| Second Thoughts |

Demography, Not Democracy

They sense that they have lost the battle for the Israeli soul; they know that the electorate — not only the Orthodox — has said No to their desire to shed our uniqueness


The judicial reform demonstrators mindlessly parrot the mantra that Israel is becoming a dictatorship or, Heaven forfend, a theocracy, and that our very future is in jeopardy.

The leftist secular leaders of these protests should indeed worry about the future, but a future that is jeopardized not by overdue Supreme Court reforms which will enhance democracy and not threaten it, but by something much more serious: their own future — which is endangered by their failure to transmit even minimal Jewish awareness and pride to their coming generations. The Court issue will eventually fall into place, and life will go on. The issue of Jewishly illiterate youngsters will not easily be resolved, and Jewish life for them will be at risk.

Israel has long been wrestling over its future. Will it be k’chol hagoyim — like all other nations, or will it be uniquely Jewish? At first, the traditional world-view was losing the struggle; secularism was powerful and ascendant. But that did not last. Surprisingly, the traditional forces got up from the mat and, paralleling the remarkable resurrection of authentic Judaism around the world, began flexing thier muscles. This resurrection — really a rejection of secular extremes — reached its zenith in the recent election.

And elections have consequences. Perhaps the current leftist panic is fueled by the dawning realization that the electorate has rejected their ideology with its willful antagonism to authentic Jewish ways, and its fawning imitation of the West. (They even imitate the former American president in refusing to recognize that they lost the election.)

They lost more than an election. It was inevitable, but they are losing their children and grandchildren to even superficial Jewishness. I refer not only to non-observance of mitzvos, but rather to their abysmal ignorance of the most elementary aspects of Jewish history. It is one thing not to know what Moses Maimonides said; it is quite another not to know the difference between Moses the Lawgiver of Sinai and Moses Maimonides. Sadly, one cannot expect secular youngsters to know Mishnah and Gemara, but should not all young Jews at least know that such pillars of Judaism exist?

Ignorance also has consequences, such as viewing Eretz Yisrael not as a holy place, but as just another Mediterranean country whose language happens to be Hebrew. No wonder hundreds of thousands of Israelis have abandoned their homeland to live happily ever after in Southern California.

The secular leadership of today might remember grandparents who, though perhaps not fully observant, were proud Jews who knew something about Yiddishkeit, might even have observed certain mitzvos, respected and knew some Tanach, and loved Israel. Tragically, the grandchildren of today’s secularists — if they are still Jews — will be exemplars of Jewish illiteracy, whose ideals are formed by the Internet and who will remember only that their grandparents demonstrated against reforming the Supreme Court.

Secular leadership may not be observant, but they are not fools. They sense that they have lost the battle for the Israeli soul; they know that the electorate — not only the Orthodox — has said No to their desire to shed our uniqueness.

Within them they know the answer to these questions: Whose grandchildren will be assimilated and living in Los Angeles, and whose will still be proud Jews living in Israel? In whose hands lies Israel’s future, those who disembarked the ship of state for life in the West, or those who stood by Israel through every vicissitude, sacrificed for it either in the armed forces or through self-denying, intense immersion in the Word of G-d? Who will perpetuate our people, those who are ignorant of our rich heritage and regard it as a burden, or those who revere that heritage and regard it as a privilege?

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that these demonstrations are the throes of a world-view that is gasping. Supreme Court reform is only the façade. What really alarms them, deep down, is the handwriting on the wall: the loss of power to religious parties, the crushing of their dream of a state of Jews that is not too Jewish and is unburdened by religious restraints which, for them, are part of the Galut mentality. And now they find that ordinary Israelis want Israel to remain not only a state of the Jews, but a state that is proudly Jewish.

Suddenly to behold religious parties and even chareidim at the levers of power — plus the frightening specter of (gasp) chareidi domination of Israeli politics within 20 years — is harsh medicine. Worse: It is all a result of a democratic election. Their nightmare is not Democracy, but Demography.

The secular agenda is already floundering, its future truly at risk. Scant comfort, for if millions of our Jewish brethren go under, we will all be the poorer.

It is time to have a conversation, lovingly and respectfully, with these fellow Jews, but not only about judicial reform. —


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 954)

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