Jewish Fundamentalism In Israel
edited: Wednesday, December 15, 2010
By Huda Orfali
Not "rated" by the Author.
Posted: Sunday, July 23, 2006
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Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel, by Shahak, I & Mezvinsky, N. Book Review by Huda Orfali
Jewish Fundamentalism In Israel Summary: The basic principles of Jewish fundamentalism are the restoration and survival of the ‘pure’ and pious religious community that presumably existed in the past. In this book, Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel, the authors Israel Shahak, and Norton Mezvinsky describe the origin, ideologies, practices and the overall impact upon society of fundamentalism. They emphasize the ‘messianic tendency’ as the most dangerous and influential form of fundamentalism. In regard to foreign policy, the National Religious Party, ruled by supporters of messianism, has continuously been opposed to the withdrawal from the occupied territories. Not surprisingly, Baruch Goldstein and Yigal Amir, the most famous Jewish assassins of the 1990s, and most of their admirers are Jewish fundamentalist of the messianic tendency. The authors claim that the adherents of Jewish fundamentalism in Israel are hostile to democracy. They oppose equality for all citizens, specially non-Jews, and Jewish deviants such as homosexuals. This antagonism is instilled in Israel’s religious schools. In order to understand which age the Jewish fundamentalism wants to establish, the authors give a brief description of Jewish history stressing that Judaism was established in the era of the Second Temple which began in the fifth century BC and ended by the Romans destroying the Temple in AD 70. This period was characterized by exclusiveness and separation between Jews and gentiles. Later, the rise of Jewish mystism referred to as Cabbala constitutes a vital part in Jewish fundamentalism, being especially important is the messianic variety, which is based upon the Cabbala. The Jewish fundamentalists consider this period the “golden age” they wish to restore. Jewish fundamentalism arose as a reaction against the effects of modernity upon the Jews. Theologically, Jewish fundamentalists’ beliefs are based on the Babylonian Talmud. They consider that the Bible itself is not authoritative unless interpreted correctly by Talmudic literature. Many fundamentalists, for instance, want the Temple rebuilt on al-Haram el-Sharif/Temple Mount, which is now a holy Muslim site. In Israel, a significant number of Jews who are not fundamentalists also support this demand. Israeli religious groups are divided into the two groups. The more religiously extreme group, the Haredim, who include Shas party and a more moderate group called religious-nationalist group who are organized in the National Religious Party (NRP). The Haredim insist on the strictest observance of the Halacha. On the other hand, NRP are more selective in their observance of Halacha, especially regarding women. The religious influence is evident in the reverence for the Jewish past and its insistence that Jews have an historic right to an expanded Israel extending beyond its current borders. Also, religious Jews claim their perpetual rule over the land of Israel is a God-given right to those territories. According to Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, peace does not exist between Jews and non-Jews; therefore, the Jews should refuse to make any concessions. Rabbi Ovadia Yoseph, the spiritual authority of Shas party, argued in 1989 that since Israel is too weak to demolish all Christian churches in the Holy Land it is also two weak to retain all the conquered land, “even though those churches are places of idolatry and cult practices.” In a famous Talmudic passage in Tractate Ketubot, page 111, God is said to have imposed three oaths on the Jews: 1. Jews should not rebel against other non Jews 2. as a group, they should not massively emigrate to Palestine before the coming of the Messiah 3. Enjoins the Jews not to pray too strongly for the coming of the Messiah, so as not to bring him before his appointed time. As we see, the first two of these oaths clearly contradict modern Zionism. The authors cite several Rabbis who were against the Jewish emigration to Palestine. Rabbi Rafael Hirsch wrote that God has commanded Jews “never to establish a state of their own by their own efforts.” On the other hand, Rabbi Nachmanides encouraged the Jews not only to emigrate but to conquer the land. He later became the patron saint of the NRP and Gush Emunim settlers. The authors also discuss the nature of Jewish settlements in the occupied territories. From the perspective of Jewish fundamentalism those settlements are viewed as citadels of messianic ideology. They are the nuclei of the new society they want to build. The authors also explain how Israeli settlers used to vote for the religious parties in the elections and how the Israeli government used those settlers to impose control on the occupied territories and Gaza. After the intifada broke out, the Oslo peace process served the purpose of having Palestinians ruled on behalf of Israel by their own people, according to prime minister Rabin. In the last two chapters, Shahak and Mezvinsky talk about Goldstein and Amir, the most famous Jewish assassins of the 1990s. In March 1994, Dr. Baruch Goldstein calmly walked into the Hebron Mosque within the Cave of the Patriarchs. Coldly and methodically this man shot dead 29 worshippers, who were kneeling down in prayer, He also wounded another 60. After being disarmed and subdued with a fire extinguisher, Goldstein was beaten to death by enraged survivors. They place the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin in the context of what the authors see as a tradition of punishments and killings of those Jews perceived to be heretics while Goldstein is idolized by the Jewish fundamentalists as a martyr who saved Jewish lives. Critique Since Jewish fundamentalism is not as famous as other manifestations, such as Islamic fundamentalism and not widely discussed, I find this book to be very informative and a new source of valuable information for further research. Notes: 1- Shahak, I & Mezvinsky, N. (1999). Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel, London, Pluto Press 2- Allegedly the religious Jews distributed an atlas showing that the land of Israel belonging only to the Jews and requiring liberation included the Sinai, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Kuwait. A speech by Rabbi Ovadia Yoseph