The Most Important Struggle of All – Over The Definition of the Nation of Israel / Rabbi Yehuda Epstein – Chairman of the ‘Kedushat Zion’ Association – The Association of Charedim for the Restoration of Zion Based on Pure Standards of HolinessTomer Moskovitch, Director General of the Population and Immigration Authority at the Ministry of the Interior, revealed a shocking statistic, according to which about two-thirds of the ‘immigrants’ from the Russian Federation that go to Israel are not Jews according to Halacha.
It should be a statistic that causes the “building foundations” to shake. But unfortunately, his words will probably continue to be relegated to the inside pages of the newspapers, if at all, while the main headlines will be occupied with fateful questions, such as who will be in fifth place in a party that has no chance of passing the electoral threshold, or what a certain minister said about a certain MK. And so, under the radar, we are losing the first opportunity to establish a full Jewish life after two thousand years, in which we lived under the yoke of foreigners.
You need to understand what is happening here. The Law of Return – the law that allows every Jew to immigrate to Israel – does not define the term ‘Jew’ as Jewish law does. This is the root of all sin, and it is rooted in the most fundamental dispute that exists between faithful Judaism and Herzl’s Zionism, which although this movement knew how to recognize that we are a nation and not a collection of individuals or communities, but did not know how to understand what our essence is as the nation of Hashem.
This is not just another fight between ‘religious’ and ‘secular’ over the question of how much the Israeli public sphere will look, either more as the religious want or less. This is a question that defines the identity of the nation of Israel, a fundamental question of our very identity. Are we the nation of Hashem? Is the Torah the Constitution for all our national life, or perhaps we are just another ‘nation’ that in the framework of its culture also has a religion, which only binds those who choose to live according to the light?
If the second answer is correct, then the door is opened to bring into the ‘nation’ also those who do not belong to a religion. As not only a Christian, but also a Jew or a Muslim can be French, as a Buddhist or an atheist or anyone else can be an American, so also a Russian, Ukrainian and Arab can be ‘Israeli’. He only has to take on the citizenship of the country, but matters of faith and worship are his private affairs. This is how Herzl tried to rebuild the nation of Israel. Therefore, ultra-orthodox Judaism came out as a buffer against the move. And also the greatest ultra-Orthodox thinker of his generation, Rabbi Dr. Yitzhak Breuer, one of the founders and leaders of Agudat Israel, who well understood the national dimension of the people, the centrality of the Land of Israel in the life of the nation and the greatness of the era, heralding the fulfillment of the vision of the prophets and the return of the people of Israel to their land – Nevertheless, he fully understood the danger inherent in Zionism as defined by its ideologues and its leaders, and therefore did not agree to join this movement, not even as a ‘religious Zionist’, which tries to put a Kipa on this fundamentally Western secular idea.
Comment by the editor: To be fair to Religious Zionists, many of them are aware of the faults of Herzl, but feel that we can still work with the secular Zionists to achieve common goals and then take over the movement to be in line with the Torah ideal, when conditions are ripe.
Comment 2 by the editor: Currently the majority of the clerics of “Reform Judaism” do not define animals as being Jewish. But since their definition of Jewish is merely cultural, when there is a cultural push to define animals as Jews, they will. If you think this is unlikely, you are invited to read the post: Argentina Judge Grants an Orangutan “Personhood”, But A New York City Judge Denies “Happy the Elephant”, The Rights of a Person