Why Do Secular Israeli Care What the Rabbi Thinks?

Secular Israelis are coming out virulently against appointing a fascist, nationalist, racist extremist as Israel’s chief rabbi. Why do they care? Why not appoint him?

Kobi Niv
Kobi Niv
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Kobi Niv
Kobi Niv

Good and seemingly enlightened people have come out virulently against appointing a fascist, nationalist, racist extremist as Israel’s chief rabbi. Most of those people, including the attorney general, are totally secular. And so, questions are posed: Why do you care? Why not appoint him? What’s the problem?

As far as the secular people are concerned, the Chief Rabbinate only meddles in their lives when it comes to marriage and divorce. So why do you really care if the rabbi that marries you is a nationalist? Do any of you actually check up on the political leanings of the rabbi that performs your marriage or grants your divorce? If so, do you know the opinions of the rabbis that serve above him on the religious council, or the Chief Rabbinate? Of course you don’t. So what’s with this nonsense? What do you care if the chief rabbi is racist, or cheap, or has no nose, for that matter? Aside from this fairly inconsequential issue of marriage and divorce, the duties of the Chief Rabbinate include providing religious services to the Jewish citizens of Israel who recognize its authority, and refuse its orders. And who are they? They aren’t the secular, who don’t need religious services − except those forced upon them by law like marriage and divorce. They aren’t the ultra-Orthodox, especially not the Ashkenazim among them, who don’t recognize the Rabbinate’s authority and don’t follow its directives.

The Chief Rabbinate of Israel and the two chief rabbis are actually the Chief Rabbinate and rabbis of Ashkenazi religious Zionism, which was founded by Rav Kook and his son, as well as the Mizrahi-non-Zionist Haredim, headed by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and his sons. And all of these fierce battles being waged over the election ‏(which is actually just a large appointments committee‏) are being fought over one, single issue − and that is who will eventually get to control the huge budgets that the Rabbinate allocates to those who run it, namely, Habayit Hayehudi, or Shas. Why this is important to secular Israelis, and why they’re getting involved is totally unclear. One thing, however, is abundantly clear: If the chief rabbi meant to represent and lead his flock, is elected ‏(or appointed, it doesn’t really matter‏) from Habayit Hayehudi or from Shas, we should not disqualify a racist, extremist, fascist from getting the job. On the contrary, we should realize that there is actually no better man for this lofty and holy position than an extremist, racist, fascist nationalist.

Is it really possible that all of this mayhem driven by secular, supposedly enlightened people serves only to cover up the truth, to hide − mostly from ourselves − the clear and unpleasant fact that religious practice in Israel is actually fascist, nationalist, extremist, and racist, just like the rabbis jockeying for the job?

One more small question: Why is a fascist, nationalist, extremist racist allowed, according to Jewish law and the laws of peace among brothers, to serve as chief rabbi of one city in Israel, but not as chief rabbi of all of Israel?

So come on Rabbi Eliayhu, show them all who’s boss − and how much you hate the Arabs.

Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu.Credit: Moti Milrod

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