Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Escape from the Secular Prison

More than ten years ago my wife and I were walking in the German Colony in Jerusalem on a Sabbath eve, or perhaps early Saturday evening. Anyway the streets were very quiet, and there were very few passers-by, and the city was still shrouded in holiness, when from somewhere on the left came a sudden, enormous outburst of chanting. It was too far away to see where it came from, but close enough to be heard clearly. My heart leaped as I recognized the sound of Jews praying together enthusiastically. I told my wife: "I wish I could go and join them", and she replied simply, "Well why don't you?"  I admitted to her that I simply couldn't - I had been raised in a decent, upright, secular-Zionist home that instilled in me the belief that religious Jews were the devil incarnated.
At the time there was simply no way that I could go into a synagogue and pray. The inner psychological barriers were far too intense, and besides, what did I know from praying and synagogues? The way I was raised, I had no idea about such Jewish traditions, and I was far more likely to burn a synagogue than pray in it. To illustrate the level of ignorance and loathing of Judaism I had come from, there was a joke we used to tell about a German Jew who would protest: "Of course I'm Jewish! After all, I don't eat bacon in synagogue on Yom Kippur!"

Miraculously, I had somehow been able to free myself from this secular indoctrination to the point that I was capable of feeling that I was missing something important for my soul - my Jewish heritage. Unfortunately, I was still unable to reach out and grasp it, I could only stare at it longingly - and in great fear and apprehension - from afar.

Previously on this blog I documented my unsuccessful journey towards Judaism in a series of posts stretching through November, December, and January of 2006/7. I started off with a pretty terrifying dream that illustrates the degree to which my Jewish heritage and lack thereof was, quite literally, haunting me. You can read the post here. Another post, "Purging this secular Jew" provides a very detailed picture of my secular background and how I came to realize, very slowly, that I was Jewish, and it also overviews my initial, unsuccessful attempts to become familiar with my heritage. "My First Official Judaism Lesson" describes a meeting with a Habadnik, and my attempt to read the book "How to be a Jew", which resulted in a terrifying nightmare. I stopped reading the book immediately (as it happens, just last week I  resumed reading it. As of now, I am not having any nightmares!) This post describes My Second Judaism Lesson, held in an obscure yeshiva for Baalei Tshuva, after my Habadnik disappeared, and this post describes my second (and last) time there. This post documents an unfruitful visit to Machon Meir. The last post in this series describes an uneventful Visit To The Local Synagogue. The blog posts end after that and indeed, about five years ago I stopped trying to reclaim my Jewish heritage and went off to deal with other more urgent issues, such as paying the rent... Several people followed my journey at the time and gave me some very good advice, especially West Bank Mama and Mother in Israel. I wish to take this opportunity to thank both of them and invite them to read on...their efforts were not in vain. Which brings me to the point: why am I bothering you with all this?



I am doing so because last week, I went into a synagogue and prayed Mincha and Arvit like a real, grown-up, honest-to-goodness Jew would. Even though I had never been to this synagogue, and the prayer leader had an awful, barely understandable Yiddish accent, I still managed to understand and keep track, more or less, of what was going on. The important thing was that I stepped into the synagogue without fear or apprehension, in the clear feeling that I belonged there, that the Jewish heritage is mine also, and that I have the right (perhaps even the obligation) to partake in it, and that I even know how to!
I was not ashamed to enter the synagogue and pray, I was not ashamed to be with other religious Jews (in this case - actual Hasidim!), and I had no sense of betrayal. In fact, not only did I not feel bad about myself - I felt great. I felt liberated, and I was walking on air the whole evening and several days after. Oddly enough, it turns out that a secular education, which prides itself on nurturing freedom, can also be a prison - if it religiously forbids faith and religious tradition (and yes, hating religion can be a religion unto itself).

But the path to freedom is never easy and neither was mine. Like I said, I had given up on ever reclaiming my heritage. For several years I made no further attempts in this area of my life. In fact I was so busy trying to move from Jerusalem to the North (and back again - don't ask) that I admit I almost completely - but not entirely - forgot about the Jewish hole in my soul. But as they say, men make plans, and God laughs hysterically. I'm guessing He took great pleasure in planning  this one out and I hope you enjoy the story as well:


How the Housing Crisis Helped Me Repair the Jewish Hole in My Soul
So we were back in Jerusalem after going completely out of our comfort zone into unfamiliar territory. We had moved around the country in the worst time possible, just at the onset of the housing crisis. As a result, we lived in pretty shitty houses, with pretty shitty landlords, who did as little as possible to maintain their property, while extorting as much as possible from their tenants. We still had a particularly rapacious one breathing down our necks, and only three months in which to find an apartment in Jerusalem that would both satisfy our needs, personal as well as professional, and still be within our means. As anyone who has had to search for an apartment in Jerusalem (or anywhere else in the country, I suppose), this was asking quite a lot. We had also vowed never again to take an apartment that we did not want, just because there was no other choice. "Ein Briera" was out (and for those not fluent in Hebrew, Ein Breira is not a name of a refreshing spring in the Judean Desert. If anything, it is the gateway to hell). If needed, I was willing to live in the streets and not sign a diabolical contract or rent an awful apartment. In this grim, determined mood we set out to look for an apartment.

In over two and a half months I think we saw about 25 apartments, none of which were even remotely close to satisfying our needs and all of which looked terrible and cost a lot more than was reasonable. Along the way we met many openly greedy and inconsiderate landlords, who unashamedly showed us their expensive, neglected property. It was a very dismaying and harrowing time, and we had barely two weeks left! There was the one apartment, which we had seen a month before. My wife liked it but the room that was supposed to be my study was very small - I had been dreaming of a much larger study, not a much smaller one. The other rooms were also smaller than we needed, so we moved on - I was sure that we could find something better - we simply had to!

And then we finally saw an apartment that was suitable - at least it was large enough, really spacious, and also the rent was affordable for us and it even looked ok, at least some of it. The big problem was that it was on a very noisy street, but what choice did we have? In two months and a half this was the first and only apartment that had enough room for our stuff. We talked to the landlord who looked OK, but when my wife began to get into the specifics he seemed to back off and hesitate. The problem became clear when he sent us the contract - it was an eight page monstrosity that mainly stated that we have no rights whatsoever, and the landlord has no obligations. I thought that if you need 8 pages of legal jargon to rent an apartment, perhaps you would be better off finding someone else more trustworthy to deal with. The landlord was unwilling to budge, so we had to sign the contract or find something else - and we had only ten days! But we just couldn't sign it - the contract was truly frightening.

Out of all the apartments we had seen there was only one that my wife liked (I hadn't liked any), so in a gesture of defeat I suggested we call up the apartment again and see if it was still for rent - a whole month had passed so it was improbable, but still, it was worth a try. I said that I would measure all the stuff in my room and then we'll check the study in the new apartment to see if it really was that small. Somehow the apartment was still for rent and we made an appointment. Previously we had met with the husband, a very gentle, mild-mannered person. My wife had been very impressed with the way he let us be, while quietly playing with his child (I was too busy being disappointed to notice). This time we met with his wife who seemed nice too. Both were religious, the husband had a kippah and the wife a shavis. I measured the study and it was actually pretty good - the important stuff would fit. We discussed the price with the wife and then agreed to meet at their place in the evening to close the deal. It looked like we were close to finishing this terrible ordeal, but we wouldn't know until the contract was signed.

We met at their parents house (they were religious too). It turned out that they (our couple) had bought the apartment but were living with the parents until they could pay off some of the mortgage - which was our rent. So, as we had felt, this was not the standard landlord trying to pillage the tenants, but just ordinary people trying to get along. The parents were very nice and the whole atmosphere was pleasant. We talked a bit and felt each other out. Everybody read the contract - it was a very standard one, and then we signed it and that was that - simple, easy and uncomplicated, just like signing a lease should be! We called the movers and quickly packed our stuff. We did not talk much to our religious landlords until about two months after that - we had finished moving in and putting the final touches on our home for the next few years. Some things that had to be fixed had been taken care of by the landlords, and now we were inviting them to see the place, to finalize some things, and to get to know them better - they really seemed like a very nice couple.

After being floored by the way we had set up the apartment (my wife is very talented in this regard) we sat down to talk and then we learned that the wife had a small business of her own and that the husband, David, was a bonafide "Avrech", a yeshiva student who spent all day at the "Kollel" studying Torah, or as Haaretz, the Israeli tabloid of record, calls such people: "a blood-sucking parasite". This specific "parasite" seemed pleasant enough. He smiled at me and invited me to the kollel to study with him. I said that I just might do that, remembering that I still hadn't finished my Jewish journey, and wondering if another opportunity had just presented itself. David said that I can come anytime. I warned him that I really might do so, but he did not back down. It took another month until I got around to it but we finally met at the kollel. He gave me a kippah and we went to the synagogue, where it was quiet. He asked what I wanted to learn and I said "everything", which was true.

So we started with an overview of Judaism, beginning with the Torah and moving on to the Mishanh until modern times. It was the first time that I really understood how Judaism unfolded, and terms like "Tanaaim" and "Rishonim"  and "Halacha" that had been wandering around in my brain lacking any context and meaning (well, except for negative ones), finally came together. I was very happy, relieved, and excited when we stepped out of the kollel at the end of our first meeting. It was just  before the holiday season and one of the other avrechim cried out to me "Why don't you come with us to Uman?" I replied that I had already traveled much further than that (spiritually, of course) just to reach this kollel...and I then explained to David my blackround regarding Judaism (no, that's not a spelling mistake. I may have invented a new word. If so, you can use it freely). He listened attentively and seemed  very empathic.

Unfortunately the holidays were upon us and the kollel was on vacation and it took almost another two months until we met again. In our second meeting I told him that in light of what I learned the last time we met, I would like to study the mitzvot one by one (there is a book that lists them all, he had told me), learn how to perform them, their meanings and reasons, that I also wanted to learn the Torah itself with him, and also to learn the daily life of a normal, practicing Jew. He said that learning the mitzvot individually would not make much sense and that it would be better to just go through the Jewish day, and that is what we did - and have been doing - once a week ever since. David taught me arvit and then mincha and the morning blessings. He bought me a siddur and wrote a very beautiful, loving dedication in it - my father never got me a siddur so this was my very first one. He also got me a kippah, a black felt one, like his. My wife says that I would look better in a more colorful kippah, and if anyone would have told me that in any stage of my life I would be kippa-shopping with my wife, I would have assured that person that he was certifiably insane...

I demanded and received detailed explanations about everything, every word in the prayers, all the reasons and meanings - everything was explained in depth without fail. Sometimes David was at a loss with one of my questions and had to check with other books or his colleagues and I appreciated that - he was secure enough to admit that he did not know everything and open enough to appreciate that an outsider like me could bring an entirely new perspective to what for him was, perhaps, overly familiar. He taught me how to pray, what is customary to do and when - it really surprised me how complex this was, since one must pay attention both to one's individual prayer but also to the general pace in which the prayer leader and the rest of the congregation is praying at. It is an interesting balance between individual and group. David has ordered me a tefillin, at a reasonable price (I had no idea religious paraphernalia could be so expensive!) which I am still waiting for. In a few days we meet again and we will begin to learn about the Sabbath and I am very excited for that. We are also studying the Torah.

This is a funny thing - about five years ago I bought the Daat Mikra set of books (the Torah only),  thinking that I would read it and with the help of the exegesis I would understand the text. For some reason, bible Hebrew had always defeated me, and it did so this time too. As much as I read the Torah I simply could not understand what was written in it. I am far from stupid, so it was clear to me that this was another case of an emotional barrier blocking me from connecting to the Jewish texts. But after a few meetings with David, the mists cleared, and now I can read the Torah easily and fluently. Questions still come up and I discuss them with my mentor, David, but I can really read the Torah easily and independently. The Torah is now mine, and for me this is a magnificent achievement. Soon we will finish reading the Book of Genesis and this will be the first time in my life that I have read it. It is a terrible thing for parents to hide or forbid such a treasure from their children.

I already mentioned that I even prayed independently, in a nearby Habad synagogue (I have a feeling that in Jerusalem you are never that far away from a synagogue. I am only now beginning to notice how many there are!). I am looking forward to having a real Sabbath, to learning the morning prayers and the use of tefillin and tallith. Every time I meet with David, every time I pray in a synagogue, I feel relieved, as if some more of the terrible shadow that has been dogging me all my life is gradually being swept away. I palpably feel that I am exorcising the ghosts of my grandfather, the orthodox Rabbi, and his rebellious son, who completely rejected Judaism. I feel that it is my duty to reconcile the two by finding a middle path, between tradition and modernity. I do not know yet where this will end and how far I will get into the tradition. I find it hard to believe that I will ever become a real orthodox Jew; many things are still very difficult for me. For instance, there are so many prayers and blessings throughout the day, that being an observant Jew is like having a whole other job. They weren't kidding when they called it "Avodat HaShem"...and currently, I cannot see where I am going to fit this new job into my very tight schedule. Also, although I am looking forward to going to the Sabbath service, I am not looking forward to losing 3 hours of sleep on the only day of rest I have. And there are many other things that bother me. The thing is that I do not know yet how much of this resistance is due to my antagonist upbringing and how much of this is because I really should not become so observant. These are things that I will have to continue to sort out. But if I do end up being the exact same thing that I was brought up to hate the most, this would prove once again an important psychological truth: It is indeed a thin line between love and hate.

However, where I end up is not important. What's important is that whenever I get to where I need to be, I have vowed to go to my father's grave and say Kaddish. I already did this when he died, but I had no idea what I was saying or why. Now I actually know what the words mean and I will say them and I will lay to rest both of my ancestors' souls, and I myself will be able to finally live my life (and sleep!) in peace, at least in this respect.
I have also vowed never to trash the avrechim again nor hate them. How can I, after I have received so much from this system? I still do not like it, and I think that Judaism, the Jewish people, and the State of Israel would all be better served if religion would get out of politics completely, but I refuse to hate anymore. Whenever I think of avrechim, and kollelim, and religious Jews on the dole, I will think of David, who came out of nowhere, and with his modesty, and kindness, and infinite patience, and utterly non-judgmental attitude became my gateway to Judaism and thus helped me rescue a crucial part of my soul. I could never have done it without him, and for that I will be eternally grateful.

Finally, what are the odds of such a thing happening? I mean what were the odds that I would find an apartment that suited our needs and was affordable, and that also had decent, honest landlords, one of whom just happened to be an avrech with whom I would have an instant rapport and who would help me reclaim my Jewish heritage, a task I had already given up on years ago? I told David that if I knew beforehand that I would have to find such a combination of circumstances I would never have even begun to try, because I would have known that such a thing was completely impossible. But I am thinking that perhaps I am not a very good judge of what is and is not possible, and I realize now that such judgments are perhaps best left in the hands of those who actually perform such miracles, namely: G-d.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Spiritual Aspect of Freelancing

One of the less discussed aspects of freelancing is the spiritual side of this kind of life, but for me this aspect was dominant from the start. I was surprised to find that from a spiritual point of view the difference between a salaried lifestyle and a freelancing one was vast, and the jump to freelancing, which I made recently, a lot more difficult because of it.
As a child I grew up in a "salaried" family. Both my parents worked in large, governmental bureaucracies and both had tenure. This kind of position was held to be the ideal job offering steady pay, a respectable position in society and most importantly – security in an unpredictable world. So it will not surprise you to hear that for most of my life I had been working as a salaried worker in the city or else living in a kibbutz where salaries, of course, were unheard of at the time.
A salaried worker, at least here in Israel, is in many respects like being a child. Your union takes care of negotiations so the salary is fixed without any effort on your part. Benefits, pension plans and saving plans are also already taken care of by the employer, by agreement with the union. Many workers do not even know that they have such things, and I am continually surprised to get in my mail all kinds of announcements, updating me on the status of pension plans I had no idea I was part of. Taxes are deducted directly from your salary so the salaried worker also does not have to deal with the IRS. Vacation and days off are set too, and many times arranged and even paid for by the employer. Sick leave is taken care of. In many instances, the salaried worker just has to appear at work on a consistent basis and everything else will be taken care of. You can be fired but usually the union will make sure that the terms are favorable and in any case you are entitled to unemployment pay for several months. In short – there is a lot to be said for this kind of job, although the mileage may vary depending on the country you live in and your field of work.
The main point is that there exist a spiritual relationship between the salaried worker and his or her employer: dependence. The worker expects the job and the salary to be there for him every day, for years on end. He comes to see it as his birthright: "I deserve this job and this salary and these conditions" is a major underlying assumption in a salaried workers life. I submit that this is also one of the major reasons why workers, even when suffering like in the TV show The Office, dare not venture out of the familiar and quit their jobs.


Yes, it is not easy to find another job. But the bigger obstacle in leaving the salaried life and striking out on your own is overcoming the mental atrophy that is characteristic to the salaried life.
As a freelancer you must exercise muscles that have not been in use for years or perhaps forever. As a freelancer, for the first time, everything is on you. There is no one to blame but you. You yourself are responsible for everything. That is a drastic reversal.
Being independent means that you are not beholden to anyone. You do not have to toe the party line (which, in Israel, is a significant part of the salaried workers life. See: academia, the legal system and so on) and you are free to think for yourself and form your own opinions without peer pressure coupled with economic pressure. Come to think of it, I remember reading that one of the reasons British PM Margaret Thatcher insisted on a huge program that let people buy the governmental houses they were living in at the time (seventies and eighties) was on the assumption that they would become more independent minded and therefore more inclined to favor the conservative party. Conversely, the enormous public sector in Israel, established by the Jewish communists who built this country, has always been extremely dominant and the only one fighting it, for some of the same reasons as Thatcher, has been consistently reviled by almost every public figure in Israel. I'm talking about Bibi Netanyahu of course.

But back to freelancing. The most difficult part in freelancing is getting the client, especially in the beginning. Sometimes your money is running out and so is your time. You know you can do the job but you are not getting any. What's wrong? Is anything wrong? Is the world out to get you?
I find that freelancing is like fishing – you find a body of water – where your clients are- and throw out as many hooks as possible with various baits. Some days the catch is great and sometimes you come back home with nothing. More often than not, in the beginning, the fish will not bite. It takes a lot of faith in yourself and the world – or God – to go through this period.
I admit that sometimes I yearn for a steady job: going to the same office everyday, living securely in the knowledge that at the end of the month I will get a paycheck for the exact same amount I did last month. But then I remind myself how much more satisfying it is to live like an animal – to survive by your own instincts and wits and abilities, to set your own prices, to work with the people you choose to work with and do the jobs you want to do. In a sense, as a freelancer, you interview every new client to see if he "fits". And you can always fire him. Of course, the reverse is true also, but that's what makes freelancing so exciting – it's unpredictable.
In freelancing, everyday can bring a new surprise. For better or for worse. Sometimes you'll get a shiny new project, and sometimes an existing client will call and say:
"Sorry, I have to cancel" (sometimes without the "sorry"). Living in such an uncertain world takes a lot of faith. To me, it is like trying to keep your balance constantly while the world throws at you endless distractions, the biggest of which are, of course – your fears.
As a salaried worker, your fears are taken care of. In fact I would say that being a salaried worker is mostly the result of fear (which, by the way, I completely understand and sympathize with).
As a freelancer you have chosen to face that fear – the fear of the unknown - on a daily basis. This takes a lot of guts, and self-confidence and, I think a lot of faith.

Which reminds of this fable that sums it all up very nicely: The Dog and the Wolf by Aesop:
(I do not know where this version is from. It is much more elaborate than the usual ones. I remember translating it from English to Hebrew many years ago, but I forget the source. For this post, I translated it back.)

"A starved, bony wolf happened one night to meet a fat, satiated dog. After greeting each other the wolf said:
"Hey, what's up? How is it that you look so good? No doubt you are feeding well, while here I am, running around day and night trying to make ends meet, barely keeping myself from starving."
"Well, if you want to look like I do, just do what I do," said the dog.
"Really," said the wolf, "what does that mean?"
"All you have to do is protect the master's house at night, and keep away the robbers," said the dog.
"With pleasure," said the wolf, "seeing that I am in such a bad way right now. Life in the wild, in the cold and rain are very tiring. Methinks a warm roof, and a full stomach are not a bad substitution!"
"Certainly not," said the dog. "Come with me."
As the two companions were walking along the wolf noticed a strange mark on the dog's neck. Being of an inquisitive nature he couldn't help but ask what was the meaning of it."
"Hmmm, nothing," said the dog.
"Yes, but…"
"It's nothing, maybe you mean the collar that is attached to my chain," said the dog.
"A chain," the wolf cried out in surprise. "You mean you aren't allowed to roam where and when you please?"
"Well, not exactly," said the dog. "You see, they think I am quite a frightening creature so they tie me up during the day, but I assure you, at night I am as free as a bird, and besides, the master feeds me from his own plate, and his servants give me leftovers, and everybody loves me and…wait, where are you going, what's wrong?"
"Well, good night to you," said the wolf. "You can eat all the delicacies you wish, but I prefer a stale loaf of bread and my freedom over the pamperings of royalty and a chain."


But life is not always so clear-cut and there is a lot of gray area between "wolf" and "dog". Many free-lancers use a combination of the two, hoping to get the best of both worlds. This is a very good tactic, especially for beginners.
Also, being a wolf can be a lonely business while some people just need the warmth and security of human company. Freedom does have it's costs and ultimately the question is: are you willing to pay the price? Is it worth it for you?



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Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Political Failure of Religious-Zionism in Israel - An Explanation

Summary: This post will try to understand the consistent, abysmal political failure of right wing religious Israelis (Religious-Zionists) using the basic concepts of a simple but effective psychological theory called Transactional Analysis.
This post will address the following questions:

  • In what way is the Religious –Zionist sector subservient to secular Jewry in Israel. Can this be changed? How?
  • What is the role of Religious-Zionism in Israeli Society?
  • Why does the Religious Right in America have political power that matches their numbers while in Israel it continually fails?
  • Why and in what ways are Israeli Orthodox Jews so different from their Anglo-Saxon counterparts and why does this matter?
  • Why does any of this matter to a secular Israeli like me?
  • What will happen if the Religious-Zionist sector does not change? What are its options?

Obviously the subject is complex so this will not be short but it should be interesting and perhaps useful if you are interested in the future of Israel and the Jewish people.
The post is divided into frequent headers so you can scroll down to the parts that interest you.

Background - Anecdotes From RZ Life

Previously I promised that after explaining the basic terms and ideas of Transactional Analysis with the help of a few clips from Seinfeld, I would use this theory to discuss and hopefully clarify several of the bigger issues that our society faces.
This is my first attempt to do so (If you do not know T.A. you can catch up in this wiki or get the drift of things as you read). This post was inspired by a Moshe Feiglin article on the Jewish Leadership Blog. Feiglin ran just a few weeks ago in the Likud primaries and garnered a quarter of the vote. Moshe is an original fellow who has some very interesting observations to make about his fellow Religious-Zionists. He starts by relating an anecdote from the elections:

As the polls closed Tuesday night in Haifa, the poll chairwoman eyed the two official observers suspiciously. "You're pulling my leg, aren't you?" she half stated, half asked.
How could it be? The Feiglin representative is an obviously non-observant, veteran Likud woman, while the Bibi representative is obviously a Religious Zionist, who has spent the entire night in dread that Feiglin will get more than 30% of the vote! What is going on here?

In this post, Feiglin tries to explain why his fellow Religious-Zionists continually fail to implement their own beliefs and policies and he reaches this conclusion:

The Left has designed our national symbols and culture. And as long as we are culturally captive to the Left, we will necessarily reach the Left's conclusions…Why doesn't the belief based public stand up on its own two feet? …The answer is that Religious Zionism draws its legitimacy from secular Zionism.


Fieglin concludes by stating that only when Religious-Zionists take upon themselves to lead Israel as opposed to following will they be able to implement their policies.

I agree with Feiglin's observations but that is all they are – observations. In my mind it is possible and even necessary to ask: Why are the Religious-Zionists willing to be culturally subservient to the secular left? How did this situation come about and why does it continue? For that matter, why is Feiglin's wake up call rejected , sometimes violently, by so many of them?
There is a reason for this and I believe that with the help of Transactional Analysis we can understand the problem correctly and perhaps even solve it – if that is at all possible.

I will begin with another anecdote, this time from the 2005 Jerusalem Conference (site is in Hebrew). The conference was established (or should I say "cloned") by the right wing Israeli National News network as an alternative to the prestigious and influential Herzelyia Conference where the secular Ashkenazi leaders of the country gather each year to determine the future of Israel. The Jerusalem Conference is a pale imitation, sparsely attended by the public. An inordinate number of the participants are prominent left-wing secular spokesmen like Dan Margalit ( I imagine this is done in order to receive some coverage from the Israeli media, surely not because these people are underexposed….).
In any case, two years ago the conference happened to occur just before the disengagement from Gaza and discussions were heated and also very depressing. Two things struck me then.

First was the question: "Should the soldiers of the Religious Zionist sector obey the order and help to ruin the homes and lives of their brethren?"
One after the other prominent RZ leaders said, "Without the army we have nothing" and that disobeying orders will be disastrous. This came after a two hour discussion in which it became obvious that there is no way that Israel would be better off after the disengagement. Most prominent was the voice of General (ret.) Yaakov Amidror who urged the young people to conform. What was worse was that his words were greeted enthusiastically by the small Religious-Zionist crowd. When I heard the applause I knew that nothing would save Gush Katif.
The only one to display any kind of human feeling, common sense and faith was a secular person. This was Col. (ret.) Moshe Leshem, a secular Jew who stood up and said: "I don't have a Kippah but I believe in God and I believe that the Disengagement is an act of ethnic cleansing and should be fiercely resisted." Leshem of course called upon the soldiers to refuse the illegal orders. Leshem spoke with force and confidence and belief – and his words were greeted largely with silence by the Religious Zionists.

The second interesting event was what I learned when Motti Shecklar, CEO of The Second Authority for Radio and Television, stepped up to discuss the relationship between the media and the RZ. He said that when the Second Authority was being established he traveled all over the country begging his people, the Religious Zionists, to get their foot in the door, to apply for jobs there and also to start training their children as media professionals. Motti said that everywhere he went the answer was that they preferred their children to do something useful and lucrative like being a lawyer or doctor. Media was looked down upon. Today, the same people complain that radical, secular, left-wing moonbats have "taken over" Israeli media. But they didn't takeover - they created it and made it viable.
Motii went on to establish Maale, the first RZ "School of Television, Film and the Arts" but that may be too little and too late – it has only 20-30 graduates a year according to Motti, compared to thousands of secular graduates.


Religious-Zionism – Depending upon Secular Creativity and the Secular Social Center

These stories demonstrate recurring themes:

1. Religious Zionists following in the footsteps of secular Jews, imitating them, sometimes lagging behind by decades.
2. Religious Zionists rejecting a new idea in favor of the familiar old ways while secular Jews embrace the unknown and pave the way to the future, leading the way for everybody else.

One last anecdote which illustrates how dependent the RZ are upon the creativity and originality of secular Jews, even in the face of their own destruction, this time from an old post on this blog, also concerning the disengagement:

I recall walking in downtown Jerusalem a year ago, a week or two before the Disengagement. I saw a middle-aged National-Religious woman all dressed up in the official Gush-Katif colors (orange ribbon around the hat, orange bracelet, orange ribbon tied to her purse, orange shirt, orange cap) walking up to a newsstand and buying a copy of Yediot Ahronot. This paper happens to be not only the largest in the country but also the worst in terms of anti-religious and anti-Zionist sentiment (tied with Haaretz). In fact even now, in the midst of a war with Hizballah that has already cost many lives – Yediot has yet to match the degree of animosity and pure, unadulterated hatred it directed towards the settlers at that time with its current, slightly adulating coverage of Hizballah today.
Anyway, I was shocked. After she bought the paper I just had to ask her what the hell does she think she’s doing? I told her that she just donated a dollar to the cause of evicting her people from the Gaza Strip. She shame-facedly admitted it but said, in justification – “ I just wanted to be in the know”.


And that is the root of the problem. Because to know what's going on you have to be connected to the heart of things and this heart, the center of our society is - as Fegilin correctly points out - in the hands of secular people and everything and everyone else in Israel revolves around this center.
So Feiglin is right: the Religious Zionists are subservient to this center. Of course they are not alone in this servitude but they are alone in trying to directly challenge this center.
Most Israelis are quite content with having this center in secular hands and living around it or in it. Haredi society seems just as content living completely outside of it and they tend to erupt only when they feel that their self-imposed boundaries are being overrun. But the RZ seem to want it both ways – to let others create and sustain the cultural center and at the same time they want to look down upon it with disdain and contempt while receiving recognition and admiration for their own endeavors from the very same people they despise! They enjoy the secular papers and music and TV shows and yet decry and sometimes even violently oppose the political results of this culture. It is this two-sided attitude that is so baffling.
But now we can begin to answer the real question: why is this so? What is this center and why is it so powerful? Why did secular Jews establish it and not RZ Jews? And most importantly, why don't Religious Zionists establish their own center to rival it? Why are secular Jews always the first, with the RZ a distant second? How can this be changed?

Creativity in Israel: Secular Compared to RZ

I think this situation can be explained by one basic psychological difference which sets secular people apart from religious people. This difference is in the attitude towards the Free Child (explained here with the help of a few clips from I Dream of Jeannie).

According to Transactional Analysis the human psyche is comprised of four states of mind:
The Adult, which is oriented towards reality, processing information and making decisions dispassionately, like a computer.
The Parent, which makes the laws and rules that govern our behavior, emotions and thoughts and is oriented towards the complete fulfillment of these rules at all times. This is the invisible mental prison in which we live our lives.
The Child, which contains all our emotions and feelings. Three different states can be recognized in the child:
The Adaptive Child – this part does its best to adapt to the demands of the Parent.
The Rebellious Child - this part does its best to reject the demands of the Parent.
The Free Child - this part does not care at all about the demands of the Parent. It is centered around the needs of the moment, whatever they may be. It is spontaneous and carefree and endlessly curious, living in the moment just like a kitten. But unlike other animals the Free Child can also be creative. Emotions and senses and intuition are the realm of the Free Child.

The Attitude Towards Creativity in RZ Society
Generally speaking, in most cases the attitude of religious people in Israel towards the Free Child is that of the Parent towards any child that is breaking the rules and threatening to overthrow the established order of things. This is an orthodox view in which everything new is bad, the best days were in the past and things can only get worse. It is a defensive, frightened attitude towards life itself. This is not especially surprising considering that for the past two hundred years and more, orthodox Jewry, especially in Europe and in Israel, has been under constant, sometimes violent attack, on the part of "The New" – the new secular way of life, new freedoms and new ideas, not to mention the new, extremely secular state of Israel. Under these conditions education tends to be dull and stifling and defensive. Children are encouraged to conform and their gaze is turned inwards and backwards – to the glory of the past. This is a most unfavorable atmosphere for innovation and creativity but it is a time-tested Jewish defense: when danger is abroad, circle the wagons and cling tightly to the familiar tradition.

The Attitude Towards Creativity in Secular Society
On the other hand, secular Jews in Israel tend to the opposite – they favor the new. They are curious and inventive and bold and brash, sometimes stupidly and brazenly so. They are not tied to the past, in fact they are taught to hate it and disengage from it. In many cases they are taught to despise and disengage from the community. This leaves them free to experiment in every way possible – there are no limits to what can be done, for better and for worse. They do not care who they are hurting, because they do not share anything in common with the rest of society.
Of course these are generalizations. Living in Israel, it seems to me that the majority of the population stands somewhere in the middle between the two extremes and in fact – only a small part of secular society is actively engaged in a creative endeavor. But that is more than enough, and far, far more than can be said of Religious- Zionists who, it seems, need a Rabbi's permission before they are allowed to think of something new, much less act upon that thought.

The Creators Can Dictate the Rules
From its inception Zionism was a secular endeavor. Apparently it took a completely secular, assimilated Jew to have the nerve to think of something completely old, in a radically new way. This is the essence of creativity – taking the existing materials and combining them or viewing them in new ways. The representatives of the Parent at the time – the orthodox community - rejected this new idea. But some did not and they formed the Religious-Zionist movement in a valiant effort to combine the new Zionism with the old orthodox Judaism. Many of the ideas and certainly the spiritual authority of this movement in Israel may be attributed to Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook the first Chief Rabbi in Israel and a very original thinker, perhaps the first and last free thinking Religious Zionist in Israel, until Moshe Feiglin popped up a few years ago.
The secular Zionists broke away from their traditional parents, like good Rebellious Children, and made their way to Israel where they proceeded to create the infrastructure of the future state which their spiritual heirs control to this day.
And therein lies a second lesson for Religious-Zionists – if you want to control something you had better create it. In social life, it is far easier to invent something then to take it over (although to be sure, Feiglin seems to disagree, which is why he joined the Likud instead of doing something new and different - and better) .

Why the Religious Right in America Succeeds

This is the secret of the success of the religious right in America. Consider this: numerically, right-wing Christians number about a quarter of U.S. population – about the same porportion as orthodox Jews in Israel, and yet their influence is enormous while orthodox Israelis have to fight every year anew for very basic elements of life such as an education budget!
I think the reason is this: in cultural terms, right-wing Christians are the descendants of the founders of America. The accepted form of public debate which they set two centuries ago are much more suitable to a rational argument than it is to the disinformation campaigns conducted by the Left.
In terms of transactional analysis American culture has had from the very beginning a strong orientation towards the Adult – towards facts, reality, effectiveness and utility. This is the "matter- of- fact" and common-sense attitude that pervades much of American society. This is a society that is so used to considering facts and distinguishing between fact and opinion and fiction that to this day, despite the concerted efforts of the Left, if you have a good, truthful argument for something – you still have a good chance to win. If you build a better mousetrap – it will sell and you will be successful. The best the left can do in America is to confuse the issues and feed the public misinformation, but with the development of new technologies and the diffusion of news delivery this effect is not as great as it once was.

The Founders of Israel – The Patronage System

In Israel it is almost the opposite. The founders came from a society and political culture that favored patronage. The relationship between the government and the population is the relationship between the Parent and the Adaptive Child. Reality is not a necessary part of the equation. Argument is useless. All you have to do is abide by the rules, do what you are told and hopefully you will be taken care of. Graft and protectionism are a way of life in this system. If you build a better mousetrap, well so what? First, get a license from the government. Second – get another one and another one, each time from a different ministry. Finally you begin to sell your great mousetrap only to find out that a different company with a far inferior mousetrap has a monopoly (brought and paid for, of course...). It undersells you and after a year you go out of business.

Although it is true that this system has been attacked ferociously from many sides and it has suffered many defeats in the past thirty years (dating from the fall of the Labor Party in the 1977 elections), the framework and most importantly the frame of mind for many Israelis has not yet changed. In many areas we are still satisfied with doing what we are told. For instance, ask military historian Dr. Uri Millstein (Hebrew link) – he is an expert on the lack of rationality- of the Adult - in the Israeli Army, or Bibi Netanyahu who did his best to fight this all-embracing nanny state, as Finance Minister.

Creativity in Israel Today

The attacks on the Eastern-European political culture have had one positive effect – they have spurred a renewed wave of creativity in Israeli society which has been led, as usual, and in spectacular fashion, by the secular sector. So it is that for the majority of the people in Israel secular Zionism has proven its vitality over and over again. It has proven itself when it began to establish Israel years before the Holocaust and it seems correct to this day - it has created an extremely free, vibrant, rich society in the midst of an intense struggle for national survival. No other group has done as much or offered a better vision to the people of Israel to this day. Will this change?
Perhaps the depravity and negligence of the current secular leadership will be its downfall as Feiglin predicts but I personally do not see it happening. The orthodox vision has been available all this time and while it has grown in popularity orthodox society is still not close to numerically rivaling mainstream Israeli society and the settler vision is not attracting many new supporters – their numbers have remained pretty constant throughout the past 10-20 years.
What is the problem? I will repeat again – the Free Child.

There is an old Chinese story that explains it well:

A beggar receives two dimes. With the first he buys a loaf of bread, with the second a lily.
"Why did you waste half of your money on a lily?" he was asked.
" The bread is to sustain me, and the lily I bought so I will have a reason to live!" answered the beggar.


Creativity and the Future of Israeli Society

And that is the point – without the Free Child, without the full gamut of emotions and senses, without the ability to at least potentially experience life at its fullest – what is the point? Without this, life is dull and routine, like watching TV in black and white when the neighbor has color television. This why Orthodox Jews, RZ as well as some Haredim, read secular newspapers and watch secular television and hear secular music – because it is fun.
Until the Israeli public loses its taste for fun, secular culture will prevail, unless someone provides a better alternative – perhaps one that achieves a better balance between the need to survive and the need to have a reason to survive. Because secular culture is definitely not perfect and in many ways its imbalance is becoming evermore pronounced, even dangerous. Therefore it is possible, maybe even necessary, for a new player to come in and offer a different cultural option. The question is: can the religious right – can Religious –Zionism do this? Can it finally lead the way and thus have its way? Can it lead instead of following?


Religious-Zionism and Creativity – The Dilemma

Religious Zionists face a unique problem: how to be creative, without ruining the existing order? How can one be assured that the newly created will not destroy the way of life that has been diligently preserved for thousands of years?
From its inception Religious-Zionism was intended to achieve a healthy balance between the old and the new – between the Parent and the Free Child. This is why RZ has been very careful in adopting the new, always following in the footsteps of secular Zionism. It joined the institutions created by the first Zionists and assimilated into them. Its party, the Mafdal, participated in the same political practices of political patronage and corruption as the Labor Party did, using its power and influence to funnel funds (and new olim) to its own people just like Labor did and especially into its own education system. Later these funds went where the people went – into the recaptured territories of Judea, Samaria and Gaza.
The first settlements were established while struggling against the government (or at least part of it to be exact) reminding the new settlers of the struggles of the secular Zionists against the British Mandate. They saw themselves as a logical and necessary continuation of the secular settlement that began a century earlier.
RZ prides itself in these settlements which are a copy of the previous secular settlements and also on its contribution to the Army's elite. Like the Kibbutznikim before them, RZ sons and daughters now comprise a very large proportion of the Army elite, much higher than their part in the population. The only difference is this: when the kibbutzim sent their sons to the Army, their party ruled the country. Today, the RZ sons are sacrificing themselves for an ideology that is openly trying to ruin their own community. The RZ education system is another source of pride and perhaps rightly so – but at the same time secular Jews built an education system that is open to everyone. Perhaps it is not as good but it is certainly not something to be sneezed at and you can guess by yourself which education system is appreciated more by the general public, especially when even RZ parents do not have an easy time getting their children in.

What Has Been Created By Religious-Zionism?
It seems that, to date, the RZ creations have been copies and variations on previous secular themes adapted to the needs of the RZ community. When I try to think of something new that the RZ community has created for the benefit of Israeli society I come up blank. Perhaps this is because I do not know it well enough. I know of new trends in RZ society such as a new openness towards woman studying Torah but this is again a careful adoption of Feminist ideas into orthodox society.
Actually, I can think of three new things: The aforementioned "Maale School of Television, Film and the Arts", Jewish Leadership and the "Hilltop Youth".

1 - Maale makes a specific point of making quality visual art while avoiding any contradiction with Jewish law. A committee which includes a Rabbi reviews all scripts in order to ensure their propriety. This is an interesting way to give the Free Child a safe place without threatening the Parent. But is it effective? Will Maale writers and filmmakers break new ground? Can such a trapped creativity invent something so new, so interesting that it will rival their secular counterparts? That remains to be seen. Still, if nothing else, their award-winning films are testament to the fact that such a combination is indeed possible. It is an open question if this combination can also be attractive and influential enough to change the tide.

2 - Jewish Leadership has a well-known and colorful history so I will not repeat it here. But as far as RZ society is concerned one point is clear – Feiglin himself and his new ideas are viewed as completely contradictory to what constitutes traditional Religious-Zionism and he has been under constant attack not only from secular elites which is to be expected, but also from what should have been his own home base. Once again, when RZ society is confronted with a new idea it attacks.
This case is significant in my view because Feiglin's ideas arrive at a time in which RZ has witnessed more than one devastating defeat. One would expect that a society on its heels would at least be willing to consider something new, some new idea or new way to stop the breathless, hopeless retreat and perhaps even go on the attack. Feiglin offers just such a way that by no means contradicts Jewish Law. That it is not even considered tells me all I need to know about the sickness of Religious-Zionist society in Israel - a society of Adaptive Children and their Parents.

3 - The Hilltop Youth , on the other hand, do not seem ready to adopt to anyone's demands except themselves. They seem to be Rebellious Children, rebelling against their parent's placid, accepting ways, renewing the settler tradition, which is the old secular tradition of Homa u migdal. If this is indeed the case then this is nothing new. Anyway, the reaction of mainstream RZ society is the same – rejection, reprimands, and threats. At least that is the story if you hear it from Avi Ran. Again, it fits the pattern: something new is created and then it can either be brought under control or else it is immediately attacked and rejected.


The Connection Between God, Creativity, Obedience and Belief

The RZ track record with creativity seems to me to be very poor. The main reason is that there is a built-in contradiction between keeping the old ways and encouraging creativity, between the Parent and the Free Child – they cannot co-exist.
This is because the essence of creativity is its unexpected nature. Creation is always an ongoing experiment with results that are yet to be determined. Creativity by its very nature is uncertain. In a way, it is absolutely necessary for creative people to have some kind of belief in God because without it, the uncertain aspects of creation will gnaw at them constantly and sometimes even ruin them.
So, at least theoretically speaking, one would expect that believers would be among the most creative people around! For a believer is not afraid of creation, of the unexpected, of life itself – because he knows that the world is in God's hands and everything is for the best even if we cannot understand it. I would go even further and state that a believer realizes that it is our duty, as men created in the image of God, to emulate him and be creative. In fact, if there is one reason for our being created I think that it is in order to continue God's work – and be creative human beings.
But if this is a believing attitude towards creation, how can we explain the RZ approach, and the orthodox view of creativity in general?
As far as I can tell it is a question of confusing belief in God with obedience to the Parent.
This means that children in RZ society, as in every other society, obey their parents as best they can in order to survive. For RZ children, belief in God and Jewish god-given law is "inherited" so to speak, not discovered or achieved. I
n other words - their belief in God stems from obedience to their parents who insisted upon this belief with all its attendant behaviors and opinions. But obedience is not the same as actually believing.

Children in such a society are forged into being Adaptive Children with strong Parents. The Adult is relatively weak because many areas of enquiry are not open to rational discussion. The Free child is curtailed because by its very essence he is the enemy of the Parent (think about the child who sees the naked emperor). So it is most likely that an RZ child will be an Adaptive Child and if he fails at that – a Rebellious Child. It will be very difficult for him to be creative and I would suspect that creative RZ people will come from homes that were comparatively less strict and more open-minded. These kind of homes tend to be more Leftist than the usual RZ and indeed, I have already heard one complaint that the movies being produced at Maale have a definite anti-religious and anti RZ slant.
What this means is that RZ education, at home and later in school, will tend to encourage a very conformist state of mind. This is why the sons of RZ serving in the Army have such trouble disobeying orders. Psychologically they have been trained to obey the Parent, the voice of authority, which in the case of the various expulsions and demolitions happens to be an Army officer. This is why the leaders of the RZ community seem to be at a loss with the new situation. They know how to deal with the familiar. The new confuses them and even paralyzes them. Imagine if the tens of thousands of RZ gathered in Kfar Maimon were let loose? And why did they not free themselves to act? The lack of creativity and freedom in RZ society has come back to bite it in a most cruel and ironic manner.

The Difference Between Anglo-Saxon Jews in Israel and RZ Israeli Jews

Not all orthodox education is the same. RZ children in Israel will likely have a stronger Adult than Haredi children since their range of legitimate, Parent-approved interests is much larger. A notable difference is also to be found in Anglo-Saxon Jews. They are much more apt to think freely and creatively and to treat all the aspects of life in a rational manner. In terms of Transactional Analysis – their Adult is stronger and so is the Free Child. The light air of fear and suffocation that seems to me to pervade much of RZ society does not seem to touch Anglo-Saxon Jews, at least in my experience.
I imagine that not growing up in a nanny state like Israel helps. Perhaps the innate tendency of American society to encourage and reward rationality and also the complete separation of state and religion helps too. Maybe turning religion into something completely personal frees the individual. Or rather, perhaps this separation creates the individual and enables him to forge his own way in this world? Maybe that is how a Nadia Matar is born? Many of Feiglin's supporters (not to mention his wife) are also Anglo-Saxon and they are prominent in the political activities of the Israeli Right, or even when they walk the streets of Jerusalem! (now that guy is a believer!).
In any case it is clear to me that growing up in an American society with its great and historic emphasis upon the individual, affects Anglo-Saxon orthodox Jews in a way that makes them obviously different from the average Israeli orthodox Jew who grows up "within the tribe", with a very strong emphasis on the group and its survival.
In my opinion, the most important thing that Anglo-Saxon Jews bring with them when they make aliyah is not their money, if they even have any, nor their professional education and work experience – it is their attitude of freedom, liberty, and civil rights, the outlook of citizens who expect their government to serve them and not the other way around, what may be called - cultural capital. RZ would do well to learn and emulate them, as indeed it seems they are.(Hebrew link. No English, but it's start…)

Why A Secular Jew Cares About RZ

Growing in a Secular-Zionist home and living in this part of society for most of my life, I have no illusions about our situation. There are many people in the ruling elites who seriously view orthodox Jews as the enemy and a far more dangerous one than Hamas or Iran. People like Yuli Tamir have no compunction about killing Orthodox Jews and in fact that is a major reason why weapons are still being supplied to the Palestinians.
Of course, this kind of internal struggle in Jewish society is nothing new. It has been going on for over two hundred years and Orthodox Jews have been, at times, just as violent and intolerant. But today we actually have a country and this struggle between "enlightened" Jews (as they used to be called) and orthodox Jews is threatening to bring the house down.

I have spent most of this post describing the imbalance of RZ society. But Israeli secular elites are just as imbalanced, just in different ways and areas. As a good secular Israeli child, the issues of faith, belief, God, and Judaism were all taboo. The secular Israeli can go to a mosque or church and can respect the beliefs of anybody – as long as they are not Jewish. Even years later it is still difficult for me to access those parts of my soul, as I once described on this blog.
Where RZ stress the group, secular society emphasizes the individual to the exact same degree of extremity. Family values, marriage, rearing children – they are viewed with concern if not actual horror by the members of the ruling secular elite, while anything the individual does for himself, especially in the realm of art, is considered good and proper no matter what havoc it wreaks upon other individuals or society itself. Self-expression is the master, society its slave.

The Role of Religious-Zionism in Israeli Society

RZ and secular society are almost mirror images of each other and that is why there is so much antagonism between the two. It is a love-hate relationship between two parts of society that are simply incomplete without the other. Secular Jewish society is not viable in Israel without Zionism. Religious-Zionism is not viable without the creativity, the fun and excitement generated by secular society. Each without the other is like a cripple hopping about with only one leg. Together can they stand on two feet and deal with life's challenges in an appropriate and timely manner.
They can also do so alone – if they grow the other leg. In other words if secular society can return to Zionism it will be able to deal with the external and internal threats facing it with relative ease, as it has done many times in the past. If RZ learns to be creative and original it will be able to overcome its problems and defeat its enemies.
Personally, I do not think that secular society can overcome the malady of the ruling elites. There are some healthy, Zionist parts in this elite but they are definitely the weaker and smaller part. Help is needed and that help can only come from the one remaining Zionist sector in Israel – the RZ.
RZ youth still have the energy and enthusiasm needed to carry on the work of their secular predecessors. Joe Settler describes this scene, from August, 2005, a scene which I too have seen at various times:

This evening I had the opportunity to observe the children of Gush Katif (who have just been brutally ripped from their homes) and the children of Israel’s secular elite (who promoted the ripping of these people from their homes).

The Children of Gush Katif gathered in Kikar Safra in Jerusalem and spent the night

* dancing,
* singing their hearts out, and
* simply supporting each other to keep their wonderful spirits high.

In contrast, the Children of the Secular Elite gathered near Ben-Yehuda and spent the night

* dancing,
* puking their guts out,
* supporting each other (as they were too drunk to stand on their own), and
* simply getting high.

It is no surprise to discover that nearly every member of Nezer Hazani served in an elite combat unit, while in contrast, secular hero Aviv Gefen (the draft dodger) and his friends literally dance on a flag of Israel.
If I were a secular Israeli, I too would be terrified of the tremendous uplifting, positive spirit of the Na'ar HaGivaot and want nothing more than to destroy their communities.

We are insurmountable.

Well, I am not terrified – I am glad. And as I have tried to point out and as recent history proves, RZ is definitely surmountable, unless it embraces change.


The Choices Facing RZ Society

RZ society is culturally enslaved to secular society in Israel. This results in one political defeat after another and it may even result in the eventual elimination of Religious-Zionism in Israel. What can be done? Here are some options and their likely results.

1 – Do nothing and continue the current state of affairs
Most likely result – an eventual retreat from most of Judea and Samaria and Jerusalem. RZ will be dragged (by their sons who serve in the Army) kicking and screaming from their homes to caravans all over the country. This will probably be more painful than the retreat from Gaza. RZ will not be able to recover for years if at all. Israel itself may not survive the war that will follow.

2 – Embrace Feiglin, join the Likud, liquidate the Religious-Zionist parties.
Most likely result – The Likud will get a majority of the votes next elections, but its base will be a lot more Hawkish enabling the prime minister (Feiglin?) to implement a Zionist agenda in internal and external affairs. In this scenario, the state will divest itself of all religious affairs, as Feiglin suggests, so that the one major obstacle to the involvement of Orthodox Jews in Israeli government will be removed. Such a move will be devastating to secular Jewry in Israel, in the best way possible - they will have to deal with their identity themselves instead of relying on Orthodox Jews to sustain it for them, while hating them for it.

3 – Fully integrate into Israeli society. This means giving up on all the separatist institutions – no more separate schools, synagogues, or settlements. This means embracing the revolutionary idea that all Jews were created equal by God.
Most likely result – a huge increase in contact between secular and RZ members of society will lead to a wave of both secular Tshuva and RZ desertion. Eventually everything will even out. Jewish identity in the general population will be stronger but orthodoxy will be weaker than before. This intermingling may bring about a new wave of very original, Jewish creativity in Israel, which is severely lacking today.

4 – Meekly surrender. Accept that the secular elites are too powerful to resist at the moment. Try to rescue whatever is possible, retreat and regroup.
Most likely result – depends on what philosophy the survivors of this move will adopt. This may lead to complete disintegration of RZ or to a future renewal which may be inspiring. Some groups will splinter off and continue to resist the secular elites and they will be hunted down and destroyed.
5 - Empower the people. The current secular elites treat the population as if they are children in need of a parent. Everything is the responsibility of the state, while the individual is not only blameless, but worse - helpless. Of course this puts the elites in a position to wield their power and keep it indefinitely.
An alternative elite will do the opposite - do its best to empower the citizens. A great example of this, which deserves an entirely separate post ,is Paamonim. Ten more initiatives like this, offered to all citizens, will work wonders for RZ and the country. Remember - in order to get power from the people - you must give it up and trust them and trust God.

6 - Something else. Religious Zionism starts to get serious about its future and develops a new strategy, or even better, several new, original strategies and tactics to deal with the threats it faces.
Most likely result – Hope, perhaps even victory, eventually.


Gmar Hatima Tova

Jerusalem Joe




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