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Lamrot Hakol (Despite Everything)

Musings and kvetchings and Torah thoughts from an unconventional Orthodox Jew.

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"I blog, therefore I am". Clearly not true, or I wouldn't exist except every now and then.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

The State of Judaea: A Retraction

When I was a kid in college, lo these many decades ago, I became an Orthodox Jew. I've written about it on this blog, in case you want to read the boring story, so I'm not going to go back into it now. The main thing you need to know is that I became a serious supporter of Rabbi Meir Kahane.

Now... I'm on the right hand side of the bell curve when it comes to intelligence and problem solving abilities. I always have been. I see patterns. And a thought occurred to me. There was no way, I thought to myself, that we were ever going to be able to change Israel into a real Jewish state, where real Jewish values reigned supreme, and where the pathetic rulers of the state didn't want to rub up against the legs of the heads of the US and Europe and get petted and scritched behind the ear.

And I thought about how similar modern Israel is to the ancient kingdom of Israel, which consisted of the northern 10 tribes, and which was Jewish, but not so very Jewish. Where they prayed to God, but they also prayed to Baal, because that's what everyone did. But back then, there was another kingdom of Jews, and it was called Judah, or Judea. It was a kingdom ruled by the House of King David, where more than just lip service was given to the Torah.

Maybe, I thought, it was necessary to reverse the historical progression in order to get back to a united kingdom like that of David and Solomon. Maybe what we needed to do was create a State of Judaea in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. A state which would be a real Jewish state. Maybe that would create an example which would lead to other faithful Jews in the region joining us, and eventually bringing us back to the Torah.

I was excited about this idea, so I sat down and wrote a letter to Rabbi Kahane, detailing it.

That was about 1983 or so. In 1987, I made aliya, and in January 1989, a kenes (convention?) was held in the Binyanei HaUmma convention center to declare the State of Judaea. I never spoke with Rabbi Kahane about whether he had thought of it before I'd written to him, because it didn't really matter. I was just glad to see things getting under way.

The gathering was a little disappointing. Rabbi Kahane stood up and said, "We don't want there to be a State of Judaea. We want Israel to annex the territories. But immediately after he spoke, another rabbi there stood and said, "I disagree. I think we should have a State of Judaea, period. Let us annex Israel eventually." He got quite a round of applause for that.

Well, the idea never really went anywhere. It was never really taken seriously. And now... I want to retract the idea altogether, for whatever good that'll do. Because you see, my basic premise is no longer true. My basic premise was that there was no way the modern State of Israel would ever be brought around to be a real Jewish state. A state with a truly Jewish outlook. But that was before Moshe Feiglin and Manhigut Yehudit arrived on the scene. Now we really do have a chance of turning Israel around. And that being the case, the State of Judaea is wholly unnecessary.


Blogger Mikewind Dale said...

I completely agree. I see two major differences between Rabbi Kahane and Moshe Feiglin:

(1) Feiglin knows better than Rabbi Kahane did how - or maybe he just desires more - to present his ideas in such a way as to not to invoke a tremendous amount of hostility. Feiglin still has his enemies, but they're nowhere near as hostile to him as they were to Rabbi Kahane.

(2) Feiglin has a more sophisticated knowledge of political theory than Rabbi Kahane. Rabbi Kahane, I'm sure, could trounce Feiglin in a knowledge of Talmudics and the like, but when you're trying to politically reform Israel, it helps when you know names like Alexis de Tocqueville. Whereas Rabbi Kahane - and his followers - mercilessly denounce democracy, by contrast, Feiglin has actually studied the history of democracy, and has realized that Judaism and democracy don't contradict, and so he's able to talk to the Israelis with a vocabulary they at theoretically respect, whereas Rabbi Kahane began his talks by criticizing that which the people ostensibly held dear, immediately losing them.

(I say "theoretically" and "ostensibly" because Israelis, in truth, haven't the faintest clue what democracy is. I'm not sure whether Rabbi Kahane also didn't understand democracy, or whether he simply used the word "democracy" according to the mistaken and erroneous Israeli understanding of that term, but either way, Rabbi Kahane's criticisms of democracy are quite false. More precisely, everything he says is true, but because he - or his audience - misunderstands democracy - his criticisms of democracy are actually not criticisms of democracy at all. But Feiglin actually knows what democracy is, so he can correct others' understandings and use democracy in his support rather than attack it.)

Inspired by Feiglin's Where There are No Men, I started studying actual real historical democracy, and I very soon and easily came to agree with Feiglin that Judaism and democracy are not contradictory at all. For a sample: if you study the history of modern democracy, it all began when 16th-century Scottish Protestants asked the Swiss Reform Christians, Huldrych Zwingli and Heinrich Bullinger, whether a Protestant Christian must obey an idolatrous Catholic monarch whose commands violate the will of G-d. The Swiss Reformers answered that no, one must obey G-d and disobey the monarch if it comes to that. From that act of civil disobedience based on ein shaliah b'davar `averah followed such concepts as the rule-of-law, the consent of the governed, and the social contract. If democracy began with the concept that G-d is supreme and overrides the commands of men, it no longer seems strange to say that democracy and Judaism very largely agree. When Feiglin advocates soldiers' disobeying orders, he is not undermining democracy, but rather, he is upholding it.

4:14 AM  
Blogger Rob Muchnick said...

Beautifully said!

Rob Muchnick
Manhigut Yehudit US Director

12:31 PM  

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