Today is Rosh Chodesh Av, the beginning of the Hebrew month of Av. In Israel Rabbi Dr. Ilana Rosansky went to the Kotel, the western retaining wall of the Temple in Jerusalem to pray for the healing of a friend undergoing surgery today. She never got there. The police saw to that at the behest of the Chareidi Jews (God fearers) who find Rabbi Rosansky and her efforts to allow women separate but equal access to the Wall an abomination. To make sure that no praying is done in the women’s section of the Wall, Chareidi women blew whistles whose shrill and piercing sound made prayer concentration impossible. Good for them! Why should we Jews be the only religion without our fanatics?
The promise of Israel as a light unto the nations is not one that the Chareidi Jews can fulfill. The early Zionists who built the State of Israel didn’t envision a theocracy run by Jewish Taliban. They thought Orthodoxy was on the way out, and that a new secular democratic socialist Jew would build Israel and help to achieve the promise of the Jewish people. Today I suspect it is secular democratic socialist Zionists who are on the endangered species list in Israel.
If Chareidi Jews ever get complete control of Israel, would you bother to visit? Would you send money to Jewish Federation only to see it flow into Chareidi coffers? Would you want the American government to send billions of your tax dollars, money much needed here at home, to support them? Would you send your sons and daughters to protect them against their equally fanatical Muslim counterparts?
But please don’t imagine the Chareidi to be less Jewish than the rest. Their Judaism is authentic, and their hatred no less so. The god they worship isn’t a loving, merciful or welcoming god. The god they worship is a jealous, angry, hate-filled god who raises up worshippers in his image—but only after they have raised him up in theirs. We get the gods we deserve, because we create our gods in our own image. If you want to know the heart of a religious person, look to the character of the god they worship.
The Judaism I love is a Judaism I create in my own image. The Chareidi do no less. The god I follow is a god I create in my own image. The Chareidi do no less. The fact that we both speak the same language and draw from the same stories and customs should in no way blur the fact that we are of two different faiths: one of love, the other of fear.
I am sorry that fear and hate won out in Jerusalem today. I will pray for Rabbi Rosansky’s friend, for the rabbi herself, and for Israel as well.