Within the world of Torah-observant Jews there are two primary schools of thought when it comes to the modern state of Israel – a creation that is decidedly not Torah-observant. These two positions could hardly be more divergent from one another. This has resulted in yet another tragic rift within the Orthodox world, which we know is the greatest cause of our suffering from ancient times to the present day.
With God’s help we will solve that problem now.
One school of thought is held by those who refer to themselves as “Dati Leumi”, or National Religious (I say “refer to themselves” because I have long opposed the use of labels such as these to divide society, poorly categorize people, and encourage herd mentality). This camp views the secular state of Israel as the “first flowering of the redemption”, and supports the state with a religious fervor. State institutions and ceremonies are sacrosanct, with the IDF being the holy of holies.
Of course, the fact that this adoring relationship with the secular state is one-sided poses great difficulties for the Dati Leumi. The Erev Rav ruling class has long demonized Jewish pioneers (“settlers”) as religious extremists, terrorists, war-mongers, and a danger to the rest of society (almost as bad as people who didn’t take the poison shots). The Zionist flowers of redemption have demolished their homes, destroyed their communities, and turned the full force of the state against those who stood in their way. The holy IDF played an indispensable role in these operations, destroying more Jewish communities than all the Arab armies in all the wars since 1948 combined.
In spite of this, the proudest moment in the life of a Dati Leumi is when their son or daughter joins the same IDF. Nothing is more sacred than offering the ultimate “sacrifice” to the state of Israel. If the child was traumatized by having his home demolished (sometimes multiple times), all the better; the sacrifice is compounded.
The Dati Leumi are further vexed by Israel’s refusal to allow them to pray at Judaism’s holiest site, Har Habayis (the Temple Mount). Israel only permits Jews to ascend Har Habayis in extremely limited numbers at extremely limited hours on extremely limited days. Even then, they are permitted to go up only in small guided groups, which are surrounded by police and Arab Waqf interlopers, who tightly monitor the Jews for any sign of “provocative” behavior. This includes carrying religious articles such as a prayer book, praying out loud, or quietly bowing to God where heaven meets earth.
Any of these activities can be used as a pretext by Arabs to riot and the world to howl, so the appropriate response of the so-called Jewish state is obviously to keep the Jews in their place. Jews who dare act like Jews – or even like normal human beings in a place of worship – are immediately arrested and face the wrath of the state. Teenage girls who wish to pray for sick people had best memorize the names; reading off a paper can be dangerous to their health.
In recent years there has been some improvement. Jewish visitors used to not be allowed to move their lips, lest a prayer escape. Now whispering is allowed, and on a good day you can sneak in a few second-class-citizen prayers in an undertone while the guards look the other way. Like a Marrano or a Refusenik, but in a “Jewish state”.
Despite all the above and so much more, the Dati Leumi remain the most ardent supporters of the state and its institutions. After all, they have consecrated this as a religious duty, and religious duties don’t have to make sense.
This is why the Dati Leumi observed the covid rules like no other segment of society. They masked themselves and their children as if oxygen were pork, they quarantined again and again, they shut down their synagogues and schools – prayer and Torah study can’t hold a candle to serving the state – and they enforced the tyrannical “green passport” with the viciousness of kapos. If the Israeli government declares that touching a Torah can spread disease, then you sooner bury the Torah than touch it, period. And bury the Torah they did.
No matter how much the Dati Leumi are abused and persecuted, they will always continue to serve the state, for that has become their true religion when push comes to shove. What began as noble love for Israel and a desire to be part of the redemption process has morphed into an illogical, self-immolating complex. They complain about their unfair treatment, but continue to support those who mistreat them, for that is their duty.
The Dati Leumi suffer from Stockholm Syndrome. They are unable to recalibrate their understanding of the return to Israel, nor decouple their love of Israel from sheepishly supporting their enemies from within. They look the other way when Israel runs gay parades and promotes perversity, and feel pride when an Israeli wins an Olympic medal, or Eurovision, or a beauty contest, as if this is why God brought us back to the land. Ultimately the Dati Leumi cannot take Israel to the next level; they are just happy to be here.
This is why the Dati Leumi have always been second-class citizens, their rabbis second-rate, and they are scorned by both secular Jews and Charedim. (A secular person who is seeking spirituality or greater Torah observance will not go to a Dati Leumi rabbi.) This is why their children abandon an observant lifestyle in large numbers.
The Dati Leumi camp has run out of steam and has little left to offer.
The so-called “Charedi” camp has a polar opposite view of the secular state of Israel, which dates back to the very beginning of the Zionist movement. They understood that the Zionist leaders were hostile to Torah-observant Jews and intended to created a state that was antithetical to the Torah. Many of the great rabbis of the time opposed cooperating with the Zionists, despite the deteriorating situation in Europe.
Countless Jews were discouraged from escaping to Israel when they had the chance, and their blood soaks Europe to this day. Although many “Charedi” Jews subsequently moved to Israel, their relationship with the secular state has continued to be mutually hostile, or indifferent at best. To the Zionists the Charedim are a burden and a threat should their numbers grow, and the Charedim in turn view the Zionists as Hamans with Jewish names. And yet, the promise of government money for Charedi institutions can swing elections and get laws passed.
As the Mafia would say, it’s nothing personal, just business.
Aside from this, the Charedim want as little to do with Israeli society as possible. Keeping their children out of the IDF is a life-and-death issue for them. This is largely (but not entirely) because the IDF is a cesspool of spiritual impurity, much of which is deliberately forced upon religious people with the intention of eroding their religious commitment. Even though the IDF offers some accommodations for Charedi soldiers, those who join the IDF are persona non grata in the Charedi world.
Charedim by and large (they cannot all be lumped together, after all) do not see the return of millions of Jews to Israel as a theologically significant event. To them the redemption means one thing and one thing only: Moshiach arrives, brings the rest of the Jews back to Israel, and everyone becomes Charedi.
Charedim certainly recognize the holiness of the land, but, strangely enough, many of them use this as a reason not to live in Israel. After all, they argue, the land is being defiled by all the non-Charedim, and even Charedim cannot handle the awesome responsibility of upholding the holiness of the land. Best to stay away from God’s palace, where the penalty for sinning is most severe, and wait for Moshiach to come. Until then, apparently, Israel is only for those who sin the most and those who never sin at all.
While Charedim tend to create stringencies for mitzvos – admirable in principle, but often far more than necessary or even appropriate – suddenly they cannot handle the spiritual challenge of living in Israel, and don’t even want to try. Better to remain in exile, far from Israel, in places that reek with spiritual impurity, where the challenges of remaining religious are most severe, rather than risk upsetting God by falling short of perfection in Israel. Best to be lenient on the mitzva to live in Israel and all the mitzvos that cannot be performed anywhere else. That is the position of many Charedim (or, perhaps, the excuse) who do not consider it God’s will for Jews to return home now, even before Moshiach arrives.
Needless to say, the state of Israel reviles the Charedim like no one else. The secular media dutifully blames the Charedim for every ill in society; they have too many children, they are parasites, they contribute nothing to society, they do not respect the rules, they do not care about safety, they spread disease, and on and on.
Canards such as these were historically used to incite pogroms and genocide against the Jewish people. Today in other countries they would be condemned as anti-Semitic. In Israel, however, they are acceptable in polite company, including the government, and a valid reason to persecute huge numbers of people who, for the most part, are righteous, upstanding, contribute greatly to society, and are the cause of no one’s problems, despite preferring to keep to themselves.
The Dati Leumi, for their part, side with the anti-Semites on this one. No surprise there! Charedim will sacrifice just about everything for their principles. The Dati Leumi sacrifice their principles for the Zionist state and approval from secular society.
In general Charedim would prefer to live their entire lives without encountering anyone who isn’t Charedi. They wish for their neighborhoods to be independent enclaves of “authentic Judaism”, where they can study Torah and wait for Moshiach to come.
Since the return to Israel is theologically insignificant to Charedim, the destruction of Gush Katif and other “settlements” doesn’t really bother them. They ignore the gay parades because they don’t take place in Charedi neighborhoods. They do, however, protest any perceived encroachment on their lifestyle.
The Dati Leumi protest the destruction of settlements, but look the other way at Shabbos desecration and other attacks on the Torah. The Charedim protest the latter, but ignore the former. The Dati Leumi don’t protest spiritual atrocities in the IDF, because the IDF is sacrosanct to them. The Charedim don’t protest spiritual atrocities in the IDF, because IDF soldiers are irrelevant to them.
What a crazy people we are.
The Erev Rav who govern Israel are absolutely thrilled with this dynamic. So long as the Dati Leumi and the Charedim loathe one another, or at least live in completely separate worlds, the Erev Rav are the biggest winners. The religious Jews can squabble among themselves and compete for a slightly larger share of the pie, while ensuring that religious Jewry as a whole never achieves actual power.
The Erev Rav can destroy Gush Katif and other settlements, because the Charedim won’t protest, and the Dati Leumi are too weak to stop it. The Erev Rav can destroy Dati Leumi yeshivos, because the Charedim won’t consider that an assault on the Torah; Dati Leumi yeshivos aren’t real yeshivos to them. The Erev Rav can beat and arrest Jews on Har Habayis, because the Charedim have enshrined the Kotel as Judaism’s holiest site and abandoned Har Habayis to the Arabs.
At the same time, the Erev Rav can persecute the Charedim, because the Dati Leumi will whitewash it, and even justify it. The Erev Rav can murder Charedim in Meron, and the Dati Leumi will echo the narrative that the Charedim were at fault, that they are wild animals who trampled one another. The Erev Rav can beat Charedi protestors, and the Dati Leumi will not care; they only care when Dati Leumi protestors are beaten. The Erev Rav can wage war on Charedi yeshivos, and the Dati Leumi will not care; it isn’t “their” yeshivos.
What goes around comes around.
Both camps have an element of truth, but have become prisoners of their social identities and expectations. Give me a Dati Leumi with the Charedi’s unswerving commitment to Torah and his principles. Give me a Charedi with the Dati Leumi’s desire to be part of Israeli society today, imperfect as it is. Now we’re talking.
It is clear from the Torah that Hashem intended for the Jews to return to Israel in large numbers, and govern the land, before Moshiach comes. The prophecies about Gog Umagog are all predicated on this; they simply don’t make sense if the God-fearing Jews are living as subjects in foreign lands. I have written extensively about this, particularly in my book Go Up Like a Wall.
Those who reject the return of Israel to the Jews as theologically insignificant because the Erev Rav are in control are terribly mistaken. God wants us to be here and this is not yet the actual redemption. The Erev Rav are not the first flowering of the redemption, but the final obstacle. However, for this obstacle to be overcome, we need to be here and be in the game.
The Dati Leumi need to recognize that the secular state of Israel, which has been trampling all over them, destroying their homes, forbidding them to pray on Har Habayis, and sending their children off to be killed, while treating their enemies with kid gloves, is not worthy of their support. They can do this without sacrificing one iota of their love for the Land of Israel and the people of Israel, or any of their belief that this return to Israel is the real deal. They need to stop being useful idiots and compliant sheep.
The Charedim need to recognize that this return to Israel is the real deal, and is one of the most theologically significant events in history. They can do this without sacrificing one iota of their commitment to Torah observance or whitewashing the crimes of those who physically rebuilt the land. There are many reasons why Hashem chose them to rebuild the land. If we can accept the Holocaust as Hashem’s will, we should be able to accept the rebuilding of Israel as Hashem’s will – even if we dislike the agents He chose.
Most of all, the Dati Leumi and the Charedim need to drop the shtick, stop digging in their heels as a reaction to one another, and figure out how to get together. There are many Dati Leumi who have extremely strong commitments to Torah-observance and many Charedim who participate in society. They would be almost indistinguishable if not for artificial social barriers.
This brings us to the final point. There is no reason for there to be Dati Leumi or Charedi camps at all. Everyone who is committed to Torah-observance and loves the Land of Israel is playing for the same team. Their lifestyles and understanding of every issue do not have to be exactly the same. We need to get together on the things that matter most, stop pretending that every issue is worthy of creating a new faction, and leave the details for Moshiach to figure out.
When we do that, he surely will, and the Erev Rav won’t stand a chance.
Rabbi Chananya Weissman is the author of hundreds of articles and seven books on a wide range of subjects. He is also the director and producer of a documentary, Single Jewish Male, and a series of short films. His work can be found at chananyaweissman.com and rumble.com/c/c-782463. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.