learn Torah. It was the secular state that invented this unprecedented religious hothouse.

The religious bubble that is swallowing Israel has three foundations of power that were created by the state. Plesner buttresses all three.

The first is the discriminatory and autonomous educational bubble. Nearly 56 percent of Israeli children whom the state defines as Jews going into first grade this fall - during or ahead of the war with Iran - will be sent to religious or Haredi classes subsidized by the state, separated by gender and in the spirit of Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, who has ruled that Jews are prohibited from renting or selling homes to Arabs and who was recently appointed by Magen David Adom to head a religious ethics committee; Ra'anana Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Peretz, known for his provocative anti-gay remarks; and Shas party spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the rabbi of the current government, known for his provocative remarks against non-Jews.

The second foundation is the colossal privileges that are received in the name of religion. The third, and most important, foundation is the religious bubble's distortion of the public space, like a black hole that distorts the surrounding space. In order to enable the "integration" of the religious, all laws and logic are distorted and replaced by a bigoted alternative. Marriage between Jews and non-Jews was banned in Israel from the start, for the sake of Orthodox convenience. The free movement of vehicle-less Israelis is restricted on 20 percent of the days in the year. These restrictions are enforced from cradle to grave.

In the army, the distortion shatters all boundaries. For the sake of the religious the Israel Defense Forces creates a space from which all women are banished, as if they were unclean and inferior. Even the head of the Personnel Directorate, Maj. Gen. Orna Barbivai, is banished from that space in order that holy soldiers not be compelled to see her. These are the enlistment tracks that Plesner seeks to expand.

Let's say it plainly: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is preferable to Plesner. The Iranian president suggested that the West, from Germany to Alaska, take in Israel's Jews. If the way to maintain an army in Israel is to banish women as impure and to create a variety of racist frameworks, it would be better not to have a state at all.

Plesner's recommendations are all along this problematic line. All of them reinforce the foundations of the racist-religious bubble that is swallowing Israel whole. More racist "religious" autonomy; more privileges granted through costly and abbreviated national service for 23-year-old married men with children, most of whom teach in their communities; and a host of spatial distortions along the way to forging a racist-religious and non-democratic state. Similarly, the sanctions that would be imposed on those Arabs who refused to enlist in the Army of God nicely complement the annexation report submitted by former Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levy. In this manner, little Israel would be annexed to the territories. Israeli Arabs would gradually be deprived of citizenship.

Were Plesner to look around he would realize that his law is utterly superfluous. The abolition of the Tal Law reinstated the duty to enlist in national service at age 18. The abolition of the Tal Law also struck down the unfounded basis of the Hesder yeshivas.

It is only Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his religious cronies who want a replacement for that law. But because they lack a majority, they needed the services of Plesner and company. They struck an ingenious deal: In exchange for giving the force of law to the religious world of privileges that the High Court of Justice shattered when it struck down the Tal Law, a broader coalition that provides greater legitimacy for the imminent war on Iran, a war Vice Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz claims to oppose.

More than a decade ago the High Court ruled against exempting the religious from the draft. Ehud Barak was elected on the wings of this correction, when his voters roared: "Anything but Shas." He had a secular majority to build a coalition but abandoned it by adopting the Tal Law, on his way to a war. And now every upstanding Israeli citizen should shout, "Anything but Plesner."



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